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.
Seeing that you have written a new blog totally makes my morning! After visiting England 2 years ago with my daughter, I have truly upped any chance I can have, (BBc series, books) to see and learn about anything British! Thank you for sharing your everyday life at Highclere.
You are such an easy going Lady I can only imagine your closest girlfriend and you laugh all the time about your adventures in the castle. Your spirit in maintaining your home gives me smiles and laughter as I battle stage 4 cancer. Please keep sharing and love your beautiful home.
My girlfriends are very important – a lot of laughter – and like you some of them have fought though those cancer battles… they are all doing ok. With all best wishes and thoughts
How wonderful to have hidden secrets to explore…sounds so interesting…glad you have help to figure things out. Our winter here in Winston-Salem, NC (USA) has not brought any snow so far…that beautiful picture of the castle in the snow so lovely…makes me want to make a hot cup of chocolate…
Just signed up to be on this blog and looking forward to your posts! I just purchased tickets to visit Highclere in August and am so grateful you have opened your home to visitors. I am from Arizona and a huge fan of Downton Abbey and all things British. Will look forward to future posts as I anticipate my trip to UK this summer!
Always happy to read you as we are going visiting England and UK next June and we want to know how life is going there. However, I think you would not appreciate our -20°C that we have been dealing with since the beginning of January and we don’t know when temperature will higher a little bit! Hope you and your men will solve your heating problems before the castle froses… From Quebec with friendship!
I was so thrilled to wake up this morning in the USA to find a new blog and beautiful winter picture of Highclere.
Then I kept reading about the heating oil problem and the search for the leak. I can only imagine how you must feel on the adventure of finding the hidden “unknown” behind the wooden board and pictures.
We have replaced bulbs in our home with the LED bulbs to save electricity. It takes some getting used to. When I was little it was said that I would go through the house and turn on every light !!!! I didn’t enjoy the darkness at all. Now with conversation of energy, my husband and I turn off lights in all rooms unless we are in them.
I hope you keep warm and enjoy the glow of your lamps.
Did you find the leak? When I lived in Grimsby as a child, I remember sitting around the fire in the winter trying to keep warm. Our backs were freezing but our legs and faces were red and hot.
The photo of Highclere with snow looks lovely. Keep warm, calm and carry on which you all seem to do.
I do see some guests standing ever closer to the fire!!!!
I have been researching past dinners and menus and they wore velvets and tweeds in the colder months. The problem today is guests arrive from warm central heated houses in thinner clothes.
Dear Lady Carnarvon, Thank you for your delightful blog, and sharing the adventures you experience. Thank you too, for the gentle reminder of all of our stewardship and responsibilities towards energy efficiency. If we all do our part, it does make a difference. That you so carefully consider and implement energy conservation at Highclere, is commendable and sets an example for us all. My best, Fara
“Daunting” is the word that comes to mind when trying to find a leak in a place the size of Highclere. I can only imagine the drafts and problems in trying to maintain a cozy temperature. When I see the Lady’s in their very sheer dresses it makes me think they must be in a constant state of the shivers. 🙂 Stay warm!
Wraps and pashminas are the answer, and I was thinking of turning some rather lovely velvet into some wraps… I just need to find some extravagant fringing!
Your blog is one of the highlights of my day. I so enjoy your approach to life and the castle. I can only imagine the mysteries yet to be solved and delights to be found.
I looked so dusty when I had through the opening..I just could not believe I hadn’t realised it was there!
It’s so nice to read your posts and hear these little things about life in your beautiful castle. Thanks for sharing!
The snow covered tree was enchanting, thank your for sharing your lovely home and grounds with us. I doubt I will ever make it across the big pond but it is so much fun to read of your adventures.
Thank you for sharing. I love to hear about your adventures! So with that said, has anyone thought about putting a wind generator on the grounds. From what I have read, they are very efficient. I understand that it would not exactly blend with the landscape and architecture but, the savings and conservation would prove it’s worth. Plus it could be another educational interest for all of the visiting school children.
I am not sure a wind generator would generate enough energy to make up for the obvious “non-fit” into the landscape. I just think if we can reduce light electricity usage,for example, by 90% that can actually help far more short term. Over time it may become more apparent what would be the best renewable energy process to undertake here – there will likely be so many advances in the the next 5/10 years ….
You could call the wind mill The “Don Quixote” folly! Just kidding. I admire your never-ending dedication to the preservation of Highclere Castle and thank you for sharing your story with everyone.
Hi Lady Carnarvan
Sounds like you’ve had an eventful day at the castle
Don’t know what happened but most of my text disappeared! Some sort of error
I did! Never got enough work done though!
What was the gully’s purpose?
I love your sense of adventure with the house. I imagine there’s something new to learn about such an immense structure every single day! I will echo the comments of a couple others in hoping that you were able to track down the leak without spending another few days on the hunt.
Speaking of lights, I have just acquired a replacement fixture for our kitchen and was contemplating the gasp-out-loud expensive LED’s at my local hardware store but decided to ‘work my way up’ to them and just got the 2x efficient incandescent bulbs. As they wear out I’ll buy the LED’s one at a time… 🙂 I commend you for your efforts to convert over to LED’s in the castle – I can well appreciate the long-term cost savings, but jeez, the initial outlay in replacement bulbs alone is staggering!
Cheers from over here in South Carolina, USA! I’m looking forward to your next post!
The lightbulbs are expensive but they have come down in price here in the UK and there are ever more options. They also last 15 years so just as you say the thing is to do it bit by bit…I also go around turning lights out!!
Thank you for sharing the beautiful photograph of Highclere in the snow. Living in Australia I can but dream of such scenes. I cannot even begin to imagine where one looks for a leak in a “house” the size of Highclere. Good luck with keeping warm.
Regards from the Lady from Australia who visited 2 years ago.
I so enjoy reading about your life at Highclere. Your beautiful snowy picture of the castle with this post and the pictures of spring starting show with your last post made me so happy. I live in Tucson, Arizona,USA which is in the desert. We don’t have seasons here. We just have hot and hotter. Today was 84 degrees F. and is projected to be 90 degrees by Monday. I moved here 5 1/2 years ago and don’t know if I will ever get used to the climate here. However, seeing lovely pictures of the changes elsewhere always gives me a lift. When the pictures are coupled with your delightful posts, it ensures a real boost to my day. If you ever desire to visit the desert, I would be most happy to host you! Have a great day.
Thank you so much for sharing your day to day life, and for reminding us we must all be responsible for our energy uses. I switched to LED bulbs a few years ago, and even in my small home it made a difference in my electric costs. We must all do our part right?
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
Greetings from Canada! I was very to hear about your ‘heating’ dilemma – it happens here as well, but certainly not at a house so grand as yours. Hopefully, all has been worked out and you are set for another while with heat. Oil can be such a tricky form of heat, but at Highclere, I can only imagine how dire the circumstances could be if the rooms and items in them ever became too cold.
We are so enchanted with Downton Abbey – I celebrated my 60th birthday last autumn and we took a most beautiful tour of the house and enjoy a wonderful tea break outside in the lovely September sunshine. We are so grateful that you and your family are accommodating the ITV series so that folks all over the world can drink up the beauty of your home, it’s surroundings and the fantastic writing put to life, by Julian Fellowes.
Happy New Year to you and yours!
We were given the series Downton Abbey for Christmas and are really enjoying the setting and the castle. We always enjoy knowing where movies and shows are filmed and so we were delighted to find it was a real castle. We did the google map search and then found your website. My husband saw that there was a blog and I’m already an admirer having only read this latest posting.
But I’m curious as to whether or not you found the leak? Do you have individual lines so you can shut some
of them down?
We live in an old (by Western Canada standards) house that we moved and restored. We too heat with a boiler but it runs off of natural gas so we never run out of what powers it. We do occasionally have boiler issues despite it only being 7 years old and somehow they always happen in the coldest part of winter.
This years adventure started on Christmas Eve (hard to get a service company out that evening) and lasted until the 31st. We had no heat that whole time and no hot water and the temperatures dropped to -30. We have something called Glycol in the system so it can’t freeze and break any pipes. We used space heaters and thought about our grandparents who homesteaded here, from England, and how cold they must have been in houses without great insulation.
I shall enjoy more of your blog I am sure and perhaps the next trip to England to visit cousins will include a trip to your lovely castle.
I’ m sorry. I forgot to sign my post.
Aberdeen, Saskatchewan, Canada
Your effort to make Highclere energy efficient is an inspiration and a motivator.
The grocery stores here in Central Florida have put motion sensitive lighting in the freezer cases. The lights go on when someone approaches, but remain off the rest of the time. This might be an option for some of your hallways. That way you wouldn’t have to go around turning off those lights.