Category: Daily Life

Tree planting

Tree planting

The photograph above hangs as one of a pair either side of a charming 18th century mirror in Stanhope Dressing room on the first floor of the Castle. The other photo is in a similar theme. Most houses like Highclere have archives, often housed in specially designed rooms and dating back centuries.  They are a unique window back into the past and at Highclere, the archivist and I try to share them with visitors, framing them for corridors as they come round, or use them to help people with their research into their family history as it might relate to Highclere.

 

Photographs are [...]
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New Year 2017

 

New Year 2017

After Christmas, we left Highclere to spend New Year with my sister, Sarah and her husband in North Cornwall. It is a much beloved part of the world where my family always spent the Christmas and Easter holidays when we were growing up. At this time of year, the dramatic grey seas batter the cliffs which are studded with occasional chapels of rest. Faint ridges in the grass headlands still signpost where Iron Age communities built shelters and homes, with ramparts across headlands within which they could defend themselves. It always seems an old part of the world, [...]
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December 25th at Highclere

Christmas at Highclere

We have just passed the winter solstice, December 21st, the shortest day of the year. Crowds gathered at Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument 25 miles west of Highclere, to welcome the re-birth of the sun as days slowly lengthen again. 5,000 years ago, when Stonehenge was begun, they would perhaps also have gathered to celebrate at the foot of Beacon Hill in the middle of our estate. We certainly have prehistoric barrows built around it. December 25th was later “acquired” by the Romans from earlier communities to worship their God then the Christian Church adopted the date as a [...]
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Christmas Tree

Dressing the Castle for Christmas is no ordinary project: every year we plan and prepare and every year it is always something of a test. The main ingredient required therefore is always a good sense of humour and a lot of laughter.

Lauren, in the office here, is in charge of organising the assorted Christmas trees: the huge one for the Saloon, 20 smaller ones for the drive and about 10 quite large ones by various doors and courtyards. John, our unique and detailed Castle Manager becomes most exercised about “size”. Lauren spends a lot of time asking, and confirming, the [...]
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Furry Friends

The iconic opening shot of “Downton Abbey” began with a yellow Labrador happily pottering across the Castle lawns, tail wagging. Pets can give such a sense of warmth and home. In reality at Highclere we have seven dogs pottering or running across the lawns, though sadly not always under our direction. Winston the spaniel in particular has a tendency to escape to do his own thing, usually where he is most emphatically not wanted like around the pheasant pens. When our old yellow Labrador, Percy, died we were all distraught and I know my husband still misses him. My son [...]
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A Change of Pace

As summer turns to autumn, the pace and diary at Highclere changes. Public opening finishes for a time and the Castle welcomes smaller guided tours and groups which work better around our traditional commitments of game shooting and other events such as charity runs, garden tours and small dinners. The office team try to snatch some holiday after a very busy summer and as John (our Castle Manager) and I sign off holiday forms, we wonder if we may be cooking or answering the phone or whether we should put in our holiday forms as well.

We are also now planning [...]
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What a weekend!

Any weekend arrangements in England begin with a discussion about the vagaries of the British weather and at Highclere it is no different. This past weekend it was a particularly important consideration as we had planned a classic English Garden Party with picnics, cocktails, period costumes and music.  We asked everyone to come dressed in Edwardian costume as if we were going back in time to the first season of “Downton Abbey”.

Sadly, perhaps predictably, on the first day of this two-day event, the weather was truly British. It rained all day, occasionally with almost monsoon-like intensity and at other [...]
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First Class Stamps

One of my personal highlights of this year’s celebration of the tercentenary of the birth of the great landscape gardener “Capability” Brown has been the inclusion of Highclere Castle on a Royal Mail Stamp. It was long in the planning and had to be kept confidential which was difficult as I was so excited.  Professor Tim Mowl was the landscape expert helping to draw together the chosen few and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with him and the Royal Mail.

 

The postmen are part of our lives, their shorts sometimes worthy of comment in winter weather and one of them is [...]
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Philosophy in Wine

Riding along the chalk downlands two miles to the south of where the Castle stands, it is easy to distinguish the prehistoric field lynchets and terraces which must have been part of an intensively settled and farmed landscape. Three thousand years later we still farm this part of the estate, although these ancient fields are just grazed by sheep to conserve the visible remains of the past.

There are crop marks, boundaries and platforms where small homes- huts- may have been built. They lie around the monumental remains of the fort on Beacon Hill and hence can be dated from Iron [...]
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Battle Proms

The first Saturday of August each year, we hold an open air picnic concert here at Highclere. It is called the “Battle Proms” and is very well organised by Adam Slough and his team. Nearly 10,000 people arrived during the afternoon, setting up their tables and laying out rugs. The evening begins with cavalry displays, which are always entertaining. I really enjoy the evening and have a large picnic which is wholly informal and relaxed. It does not matter whether you are 5 years old or 90, it is fun for everyone.

About 7.30pm, however, we are all listening for the [...]
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