This last weekend has been a case of revolving doors. On the one hand Downton Abbey were keen to keep filming until the last minute of each scene whilst we were keen to begin to set up the castle and gardens to welcome our guests for the Bank holiday weekend. Films look glamorous and as if they have an entire and normal looking world outside of them but in fact, I have never seen so much stuff – rolls of thick wires, piles of protective matting and heaps of what the crew would undoubtedly describe as state-of-the-art equipment but which we need just to be stored and not here for a few days. It is, as ever, a matter of planning on both sides and working out what could be done when.
One thing that could be done after the last outside shot was finished was to put Josephine Vanessa, our Citroen van, into position. We bought this little van about four years ago and she arrived on a trailer to be painted and kitted out with the help of Team Highclere. She is the same colour scheme as the 1936 Rolls Royce if of rather different “parentage”. Luis named her Van-essa and I named her Josephine to complement the fact that Napoleon Bonaparte’s desk sits within the State rooms here, thus she became Josephine Vanessa.
Just like the Dowager Countess, she does not drive herself and therefore needs to be towed and then pushed back into position. It all went rather well until we stood back to admire our endeavours and noticed an ominously bulging tyre. In front of our eyes, the tyre expanded further into a round ball and popped with a sound like a saluting gun. Naturally we went straight off to get another tyre only to find that, like so many other supplies at the moment, there were none to be found so Josephine Vanessa will not be going anywhere for a bit.
As an unfortunate corollary of the combination of Brexit and the pandemic we are still waiting for spare parts for varied bits of machinery – a lawn mower continues to be out of action four months later for example, and the temporary blocking of the Suez Canal only added to the global logistics problem. According to Sally in the gift shop, the situation is equally stressed in her arena too, though I suspect that secretly Geordie is quite pleased that she can’t go shopping for the gift shop with abandon!
At Highclere, we are determined to buy food locally, to eat local and to buy our supplies locally and to try as much as we can not to contribute to an extended carbon footprint. British suppliers however are still only just beginning to re-establish their supply chains and as they gradually settle, we are still not sure each day what parts of our orders will arrive at the kitchen back door which makes Paul chef’s job even more challenging.
Friday evening was a team effort, dusting, hoovering for about three hours, placing the furniture for tours rather than cameras, finding the guide ropes, the signs for social distancing and hand sanitisers, re-positioning photographs, cleaning all the tearooms, decorating the marquee, stocking the pop-up shop, stocking the gift shop, and reinstating the car park signs which were in some shed or other but no one could quite remember which one……
All the diaries are back to front and life continues to be less easy so this process will have to continue for a bit. After this weekend, we will have to put “Highclere” away again for more filming before setting it all out again for visitors as the month goes on. Nevertheless, we are thrilled to have everyone here and it is so good to be busy again. Plus, despite the challenges and protocols of our times, the film will once again transport us into a different time, touching our feelings and drawing us in.
Meanwhile, Josephine is busy in the sunshine with coffees, smoothies, ice cream and other delights and we still have a couple of days to find a tyre in case she needs to be pushed and towed away from the bench favoured by Lady Mary and other Downton characters for scenes as well as the guests of our lovely little van.
I was watching the Downton Abbey film yesterday and was thinking about how your life is turned upside down with the filming.
How do you manage?
Do you move into rooms that the crew will not be filming in at all?
I intend coming to visit Highclere, hopefully this year.
Will check your opening times.
Love Josephine Vanessa by the way.
We all muddle along
I did not realize that Downton Abbey was filming . I have been put of touch for quite a bit it seems. Life there must have been organized chaos. The staff seem to be very flexible and work as a well oiled machine.
Hope all is well there. Keep up the fantastic job.
thank you – yes i cannot believe it is nearly – I am not sure what I have done!!!
Oh how I enjoyed your UPSIDE-DOWN story….not because I enjoy chaos, but because quite like all of us, Highclere is experiencing things that the rest of us are !!! The “After-Times” (as I like to call it) of the Covid Pandemic are certainly not easy to navigate …So take a deep breath and know that all your efforts for the Downton movie and the opening of Highclere are soooo appreciated !! Many Many Thanks ….
I would love to share more out-takes, I am usually laughing too much to remember
Such beautiful pictures of castle life, both visually and through your stories.
We so hope one of these days to visit Highclere. Not to be this year but maybe next if we plan an English holiday. We are so lucky that Highclere will be used for another Downton Abbey movie. It’s such an effort for you and your staff to make it available for filming and our privilege to enjoy your beautiful home, if only at this point, through film. Have a wonderful summer!
Looking forward to my visit in July, been put of now for over a year due to the virus.
Look forward to seeing you!
After watching Downton over and over , it’s quite nice to see the “real life” side of life at highclere and all the history. I am reading your books and am thoroughly enjoying them. Someday I’ll visit Highclere
Greetings once again Lady Carnarvon,
After reading this mornings blog I am stunned trying to understand how you found time to create and post this blog after the crazy busy week and weekend it sounds like you and all of the Highclere Team have had! So glad the D A film is taking place as so many of us are so looking forward to viewing it in December. Also so thrilled for you and your Highclere team that you are once again welcoming visitors. The combination of the two sounds completely exhausting for you and your team especially after such a quiet and inactive lock down given the pandemic. Jumping back into action at that pace sounds challenging but congrats on getting through it!
Good luck with Josephine Vanessa and all other mechanical and stock part you are in need of. Hope they come to you soon.
Thank you again for another entertaining, interesting and educational blog.
CT & FL USA
Thank you Lynn
Very nicely said. I also am from CT &FL. Waiting patiently for D A . ALSO visiting Highclere is High on my bucket list. A girl can dream
We all need dreams!
I can’t imagine the stress of shifting from filming and back to every day visitors at Highclair! Thank you for opening your home (I have to remember it is your home) to Downton & Visitors so we can be transported to another time and place through the movie and touring. I do hope one day to visit England and see up close an personal the place you get to call home. The pictures always seem so magical whether they are the Downton movie or your photos included with your commentaries. Thanks s for always sharing!
You paint such a vivid picture of life at Highclere. Thanks
Ahhhhh very interesting and beautiful , thank you Lady Carnarvon
I always feel so special to look at the pictures and read .
Roxanne from Montreal
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
The world is reopening with bits and pieces missing, and you are using wit, intelligence, humor, and creativity to fill in the gaps. Well done! Flip flopping two worlds is no easy task. May the busy days bring reassurance of a return to a new normal. I love the story of Josephine Vanessa and the photos are wonderful. Surprises and treats for your guests, and the flat tire adds to her charm.
Be well and all good luck with the tours and filming. Much to look forward to. And congratulations on your new book….I look forward to reading it!
Charlotte Merriam Cole
I like that we are flip flopping !!
Dear Lady Carnarvon, your Napoleon Desk is stunning! Would you mind telling me how you came across it?
Being a cigar aficionado, I always enjoy seeing a Downtown scenes were there’s smoking going on. I’ve recently saw High clear Castle Cigars offered in my fav. cigar Lounge. I can’t wait to try some. Does anyone in your family smoke cigars ? As always, thank you for opening your home to filming.
It was bought after Napoleon died in 1821. it was wrongly attributed but was lying on the floor underneath it having a look and found the signature…
The cigars have been well received – my husband much enjoys the occasional cigar!
Josephine VANessa has a terrific story. Hope her tyre is secured quickly.
You are all so busy!
So exciting to read all about the happenings. And just so thrilled the world is slowly awakening again. Appreciating everything more than ever before.
Yes I hope we all are
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I’m exhausted just from reading your blog. Best wishes for every success over the Bank Holiday weekend, which I assume is the present time.
Lovely to hear from you
Lady Carnarvon lovely pictures of Josephine and lovely to visit highcelere castle happy spring bank holiday Monday
Do you suppose if we all stand on our heads it will help our upside down world turn right side up? Sympathetic to your chaos we are still so thrilled to hear of your busy business at hand!
How Exciting to learn that another Downton Abbey is in the Works. Something to truly look forward to. With with the rate of COVID cases dropping a planned visit across the Pond is hopefully in the offing. How I would love to see Highclaire in all its Splendor.
Thank you for a little peek into how things are going behind the scenes Lady Carnarvon. Especially a glimpse of Tom, Bates, Miss Baxter and Anna in one photo! Do you have any idea how long the filming will go on at Highclere Castle? May you and the team all have the strength and stamina needed to make it through each transition between filming and guest arrivals and events!
some time yet!
Love it! Thanks!
In spite of all the upheaval, it’s sounds so wonderful to hear that things are returning to a somewhat normal pace at Highclere! I’m so excited to hear that the filming is taking place for the Downton Abbey movie! Life is moving on! Thank goodness!
Lady Carnarvon pictures of Josephine Vanessa and would love to visit highcelere castle
Lady Carnarvon pictures of Josephine Vanessa and would love to visit highcelere castle and happy spring bank holiday Monday
A very busy time, but what welcome activity after so many months of being shut down. Have a lovely season! I hope by next summer to be among those visiting you.
Beautiful pictures and a lot of information. Thank you
Lady Carnarvon, thank you so much for the lovely guided tour through Highclere and the Downton set. I can feel the flurry of work and can’t wait to see the film. I will hear your words as I watch it remembering all the work that came with the filming.
Thank you for the wonderful visit.
Once again a wonderful Monday morning here in whitefish, montana
This is our traditional Memorial Day …a day to honor and remember all those who fought and died in all our wars. May 31st.
And I note that you have a bank holiday this weekend? Is that a tradition?
Sandie Carpenter Whitefish, Montana USA
It is Whitsun Bank holiday here – Whit Sunday ie white when the Holy Ghost descended. a time of celebration and it used to move with Easter but is now this last weekend in May
It is so heartening to see lots of traffic for you at Highclere and definite signs that ‘the movie’ is underway. I wish you a healthy and busy summer! It gives me hope of a return visit in 2022!
It will all work out?
Love being kept up to date on anything downtown . Sweet article . Look forward to more!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I am delighted to hear that things are beginning to stir at Highclere and your guests are returning once again! How exciting to know filming is continuing for a second movie!
A side note is I received my first bottle of Highclere Gin and I absolutely love it! My husband thought having the barcode in the same shape as the castle particularly genius! I also love the name Josephine Vanessa! Wonderful name!
I am so glad you spotted the barcode – it is really cool! Thank you
Absolutely breathtaking !
I look forward to your blog and photos ,highlight of my day.
One day in the near future I plan to visit
You are kind!
At times it must seem as if you’re moving between the present and back in time in our world. However you can rest assured that thousands, perhaps millions, are eagerly waiting now to see up close both Highclere Castle as well as the fictional Downton Abby. What a pleasure to have both!
Thank you, your team, and the movie crew for giving us this wonderful experience!
How very kind!
Lady Carnarvon life is again busy for you; however, I presume it never really slows. I am so glad that Highclere is seeing visitors again. I do hope that supply chains begin to move more efficiently enabling afore mentioned tasks to be completed.
Have a wonderful week,
Josephine is a bit stuck
are you saying that we are going to see more Dowton Abbey series? I wasn’t aware …please let us know. Greetings from Ontario Canada.
Dear Lady Carnavon, You and your staff really didn’t need to go to all that trouble to stash the film equipment. Tourists know they are not time-travelling. As much fun as it would be to be transported to the glory days of Downton, it is just as much fun to get a glimpse into the production of a film. With a few ropes and stanchions to keep guests from damaging the equipment or electrocuting themselves, all those mountains of “stuff” could make a wonderful addition to the tour. Can’t you just imagine how much fun it would be for tourists to show off photos to their friends back home and casually say “we were there while they were preparing for the production of the new movie. Here’s a picture of me standing in front of a pile of state-of-the-art equipment. And here I am admiring Napoleon’s desk.” Here in the states many of us had a chance to admire the dining room, costumes, etc. during the traveling exhibit, but it is a unique experience to glimpse a bit of the work that goes into creating the magic. Visitors will have the opportunity to impress and/or bore their friends for years to come.
I think you might be amazed by the amount!!!
Lady Carnarvon, so true to buy local and support the community. Your van I just love! She is a gem! With Best Wishes To All, Cheryl
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Your descriptions are, as usual, so perfect- I feel as though I’m there witnessing it all.
I’d be more than happy to drive Josephine for you! What keen vehicles you have and by the way, if you need a nice big John Deere tractor with mower attachment- I know where you can get several!!!
Hope all are healthy and enjoying this lovely weather.
Sincerest Regards, Jane Hrabak
Thank you – always need mowers – it is so annoying – I was just looking at the grass which is now really long!
Oh my goodness!! I love Josephine Vanessa. How creative!
it might be helpfull to write the tire size into your blog – maybe someone from the continent may be able to help!
Cheers from Germany
I will find out – how kind
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you for the terrific post. Wish we could visit soon.
Today we celebrate our armed forces who served and died for our country. I keep in mind the soldiers of Britain and other Allied countries who lost so many. Hubby, who served for 21 years in the U.S. Army and I remember friends and relatives who are only with us in spirit.
l hope things get back to normal for you and your family soon. It must have been a difficult time for you. Your posts have certainly been a bright spot for me. For us, as a retired couple here in Texas, things did not change much as we had a refrigerator full of food and toilet paper from China! All levity aside, we are truly blessed and grateful that life is getting back to normal, what ever that is. Our prayers go out to those still in need.
It has brought us all together yet laid bare the fissures. It is just somehow getting everyone vaccinated wherever they live.
It’s so good to hear there will be more Downton, and that Highclere is open again to visit although it must be a logistical nightmare juggling the two! Welcome back, and I am sure we will be visiting sometime this year once again.
It is truly interesting juggling but many jokes along the way as we all keep going…
Oh my goodness! So interesting. Thank you!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
How exciting to see up to date info about “the shooting of Downton” so exciting….. “Tom Branson” is one of my treasured characters! Allen Leech stared in a Hallmark movie “As Luck Would Have It” and it was a wonderful romance set in Ireland! So much fun seeing him again!
We can’t wait to hear how your summer opening progresses…..
“Good Luck” from Scottsdale, Arizona!
The Gould Family,
Che’rie Stephen & Chloé
I so enjoy your blog. I cannot wait for the new movie to come out. I can only imagine the excitement at Highclere when filming is taking place. Thank you so much for transporting this American to your beautiful world. I took many pictures of Highclere when I visited and they always bring a smile to my face.
I am so glad
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Such a charming blog today! We are all thrilled that you at Highclere can re-open for visitors and we can get a glimpse of the trials and tribulations you go through in order for that to happen. Your van, Vanessa, reminded me of the name my granddaughter gave to her very first car, Carlos. Love it!
Looks like you just get everything set up, then have to take down again for filming. Your patience is amazing and well appreciated by all, I’m sure.
Thank you for all you do,
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you so much, once again, for a brilliant read – getting to be the highlight of my week now!
I’m sooooo looking forward to seeing Downton Abbey once again, and also to visiting Highclere Castle again as soon as I can manage it!
Thank you again, & I wish you & everyone in your stunning home a safe & successful Summer,
What an exciting, if challenging, time for everyone who works and/or lives at Highclere, especially after the long quarantine from the C-19-word!
Are they filming a second Downton Abbey movie or is this for another TV series?
Good news either way.
I’m so thrilled Highclere is open for business again, and I wish you a bountiful season of lovely, polite guests.
It is a movie in time for Christmas this year!
I love reading the prose you write about Highclere. They’re not only informative but beautifully written.
I’m sure there have to be headaches trying to pull everything and everyone together. It looks as though your end result is just perfect and I am sure every guest had a wonderful time. So glad you can open up for visitors again to your beautiful home and estate.
Thank you for sharing both the agony and ecstasy experienced when Highclere becomes Downton Abbey. Most movie-goers have no idea what it takes to make the movie they’re watching — and double the trouble with a period-piece like Downton Abbey! Bless you, the earl, and all your staff+volunteers for sharing both your real and movie homes and lives with us! So eager to see both again!
All the best,
Sounds like you needed the long enforced rest! I am so pleased for you that business is going well. And Downton is filming.
Visiting Highclere Castle is on my bucket list, once the world is somewhat restored to sanity. I truly enjoy your giving us a glimpse into the scenes from your view point.
how do I read the comments?sandra carpenter
They are here…
No Comments are coming through.
I am so sorry – my fault I spent the entire day writing up all the Highclere events until next summer! I can see it helps travel plans…. I have just finished and passed it all to the computer team. And then had a gin to celebrate!
To know that Downton Abbey was allowed to use Highclere Castle for filming Downton Abbey2, my Christmas Present 2021❤️ I am loving this update, a matter of what could be done on both sides and when.
The photos are wonderful. My wish is that you will follow up with guests enjoying the Bank holiday weekend❤️❤️
Your emails bring such delight here in Los Angeles. Thank you for sharing your life and insights with us! I treasure the memory of Mother’s Day tea at Highclere in 2019. Our visit was magical.
How kind – that seems another lifetime!! But we have reconvened Mothers Day on June 13th this year!
An excellent place to visit. The house, the gardens were lovely . The staff couldn’t do enough .
As always, enjoy learning about all the background energy needed to keep this house on track. Wish I was there this weekend but hope to be soon.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
My wife and I watched your item yesterday with Mary Berry.The food looked delicious.Also listening to the history of Highclere and watching the beautiful landscape of the castle.Yourself and Mary came across very well.
Were they doing another film recently?
Dear Lady Carnarvon
I have contacted the Josephine Vanessa road side assist team and
after an initial inspection they have reported that Josephine is slightly
depressed, somewhat lopsided, one leg seems to be broken but repairable
however she is enjoying all the activity going on around her.
The team recommends pouring 2 full bottles of Gin into the radiator,
give her a good wash inside and out, reassure her that help is on the way
and let her know that people around the world are concerned about her and that we love her 🙂
Apart from that the men in white coats have just arrived and apparently
I am going on a little holiday to a place called “Sanitorium” wherever that is !
Wish me luck as I wish it to you, enjoy the flip flopping going on around you and make sure you add a bottle of gin into the urn at morning tea time.
Life sure is interesting LOL and a heck of a lot of fun 🙂
Best wishes to you, Lord Carnarvon sitting on his wallet and everyone who
chats in here. Stay safe
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
When my husband and I visited Highclere in July 2019, we remarked on how difficult it would be to maintain such a residence. I was wondering, what is your next “remodeling” project?
I am busy!!! I have found much to do in the gardens they are so grounding!! Unsurprisingly. I think the final book amendments are now there.
Hello from Melbourne, Australia.
As we have just entered our 4th lockdown, I find reading is a great comfort and time passes by seamlessly. Your blog is a lovely treat to wake up to, thank you.
Napoleon’s desk is absolutely stunning, did the chair come with the desk or was it made to match?
The chair is also very special – it was made circa 1802
You have no idea how healing your Monday Blog is for me. I wake up every morning, depressed with all that is going on in the world and wondering when it will end. And then I read your “Blog” – especially this week’s, and it is so full of so much that is going on in your very busy, very involved life at Highclere – and my depression lifts. I feel so alive and the spark comes back in my life. My wish, at age 90, is to visit Highclere – after a Viking cruise (cancelled out last year and hopefully this July-August) – it sounds so delightful – you are a wonderful writer and it has made this past year bearable – but more than ever, I know I must visit Highclere and observe first hand the wonderful world you describe and live in.
Thank you so much Lady Carnarvon for the joys you have brought me.
Barbara Ann Dabrowski
Oradell, New Jersey
Thank you Barbara
Snow Valley Farm,,,John Snow. I feel lucky now! Total wash out with rain and temps in the 40s and 50s here in Maryland, US. Kinda relaxing and cozy for the unofficial start of summer. Best of Luck !
Thank you for allowing the Downtown Abbey crew and cast turn your world upside-down once again. I am excited and looking forward to this second movie when it comes out in December! Despite the chaos, it is good news that life at Highclere is getting somewhat back to normal. I am sure it was a very dismal and lonely season last spring and summer. I hope Josephine Vanessa’s tyre woes are sorted out and that she will soon be back up on all fours once again. Thank you for another wonderful blog. I don’t always comment, but I have read each and every one of them since discovering them!
I think for all of us it has been an emotionally draining time and now we all begin to get going we are all tired before we start. It does not matter where we live or what we do… But the dogs tell me every day is a good day..!!!
Lady Carnarvon, off topic, but must say your Podcast last week with Lord Carnarvon was just wonderful. It is a must hear for all. So very enjoyable. Cheryl
Thank you Cheryl
How true! Our fur friends help us enormously to keep-on “keeping on!.
again and again for all of the
caring work and encouragement you
so willingly offer to us – your grateful
Friends. Wishing you every success…..
Thank you again and again.
It sounds like every day now ends with a “good” tired for everyone. Your vivid descriptions reminds me of the scenes from Downton where the ladies and staff are setting up the castle as a hospital during the war. Everyone having to rethink their place, their roles and how to manage in trying times. Fortunately it’s just a film crew causing such changes and not injured soldiers! And that desk is just stunning!
I am a newbie on your amazing blogs ,I am thoroughly enjoying them!Goodness knows how you ever fit in the time to write them!But I can see SO many folk enjoy them ,including me so please keep up the hard work ….it is much appreciated !
That is very kind- – you all encourage me and it is feels like a family…
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
Thank you for your very interesting yo-yo like Monday blog. Great pictures, especially the Chair and Napoleon’s desk. May I ask, how do you retain the lesture and shine, given the pieces age?
Glad for the Downton Abbey filming update. Even though it is somewhat of an inconvenience now, it should bring favorable results for the movie and Highclere Castle at Christmas time.
Until next Monday, have a productive week.
I love to Hoover – but can’t imagine vaccuming all those spaces at Highclere. I would be afraid of breaking something for sure! So happy to hear some kind of normalcy is returning, as I hope to return to visit your humble abode. You always cheer me up on Mondays – great blog this week!!! Take care…
I always enjoy reading about Downton Abbey filming at Highclere Castle.
I also appreciate the fact that you shop local. Well done.
I love Downton Abbey. I live in a small island in the Caribbean called Trinidad and Tobago. I love everything british. Especially the Victorian period. It’s amazing how you open up your home and invite the World in and I thank you for that. Hopefully one day I can visit with my family.
Trinidad and Tobago
I hope so too!
Another lovely read,however I am behind and just reading this Sunday….a new one tomorrow! So glad you are prepping for the return of visitors. I missed out the last time we were in England on visiting as we were to come in Sept. but at last moment, tickets were not available as a special event was taking place. Hopefully will try again next year when things may be more normal. Right now,being in Canada, we cannot travel without many restrictions on return so will wait until next year. I love visiting England and hope to visit Highclere. Until then I will leaf through my copy of HOME AT HIGHCLERE- Entertaining at the Real Downton Abbey and enjoy your blogs! Take care!