February 5, 2015

Good Gully


At the coldest time of year we try to get ahead and make sure, in advance, that we have ordered in heating oil ahead of time for the Castle, associated houses and some of the Park cottages. In fact the Castle oil tank is on a sophisticated system which should alert the oil delivery company that a reserve level has been reached and we need the tank to be filled. Except that it didn’t.

Of course it was a weekend, a Saturday , and one of the coldest days. It was Les to the rescue ringing up for emergency deliveries of heating oil  as well as engineers to bleed the radiators. Les is an amazing man and is conversant with all the little tricks to know around the Castle.

I think of the Castle of more than just a building, it holds so many memories and stories of so many generations.  I know it has yet more secrets to unfurl as the days go on and I understand it better.

We were trying to find a leaky radiator  (after all the heating challenges) and we needed to find the starting point above the leak. We couldn’t really start the day at desks until we had sorted this out. John Gundill and I were sharing what we knew about heating pipes which was not a lot. He had paced out the corridor below to know where to start looking on the corridor above.

Steve and Les ‘sort of’ remembered that in a cupboard was an entrance through to a gully between the Castle walls. We found a key to the cupboard in which I had stacked various paintings I couldn’t decide where to hang. We pulled them out and at the very back found a square board nailed to some bricks. It was just to one side of where we thought we should be.  Steve removed the board from the bricks. I always feel I am in an adventure book and John Gundill (our Castle Manager) and I take it in turns to see who gets to see what first. Next time we might toss a coin for it, as he seems to get in first to make sure it is safe for me…We peer in with torches shining up and down and see how far through we can lever ourselves or crawl. It was a beautiful lead lined gully, about 3ft high,  and completely dry so it had nothing to do with any leaky radiators.  We stacked most things back again and continued the search for the leak.


The gully was not new, but it looked perfect and was from the latest rebuild of the Castle some 180 years ago. Radiators are relatively new, people lived here with just fires to heat it and them for over 1,000 years. Suddenly we have hugely increased our need for resources for light, heating, mechanical and industrial power. It is the rate of change perhaps which creates so many stress points. We look at what we should be doing at Highclere to minimise use of natural un-replenished resources. We have some large solar panels to support the farm during the summer and harvest processes and so put excess energy back in the electric grid.


We have not, however, resolved the path we should take at the Castle yet.  But we can save on usage of power, we can cut down enormously by replacing 60 watt lightbulb with far far less.  We can save  90% of power usage in a lightbulb by using LED’s. That is a tremendous saving and if lots of people who made those small changes it would make a huge difference.