Category: Gardens & Landscape

Roads are made for journeys not destinations (Confucius)

Saturday afternoon I set off on my bike with the dogs down the drive in the Park to “Redpools” where there is old sunken woodland, paths that are never straight and a pool or small lake that merges with rushes and marshy saplings.

Summer, such as it was here, has definitely slipped away and I had remembered a sweater. Nevertheless, it is a magical time of year, “seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness” and I had looped a bag over my handlebars hoping for the very last blackberries or more likely crab apples and pears [...]
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Dancing at Downton in Rain and Shine

What a weekend!  We have just held our September “Garden Party” for the second year in a row.  The first thing to say is that, given the vagaries of our weather, this party was not focused around the gardens but around the house, costumes, music and entertainment. Still a garden party does not seem right without marquees on the lawn and we had three: two for dining and one for dancing.

Of course, the most famous Garden Parties are held by the Queen at Buckingham Palace in London and at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. They recognise extraordinary effort and contribution given [...]
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Wildflower Meadow

­­­“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.” AA Milne

The wildflower meadow is coming to the end of its summer. The flower heads are turning brown, but are still, I think, rather beautiful. They give height and texture to the meadow, gently cascading down the slopes beyond the south lawns towards the Park.

There is a broad, winding mown path running though the meadow diagonally for visitors to enjoy. Just walk quietly, listen out for all the noises of the insects – it is so busy and an extraordinary testament to the flower meadow’s success. It is also [...]
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Keepers’ Café

The first part of my morning bike ride is downhill all the way. I head off slowly as the dogs run round in excited circles and we avoid the early cars, all of which have to stop, as the dogs bounce up to say hello and are convinced that they should be patted. This is their walk as well as my exercise, so I watch as they happily disappear into an old piece of hedgerow, tails wagging, before bounding into an old dew pond area, emerging with muddy legs.

Carrying on another 100 yards, I turn in to the back of [...]
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Combine Harvester

When I was growing up I can clearly remember a song which began “I’ve got brand new combine harvester and I’ll give you the key …” It was sung by the “Wurzels”, in thick West Country accents, but it did actually top the charts. It came straight back to mind when I climbed up into our combine harvester as part of my efforts to understand a little more about our farm and how it works.

Brian, who drives the combine through the weeks of harvest, put me in the driving seat and, with a sunny word of caution – “The edge [...]
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Pots and Gardens

When Geordie and I initially began to think about what visitors might enjoy at Highclere, one of the first things we considered were the gardens. I had read somewhere that 80% of National Trust visits were due to interest in gardens. This may or may not be an accurate figure and, unlike the National Trust, we remain, fundamentally a family home rather than a “museum”, but the gist of the statistics lived with me.

Creating gardens has a long history at Highclere. In the 18th century, one of Geordie’s ancestors, Robert Herbert, designed a more traditionally formal garden here with follies and [...]
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Highclere’s “American Garden”

Biking up the hill of the main drive to the Castle at the end of a morning circuit of the park with the dogs, I am always glad finally to see the banks of dark green rhododendrons. With more energy than I possess at this point, the dogs run off towards them and disappear into the tangle. They are quite deaf to my calls as I carry on through the black gates and then turn back to pedal through the longer grass towards “Jackdaws Castle”.

This is a classical, pillared Temple built about 1743 on raised ground to the east of the Castle. The [...]
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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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Silhouettes

Highclere is our home and our business and we do of course live above the shop. I am fairly hopeless at stopping work and always think there is something else to be done, which of course there is.  Just like many other businesses, Highclere is seeking to build a brand through its culture and marketing. Fortunately, it has a very unique silhouette, and one which is now iconic with the elegant carved stone turrets and central tower dominating the landscape. We have used this silhouette of our home as our logo and pictured it on tea towels or gift items [...]
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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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