At this time of year walk past any hedgerow, or pause under a tree, and you will see the most vivid green shoots unfurling as they risk opening for the unpredictable spring weather and a new year. In particular, this week saw the cherry blossom smother the previously brown branches as they suddenly appeared following a week of warmer sunshine
Everything in nature at this time of year is a bit of risk as the weather does not follow a steady trend. Predictably, it has already gone backwards and rain, wind and frost have stripped some blossom and slowed the leaves. Lacking the ability of humans to dash back inside when the weather changes, spring flowers and buds have to stay where they are and, inevitably, every year some get frosted or knocked over by sudden storms.
These past couple of weeks has also seen the birth of the first of the lambs which is always so sweet but again not without risk. So far it has gone reasonably well but an added factor this year is that we are discovering that some of the 300 or so trees which fell in the February storms are proving to be places where lambs can easily get trapped. Thus, in order to help Matt the Shepherd’s constant efforts to be ever vigilant, we have taken to tailoring our walks to where they might be most useful in helping him keep track of the newborns.
Sheep have been part of the landscapes at Highclere for millennia and work well for us as we can put up electric fencing around the arable fields which any cattle would just walk straight through. Some of the original field boundaries, still there after more than 1200 years, are described in the old records as “scip dell” (sheep dell) so in many ways we are really just following in our forbears’ footsteps. In a mixed farm, everything is interrelated and works together. The sheep graze over stubble turnips after which the fields are then planted for wheat or barley. The sheep manure breaks down slowly adding to the richness of the soil. As a further advantage, combining crops, grassland and livestock can also support increases in small mammals, pollinators and farmland birds.
In fact, this is altogether a busy time for the farm. The chalk downland here has been renowned for centuries for producing top quality malting barley and we plant spring barley for distilling. It is harvested later in the year and sent to Scotland for whisky or used for beer. Simon, Highclere’s farm manager is also out planting spring beans for animal feed. The beans are also are an important nitrogen fixing crop which will help the soil nutrients for a future crop of winter wheat.
Diversity and long rotations help us both get more from the land and tread a little more lightly on it. It is a kinder process than intensive factory farming which this natural approach helps to preserve this historically rich landscape and allows us to pass it on intact to future generations. It is a sad fact that here in the UK we waste 30% of the good we buy. Given the recent dramatic increases in the cost of living this is plain uneconomic as well as adding to the burden on the land. It seems to me that just being a little more careful would help make a difference in any number of directions.
Thank you for sharing these informative thoughts and info that show Highclere as a working and thriving farm/estate.
Beautifully written! It’s really amazing it is still the same functioning Estate yet different. Looks lovely.
I cannot wait to visit!
Simply beautiful, nothing more to say
Your article was very interesting and informative. I love that your family still has a working farm like your ancestors. Farming is a hard life…one that I know I couldn’t do but I so appreciate those that do. The sheep are adorable!
It seems like the weather is changing in different parts of the world. It snowed on April 1 in some areas of France, big wind/rain storms in France and England, and in my area we have had 60-70 degree weather then 90-100 the next week, then rain, then colder etc.
I cannot wait to visit! Call me Julie I’ll go with you. Lovely Blog.
I love the photograph of you with the sheep, Lady Carnarvon. Do you harvest and sell all of their wool?
Yes the British Wool Board
Hello Lady Carnarvon.
Thank you for sharing the farming information.
When you joined Highclere, did you have any farming links or experience?
You certainly have now and finding it most rewarding.
Carry on Highclere now with longer daylight hours.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you for your marvellous description of Spring on your land, our peculiar weather must cause a lot of headaches!
It’s wonderful the way you are all caring for your land is a joy to behold. I wish you all a safe & healthy Spring.
It certainly does cause a headache!
Spring Greetings Lady Carnarvon,
So many complications you, Lord Carnarvon and your Estate Managers have to deal with year round and especially in the spring given weather, landscapes, soil nutrients and animals. Impressive how so much is so well managed. Good luck going forward with the downed tree issue and newborn lambs. Thank you again for the lovely photos showing so many different shades of green! Absolutely a beautiful spring there. Remain well!
Thank you!!! Beautifully written and makes me yearn to visit Highclere Castle again! So wonderful that your farm works so well and has for centuries. Just amazing !!!
Wonderful to learn more details about the agricultural work done on the estate. I had to chuckle when I was looking at photo of you with your beautiful sheep a 2nd time and noticed the spray painted words on the back wall – “WE SHEEP” Yes we do!
Hello Lady Carnarvon,
New job title
Your writing is always beautiful.
It makes me want to run out and find that bread or buy a farm?
Thank you for another informative and wonderfully written article. Totally enjoy reading all of them.
As expats from America in the Fertilizer business, we were so fortunate to have had the opportunity to live in your beautiful country and visit Highclere. We had the great pleasure of visiting Highclere when Lady Carnarvon, gave a talk to our small group that day before the tour.
Definitely a highlight to our time in England .
Love, love, love that photo of you right in the midst of the sheep. Now we need to see “Matt the Shepherd.” I mean who else can say they employ an actual shepherd? Thanks for the lovely pics and information Lady Carnarvon. They really brighten my Monday.
Thank you once again for another inspiring story on life on the farm at Highclere.
I love Monday mornings so that I can read your blog.
Have a wonderful week and Happy Easter.
Kathleen from Canada.
How beautiful Spring at Highclere sounds. Your descriptions makes me feel as if I too can breathe in Highclere’s earthy crisp air.
After meeting you at the Town Hall Lecture in Omaha, Nebraska I chose your book , “Lady Almina” for my book club to read in March. We all enjoyed it immensely and had such a lively discussion. It was so interesting to read about her life and to discover the history of Highclere. I look forward to reading about Lady Catherine next.
How lovely – thank you !!!
You captured the tension that Spring brings – tentative blossoms, first baby steps of lambs, icy rain causing early leaves to fall – but promise of warmth to come. We can always count on that! Have a wonderful Spring at Highclere Wish I could be there!
Dear Lady Carnarvon
A Beautiful Blog.
Reminds me that despite the continuance of the Corona Virus Nature, in her Wisdom, continues to flourish!.
Looking forward to the next one.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
the landscape look amazing! With so many different trees and crops and animals (especially the baby lambs, so cute) it must be wonderful to walk in. I am looking forward to visiting again some day soon. In the meantime count down to Downton Abbey movie! Yeay! It is this time of year that the housework gets neglected in favour of the garden, but worth it.
Absolutely – life imperfect
Lady Carnarvon lovely pictures of green Shoots and lovely to highcelere castle and you and lord Carnarvon have a nice weekend thank you for the email and l am fan of Downton abbey andhappy Easter you and lord Carnarvon when it come
Lady Carnarvon, an exceptional story today. Perfect. Can say no more. Cheryl
There is nothing quite like Spring when the world is new again! Thankfully, it can work wonders with our spirit as well. It is good to be responsible stewards to the land and its productivity, and lovely that Highclere cares. So looking forward to visiting in May! Happy Easter to you!
Azaleas will be out ! Magic time
Sounds like you have everything under control. Just like a well oiled machine. I enjoy your blogs every Monday over breakfast. Thank you for sharing with us. Have a wonderful day.
Definitely a bit bumpy in life… but that is it – keeping going with care
Highclere appears to be it’s own ecosystem. That’s fantastic. However, I am overwhelmed with the amount of work and people it takes to achieve that status. Kudo’s to you and your team.
Your story about the sheep being trapped among the fallen trees reminds me of the parable of the lost sheep in the Bible. I hope none of your sheep get lost!
This past week our cherry tree bloomed, cloaked in beautiful pink flowers. And with it come the first bumblebees of the season. We all need to remember to enjoy those beautiful moments that cost so little. Also our county has hundreds of acres of commercial tulips, you can only imagine the colors this time of year!
We can all put our little gran in to help our earth. We will all be happier and healthier. Thanks for inspiring us all. ♥️
Dear Lady Carnarvon, you wrote a marvellous article. Reading it almost seems to be there with you in the middle of the enchanting nature admiring the fabulous landscape enriched by the presence of sheeps . We should all be a bit like shepherds and take better care of the environment around us. “How sweet is the Shepherd’s sweet lot! From the morn to the evening he strays; He shall follow his sheep all the day, And his tongue shall be filled with praise. For he hears the lamb’s innocent call, And he hears the ewe’s tender reply;He is watchful while they are in peace, For they know when their Shepherd is near “(The Shepherd, William Blake) Best wishes of good Easter !
I’m a new gardener as the lady who would come help with the house cleaning on Tuesdays and the gardening on Wednesdays moved out of state. This left me with a lot to learn regarding the gardens. I have plots in different areas of the property and I’m working hard to prepare them all for the seedlings I started. I have a small greenhouse that we plan on putting up once the infrastructure is put in. My plots are not large but we are able to grow enough vegetables for my family and my children’s families and some neighbors. I also grow some flowers in the front of the house. It is an ever changing look. Spring is here in NE Ohio, USA. but it is very wet and it snowed 2 days ago. I’m working hard to keep my seedling healthy until I can move them outside. My favorite color use to be blue but it has now changed to green. The different shades and tones are Mesmerizing. Your pictures are truly beautiful. Thank you for sharing them. Happy Easter to all at Highclere.
Happy Easter to you!
Please could we see more of your foals or Spring flowers. I need to believe in the future… and Spring is always a message of hope. I worry so much about my friends in Ukraine.
Good morning from me Lady Carnarvon,
Ahhhh………..lambing……….brings back spring days on the farm when we were knee deep in lovely little lambs. I could not wait to do a check in the mornings to see if we had any twins, how many tiny beauties “talked” to me or rushed towards me with complete trust and showing how inquisitive they were. We had Dorset sheep which we put a Border Leicester ram over and that produced lovely “chunky” fat lambs.
Then the hard work started. Feeding mis-mothered babies (babies whose mothers just would not feed them and walked away like their lambs were something they had to avoid) mixing up buckets of milk, washing bottles and (it seemed like) listening to babies bleating and wanting to be constantly fed. If the weather turned suddenly cold …ours were outside in paddocks….bringing the lambies inside the shed so they were warmer snuggled up in deep hay. I even had a few little ones inside the house in boxes where the fire was, to optimise their chance of survival. Yes, I miss the times when we had 350-400 ewes lambing, and if I could, I would love to go back to those days.
I loved the picture of the green trees etc and at the moment we have countryside a bit like that but totally waterlogged from all the rain and flooding we have had. It is either a feast or a famine in Australia and sometimes I giggle when some people think a drought is 6 weeks without rain. Try 3-4 years, no feed in paddocks, dust everywhere and trying to keep your core stock alive so you can start breeding again when it eventually rains. Ah the joy of it all 🙂
Take care of your little lambies, take care of yourself and Lord Carnarvon and all of our chatters should take care of themselves too. God Bless
Hello Joy, you wrote a very emotional comment. Stay well
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
The ins and outs of Highclere castle and estate are very intricate. Keeping everything so well balanced is more than a full time job. You and your team are excellent stewards of the castle and land. Thank you.
Thank you very much
Dear Lady Carnarvon!
So interesting to read about your life at beautiful Highclere! I am sure The newborn lambs are as cute as ever. I noticed that you too have trees that have fallen down during storms. It The same over here. There has been lots of falling trees everywhere after a snowstorm we had in March! We have worked so much in order to get it Nice and tidy Again.
I also would like to wish you a very HAPPY EASTER!
Swedish greetings from Lena
Thank you – Happy Easter!
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
I am playing “catch up” with my reading this evening.
Thank you for your Monday blog. Very nice introductory picture of you and the estate’s sheep.
With Easter approaching this coming Sunday, your story reminds us that the lamb is the most significant symbol of the season. It embodies goodness, purity, and sacrifice.
I am sorry to learn of the difficulties you and your staff face in managing the farm this time of year. I hope things improve for you, and that no sheep are lost in the process.
Until next week, may you, Lord Carnarvon, and everyone at Highclere Castle have a blessed and happy Easter. Prayers for Ukraine.
P.S. Do you manufacture packaged lamb’s wool? For pointe students, it is used as cushion to wrap around the toes. Unfortunately, it is getting harder to find.
Thank you – we wish the wool were better used!
Thank you for sharing LADY CARNARVON,
I pray all the new born lambs are doing well. I watch a farm in the UK everyday as the farmers help out the Mum`s who need help with the delivery`s & some don`t make it, its sad but there is more joy of all the new births.
May you & your Family have a Blessed Easter,
There is an interesting video on my instagram…