Last Sunday we celebrated the Harvest Festival at Highclere Church. It is traditionally held on the Sunday nearest the full moon following the Autumn Equinox (the latter being towards the end of September). So it was a pagan festival acquired by the church……it is however a beautiful time of year, one of “mists and mellow fruitfulness” and one in which to take stock of what we have successfully stored in the barns for the coming months.
We operate an in-hand farm here at Highclere growing wheat, barley, oats, linseed, oil seed rape, haylage and of course sheep (and about 3000 lambs) which graze the Park. I had wanted to reflect the source of the food bought in supermarkets – a farm to table moment.
Gathered In the churchyard was a tractor, some chickens, a couple of sheep, a Shetland pony, sacks of grains, apples, tins of food, and then I decided I should ride to church with various friends who were staying . Five of us therefore set off for church across the Park on gleaming horses whilst the rest of the house party followed by car.
Rev Toddy Hoare gave an excellent sermon, not a lecture at all, but a riveting talk bringing together threads of thought from the “Desert Fathers” to today.
After church we all enjoyed coffees or wine outside in the sunshine, the chickens were perched on a tree stump and the Jacob’s sheep were incredibly clean and white. We then climbed back onto the horses – in fact Tom leapt nimbly up onto Bill (who is jolly tall), Steven with some agility made it up onto Mountain, whilst I found a tree to swing onto Frankie. Annie led our party from the front and we choose a longer way back, riding between the limes trees and through some old areas of the Park looking back up at golden sun lit Castle.
Arriving back at the Castle, lunch was most excellent, delicious roast pork with lots of crackling, roasted beetroots, kale and followed by a fig tart made from figs from the Castle gardens, it was a delicious harvest festival.