Standing and staring at the long views by the Etruscan Temple, every direction offers extraordinary and mesmerising shades of green to the point where each spring morning I wonder how and why such a range and depth of colour exists. En masse they merge and smudge into each other with ever increasing exuberance. The persistent brown bareness of the last few weeks is being painted over and, standing close to a tree, I can see all the leaves carefully unfurling so that I can gently spread them out in my hand.

Cedar needles

The cut leaf beech trees are more finely etched and intricate in the early sunlight, the copper beech highlighted with henna colours, the sorbus edged with palest silver whilst the oaks seem quite late this year, perhaps more cautious about the weather. The green carpet of the wild flower meadow rolls away covered in cowslips, and is thus a contrast to the sharp vividness of a sycamore tree which almost looks like it is on acid. Clouds of green held up on brown poles are gathering strength against the clouds and skylines whilst the deeper greens of winter viburnums and evergreen shrubs offer a painterly contrast along the meadow edges.

Undoubtedly there are far more than fifty shades of green outside at this time of year whilst inside the castle there are fifty shades of white as we finish touching up doors and window sills in preparation for welcoming visitors into the castle again. At this point, Geordie usually wishes we had shares in a paint company as another seven variations of white define the rolls and architraves of a bedroom, all different to the off whites of details in other rooms. Who would think we could deviate so much between lime white, clunch, neutral light, icy whites and then a multitude of warmer whites?

Luckily, we are starting our opening with curated tours, limited in terms of numbers of guests so we can all remember what we are supposed to be doing as it seems a long time since we were last open. Most of the past week has been spent looking for signs, cleaning them off, mislaying them again and looking for bins. If in doubt, blame Downton. There is an element of going round in circles: I go somewhere to do something or find someone and, en-route, find someone else and forget what I meant to do in the first place, lose pace and go and get a cup of coffee instead. It is quite hard to find people anyway. Whenever I want to find James, he is in his car heading down Lime Avenue to go and see what needs doing in a cottage miles away.

Ben, James and Jerry the impeccably trained spaniel (not)

John the Castle manager rather cynically interprets this as walking his enthusiastic spaniel, (James permanently dressed in half zipped wellington boots) and talking to Ben the gamekeeper but John is just as busy walking round in his own circles, pulling bins around on a little green go cart wearing a kaleidoscope of colours. His dress sense always engenders comments from Paul the chef asking John if he got dressed in the dark. Thus, our meeting and conversations also go round in circles and I often wonder how we get things done.  More seriously, John is trying to balance the practicalities of filming and castle tours, which in these Covid times is even more interesting.

John’s circles in life

In contrast to the bustle of everyday life, the greens of the landscape and gardens offer a sense of peace but, just as the birdsong is rising in volume, so we are hoping that the temperature and the noise of visitors will also soon rise. A little sunshine, a green light from the government to welcome people once again and the opportunity to once more plan a more concrete timetable. Roll on this week!