Sometimes when I need to clear my head, I like to to go for a walk up on the chalk downlands where the sky always seems bigger and perspective easier to find. I find it reassuring that the tracks I follow have been formed by millennia of repeated human steps since this area was first settled thousands of years ago. Stella and Freya pad quietly by my side, following a route that hasn’t changed fundamentally for a very long time.
This particular chalk escarpment, the North Downs, which forms the backdrop to Highclere, runs towards the south eastern counties, then dips down under the English channel before reappearing in France. There, the same landscape and soil which is also here at Highclere is renowned for the outstanding vineyards in the Champagne region. Now, vineyards have also begun to develop along the farming landscape in this part of south England.
Typically these chalk escarpments have a gentle slope on one side and a steeper slope or scarp on the other. The chalk beds are good natural aquifers and it is the calcium within the rocks that makes the water so good for us all to drink. The thin soils made it more possible for early settlors to till, as their tools lacked the strength of modern ones but these days its better used as pasture.
Moreover, each square metre of chalk downland may support up to 40 different species, which means they are incredibly important in terms of diversity. Today, this semi-natural habitat is maintained through sheep, cattle and rabbit grazing which prevents scrub encroachment and the fine, short, springy turf is known as old chalk grassland. Trees only tend to grow on the steepest part of the hillside where our predecessors did not cut them down.
The word “down” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word Dun or “hill”. Human settlements within the downs (as at Highclere) were created within the sheltered valleys and at the foot of the scarp slope.
In many ways, little changed on these down lands for hundreds of years until the Second World War. Due to the desperate need for food at that time, much of the grassland was ploughed up for arable farming, fundamentally changing the landscape and ecology. Today, however, at Highclere it has once more reverted to acres of permanent pasture, downland with a patchwork of fields bordered by hedges and wild flower margins.
Pathways and tracks linked these ancient settlements and are still there to be followed and walked. Further south from here, there is evidence of even older footprints. Ancient fossils have been found in the Jurassic limestone cliffs in Dorset and, like many other families, I and my son (when much younger) spent happy days looking and finding nothing, though others have found fossils with parts of a dinosaur skeleton and their footprints.
Footprints have taken on other meanings in the last few years as we have become more aware of the impact of human populations and lifestyles on this planet. A new term carbon footprint measures this negative imprint which may well end up being the biggest challenge of all. It will all be down, in the end, to the steps we take,
“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind.” Henry David Thoreau.
Lady Carnarvon, it is we, the people that can make sure that the footprints stay clean and true and to allow others to follow a clean path of footprints. Cheryl
So true Cheryl
I clear my head by reading your web page all day, I spend most of the day reading every thing, Thank you, every Monday
Always look forward Mondays and your post. Thank you so much for sharing with us
Well that was just lovely for a Monday morning…..
Thank you have a good week!
It is true taking a walk can ease the mind, release the sadness, reset out thoughts and so much more. A walk helps us mentally, emotionally and physically. Your writings here along with the photographs, history are just lovely. Thank you for taking the time to educate and refresh our days. Stay safe.
Thank you and you too!
Love the story line this morning. So very interesting in that area. Really must be exciting to explore and I’m sure you find something different every time you go for a walk.
Lady Carnarvon l like footprints and Dorset Jurassic Coast
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
what a glorious place to walk! I expect you get to see all the seasons in their glory there. A good place to cleanse the mind and rejuvenate. And doggy heaven!
Your walks are inspiring and prosaic. Yes, we all have it in our power to attempt to change the plight of our world. We must do so with great speed.
Thank your for your prose & talks. Your voice is so soothing in this troubled time.
Hingham, Massachusetts &
So enjoyed the “walk” with you today. I loved seeing your photo where you appear happy to be enjoying the fresh air and your pup.
Have a lovely week.
That was most refreshing for a Monday morning..
Kathleen from Canada
Beautiful thoughts for a Monday morning as we start the week. Always special to see your dogs gently at your side.
Thanks for a very interesting view of your home and its ancient lands. Loved the picture of the footprints in the snow and the cliffs. Searching for past hints of life with your son must have been fun! Some finds have been identified not to far from Cary, North Carolina, my home. Maybe a friendly dinasour!
I love your Monday adventure. They are always so picturesque, I feel like I’m there with you and the dogs.
Thank you for your beautiful narratives.
Thank you Bonnie
The countryside around your home is reflects the past of your home island. My home in North Carolina holds the same beauty with beaches, pasture, rolling wooded hills and majestic mountains. We must strive to protect our planet and those life forms that live on it.
I agree Jonathan
I am always in awe of your exceptional writing and storytelling skills as well as the scholarship and research employed. I do enjoy “going to school” with such a talented educator. Thank you once again for a blog imbued with your heart and soul, as well as beautiful, inspiring photos.
Ever a fan
Thank you for taking your time to share your life stories with us. What a great read this Monday morning.
Elizabeth, California USA
I always start my week near Highclere through your beautiful writing. Although a thousand miles away, your words are timeless for us all. From Fairhope, Alabama, USA
Walking is my favorite thing to clear my head also! Your description of the land is wonderful, and yes we should all take care to leave a smaller carbon footprint. Here’s to better days ahead – Take care stay safe!
Thank you and you too!
Beautiful Thank you
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you for adding such vivid word imagery to the amazing photos that you have shared today with us, your ‘Monday Family’.
And thank you for inspiring reflection in our own means of self improvement – not just for ourselves but for mankind and the world’s betterment.
To continue Thoreau’s reflection of self improvement:
“To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”
Thoreau’s quest for continuous improvement appears to value multiple, small step improvements more highly than a few large step improvements. The ultimate goal is to make continuous improvement part of the culture.
What a wonderfully inspiring and stimulating Blog. Thank you. It is so good to be back!
Jeffrey, so glad you are back. I very much enjoy your comments. Best Wishes, Cheryl
So glad to see you are back! We missed you.
Really good to read your replies Jeffery.
You’ve been missed Mr. Sewell! How lovely that you are back.
Thank you for sharing your love of your home, your country, and the surrounding land in which you live. Your beautifully written blogs have become a very welcome read every Monday and are as good as reading a daily devotional.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you for another beautiful blog and the lovely photos. The North Downs and The South Downs are wonderful scenic places to walk. I hope to return to both at some point when the current lockdown is over.
I look forward to your words every Monday.
The last picture of the footprints in the sand reminded me of the wonderful times walking along the beach here in Southern California. Also of the poem, “Footprints.” Here are the last lines:
“But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”
He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”
May God bless you and your family
Thank you and bless you and your family
Gent.ma Lady, grazie per le sue meditazioni, attente e coinvolgimenti. Le seguo dall’estate 2019 quando con un nutrito gruppo di operatori culturali e guide turistiche ho voluto visitare la sua Casa e il grande parco di Highclere. Scontrandomi con gli agenti di viaggio che hanno collaborato che non volevano includerli in un viaggio nelle vicine Cotswolds.
Invece le impronte sul lungo viale d’accesso, in ogni sala e scala della casa, nei lunghi prati e i raccolti giardini, hanno lasciato una profonda impronta nell’anima mia e degli amici che continuano a parlarne. Impronte fisiche, forse sofferte dopo il precoce risveglio e il viaggio in aereo da Venezia e poi in pullman che abbiamo segnato insieme, ma impronte lievi nel vivere le origini e le vicende del paesaggio, del territorio, della famiglia, cogliendone le sfumature e godendone le atmosfere.
Impronte della vita che ci portano a ripercorrere altre impronte, di latitudine, colore, intensità o sapore diversi ma che completano la bellezza della nostra esistenza.
Grazie Lady e magari arrivederci
I thought at best I could translate the above :
Dear Lady Carnarvon, Thank you for your meditations, attention and involvement. I have been following the blog since summer 2019 when, with a large group of cultural operators and tour guides, I wanted to visit Highclere and the gardens. Rather in contrast to other travel agents who didn’t want to include Highclere on a trip to the nearby Cotswolds.
Instead, the footprints on the long driveway, in every room and staircase of the house, in the long meadows and collected gardens, have left a deep imprint on my soul and on the friends who continue to talk about it. Physical footprints, perhaps suffered after the early awakening and the journey by plane from Venice and then by bus that we marked together, but slight footprints in living the origins and events of the landscape, the territory, the family, grasping the nuances and enjoying their atmospheres.
Footprints of life that lead us to retrace other footprints, of different latitude, color, intensity or flavor but which complete the beauty of our existence.
Thanks Lady and maybe goodbye (until we meet again)
That is wonderful.
Such beautiful sentiments and inspirations – particularly in that final paragraph:
“Footprints of life that lead us to retrace other footprints, of different latitude, color, intensity or flavor but which complete the beauty of our existence.”
Thank you both for sharing and translating.
AMITCHE ,QUI COSA MA BELLE TO DIRE GRACIA MILLE PER TUTTI.
RIO CLARO – SP
Mr. de Marco,
Your words are like poetry, and Lady Carnarvon your translation is so elegant! Thank you both for this wonderful comment!
The photo of the footprints. Are those fossilized or fresh ?
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Your Monday blogs are a much appreciated way to begin each week. I love the photos and history behind everything.
Enjoyed your story today.
Monday and March 1 Greetings Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you again for an educating and encouraging way to get my Monday going.
I am a walker and when I don’t have a very interesting walk to take and especially during these covid times I have found that my favorite way of walking is while listening to your PodCasts and the the Highclere Castle App with “Carson” speaking of descriptions of many of the rooms!
Looking forward to another Friday gathering and next Mondays blog.
Continue to remain well,
FL & CT USA
Thank you and I have released my latest podcast last week!
Hope you are well! May be we can visit your place again soon!!
Brilliant description of footprints. I enjoy Monday mornings, reading your blog. I recently subscribed to your blog and have to say, they are so inspirational.
I have an “adopted” family in Bristol and am looking forward to putting this covid behind us and returning to Bristol. A few years back, I spent time in a home in Hungerford and Highclere was just up the road. I remember watching Downton Abbey thinking I should just drive up the road for tea. It was in September that year and the tours had just wrapped up.
In the meantime I will finish reading Christmas at Highclere and continue enjoying your blogs.
Thank you for brightening up all of our lives!
I was thinking of footprints as I often think of the the beautiful poem about Footprints in the sand and the resolution of it…. my sisters and I read at our father’s funeral years ago now.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you for being so faithful in sharing your thoughts in this blog every week. I look forward to reading it every Monday. The photographs were beautiful in this week’s post.
Thank you Mary
Very interesting…some of your enclosed photos look like they could have been taken in Central Texas and the “Hill Country” of Texas. Limestone plays a big part in the topography there also.
BTW, enjoyed watching your husbands discussion of Egypt and his Great Grandfathers role in history!
Thank you and I enjoyed asking the questions!!
I thought that might be you….. a very professional Emcee ;>]
Good Morning Lady Carnarvon,
I have enjoyed this mornings walk with you today as well. I felt as a reader you were opening up to us with your thoughts and I was thinking you have so much on your plate that you just needed to walk this morning and have someone to just listen. I hope we have helped in a some small way, I know the deadline for your new book must be a concern for you, on top of that a TV interview and the running of this wonderful home.
Your carbon footprint IS making a difference because I have seen how you have helped where ever you can to supported your community all year long . I hope we have helped and that you have a productive week till we hear from you again. Heather
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
I watched your Instagram presentation prior to reading your Monday blog. Even though the story lines are the same, I enjoyed both. Very nice pictures of the surrounding area described. I agree with you about taking a walk. Not only is it a form of exercise, but for me it is a chance to have a quiet moment to myself and think things through.
Until next Monday, keep thinking Spring and better days ahead.
Thank you – I thought I would be be on track !!!
Lady Carnarvon, it is a welcomed get away to have your blog to read. In such crazy, unsure times that we are living in today we need to disappear into such beautiful descriptive words and photos. Thank you.
Thank you Lady Carnarvon for this week’s blog. It reminded me of Emma Mitchell’s book “The Wild Remedy”. I purchased the book for my wife as a Christmas present last year and I am currently reading it on her recommendation. She loved it. The book was written as a therapy option for depression, but nature contains food for the soul for all of us especially in the difficult times we are enduring.
I love this “footprints” blog. Your writings are always a delight, Lady Carnarvon. Thank you for the peaceful interlude!!
I always love the beautiful photographs that you include in your blog. The UK has such a unique landscape that is so inspirational. Thank you so much!
Thank you Stephen
Dear Lady Carnarvon
I love Tuesday mornings (for me) and reading your latest blog. Today I have been reminded of the invisible things we leave behind on our way to heaven i.e. our footprints. Something else we could leave behind inadvertently is our fingerprints, perhaps not so invisible as our footprints but able to be found long after we depart.
I just love the way you can make me imagine the things you describe when telling your stories. It is a wonderful gift to be able to transport the reader into your world even for such a small amount of time. I thank you for that ability you have and for making my world a little more interesting.
I love the photographs of the countryside around Highclere and I especially look forward to the history of the house. You are so lucky to have such a beautiful place to live in and more importantly, to love and care for.
I wish I could visit Highclere but distance and my age (ugh! now 82) make that just a dream and one which unfortunately will have to remain a dream. I really look forward to your blogs, the small glimpses you share and most of all your memories and history of Highclere.
Stay safe and well
Stay safe and well Joy
Beautiful and inspiring text during this special period ! Merci.
Good Morning Lady Carnarvon,
Knowing you are having busy times as always, I’ll simply compliment you on your historical blogs and Thank You for sharing such beautiful countryside views with all of us . How nice to put meaning to the land, and honor it in such a way. I look forward to hearing and seeing what you have in store for All of us!! Thank You!!
Sincerest Regards, Jane Hrabak
Thank you Jane
Lady Carnarvon, your musings act as a meditation for me. They leave me calm and reflective, a true break from the hubbub of life. Thank You from Mesquite Nevada, USA
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I love the history and geography you share in your Monday posts and daily Instagram posts. There is so much to see and learn about our world and I know that I have learned more through your sharing. Thank you so much. Happy trekking.
Love your history lessons. Whenever we take a beach vacation I include a photo of our footprints in our memory book with a sample is sand.
Beautiful blog and bright blue sky. Such beauty in the Highclere landscape.
Lady Carnarvon, It is almost Monday and that is always a happy day with it being your blog day. It is always so enjoyable. Thank you so very much for answering my question on Fridays Q and A. It made my day and I am still looking at it! Hope you are having a good weekend. Best Wishes to you and Lord Carnarvon. Cheryl