Keep Fit Classes
Sitting down to collect and read through the diaries of the 4th Earl of Carnarvon looking for small details about his everyday life rather than global political references, I have been drawn into unexpected minutiae: a reference to asking an expert to value the marble mantelshelf in the drawing room or Victorian exercise regimes inside the Castle. If the weather was inclement, Lord and Lady Carnarvon would link arms and walk around the dining room for half an hour or more. Like many of their contemporaries, they considered it essential to take exercise, “mens sana in corpore sano”.
When guests arrived for the weekend, part of each day was devoted to a walk in the gardens, or to riding or to setting off on foot for a summer picnic. It was woven into their lifestyle, one of course without cars. It was inevitable that everyone walked more but they also acknowledged the benefits and actively sought out opportunities.
Even today at Highclere we all walk all the time: across the courtyard, from building to building, up and down stairs and often round in circles as well. Lifts have never been installed at Highclere so stairs remain a part of daily life and there are a great many of them.
Pushing through the green baize door from the Saloon, you find the stone stairs which twist around up three floors and down one floor to what used to be the staff dining room, log room and a staff entrance. They played a role in Downton Abbey: you might have seen O’Brien or Barrow walking up them, sometimes in haste, depending on the latest drama. Re -watching series 6 on Sunday on ITV, I think I even spied Mrs Patmore and Mrs Hughes using them. Certainly, getting the right camera angle on them is always an interesting exercise.
At the top of these stairs is a door leading to top floor bedrooms and then another set which leads to the roof. From time to time there is a real drama, usually an overflowing hopper, and I and others set off, trying to keep a sharp pace all the way to the top. Out of breath, and trying not to admit to it, we gather ourselves half way up before carrying on. It does feel like good exercise!
During the months of lockdown, whether here or in other countries, when space and time outside were both limited, a few fitness leaders helped inspire many to exercise and not sink into sofas. It is clear that too many of us don’t move enough during the day and we would all be healthier if we did. I hope that in between sitting at desks the team here take some time to go for a walk. I certainly prefer to walk and talk rather than sit at a meeting table.
Last year, through a full calendar of events, there were competitions amongst some of the staff to see how far each person walked in a day. One of my bright ideas (or possibly not in retrospect), was to have a “Music in the Gardens” event in three separate locations to celebrate and raise money for the Newbury Spring Festival. Each group of musicians played two sets and there were seats and afternoon tea. In my mind it seemed charming. On paper, discussing it with the team, it seemed ok. On the day, the team were running a marathon, topping up teas, moving chairs, replenishing food and, by the end of it, utterly exhausted. Early on, possibly being older and wiser but then again, I live here, I had gone and got my bicycle which made my travel faster and less tiring. Charlotte, from our office team, said she had walked 27,000 steps (at speed) whilst John the Castle Manager, ever ready with the “mot juste”, congratulated me on an epic keep fit schedule.
I hope the guests and performers had a more swan like impression of the organisation and day. It was very special and listening to the music utterly magical. Learning from the keep fit structure, I was planning to welcome “Mozart in the Gardens” this past summer, which has now been postponed until June next year. Young musicians will, I hope, play Mozarts’ Gran Partita by the Etruscan Temple. This looks out over one of my favourite views, across the park and the landscape created by Capability Brown and on up to the folly “Heaven’s Gate” and the skies, a fitting setting for a piece which, in Salieri’s words:
“ …was a music I’d never heard. Filled with such longing, such unfulfillable longing. It seemed to me that I was hearing the voice of God.”
I just love the balance between grandeur and ‘down to earth’ common sense of this post! Having visited Highclere Castle, (and a devoted fan of ‘Downton Abbey’ of course), I can picture all the settings described here! Thank you, again, Lady Carnarvon, for starting my Monday off delightfully!
What is “baize”?
It is a dark green fabric – historically marking up stairs and down stairs
Fabulous as always! You have an incredible gift of writing so beautifully that I feel as though I’m actually there with you at beloved Highclere…..thank you so much
Beautiful! Thank you so much!
Thank you, Lady Fiona!
Please watch your post as I have written you a real letter…just for the fun of feeling more connected to you and Highclere Castle. I am planning a visit for September of ’21.
Fond Regards, Melanie Loucks
I will look out for the post!
Lady Carnarvon, Living on the farm there are many places to walk. A song will pop into my mind and I am on my way. Two of my favorite hymns are Be Thou My Vision and Breath On Me Breath Of God but I love Rod Stewart and Elton John. Music brings me joy and it is so uplifting. With best wishes, Cheryl
Dear Lady Carnarvon. As always, your post brighten my Monday mornings. I can picture in my mind all the bustling around here and there on the park. My small property does not allow such walks, however there are lots of things to keep me busy. You have inspired me to forego that next cup of coffee this morning and start moving. Thank You!
Well I am not sure I ever forgo coffee!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
You have so many areas for lovely walks. Music in the gardens is a brilliant idea. I hope to explore more on another visit. Being in lockdown doesn’t afford much exercise which has my doctor a little concerned! I hope your re-opening is going well. Take care and God bless your home, family and staff.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I absolutely enjoy waking up to reading your blog while drinking my coffee. I often go back and read your previous blogs, they are so wonderful and inspiring. This one in particular since I too need some more exercise! I will be visiting your beautiful castle as soon as it’s safe to travel again.
Stay well and have a great week!
Thank you !
I commend you on the great idea and I have no doubt it was a lovely event for all who attended. My extreme congratulations to you and the staff who weathered the physical fitness exercise between the areas.
With regards to next June’s event – is this open to the public to procure tickets or by invite only? It sounds like something my husband and I would love to participate in. We were there in 2016 and promised ourselves we would return.
We will sell tickets and in aid of a music charity
Oh the “Mozart In The Gardens” concert sounds wonderful….especially if they play the Gran Partita! A long wait to summer of 2021…but definitely something to look forward to!
Perspectives in time and view
Lovely thoughts and writing…I NEED to come back…
How nice to see the Cedar of Lebanon and almost hear the music being played in the gardens. Thank you for this blog, I am confined in bed with a bad back these days and was sooooo bored until I realized it is Monday Highclere Family time. This makes me want to return to Highclere for Mozart, may all be well for next year!
I hope your back improves and sending you my best wishes
Sounds lovely! I enjoyed our visit to your home in 2018 more than you can imagine and love staying in touch through your blog. Need the daily reminder to stay active; try to get my 10,000 steps in each day but get lazy when it comes to stretching and getting on that bicycle!
It’s good to start the week with you. Thank you.
One of the things that has made this pandemic bearable has been going for walks with my dog and seeing the calendar of seasons play out. From the first blooms of bloodroot and hepatica in the woods to the daisies and black- eyed Susan’s that are out now it has been a daily source of joy. I have gone from walking only a mile back in March to 7 miles in a day. I look forward to the time when I can travel to England again and want to be ready when that’s possible. I have been to your lovely home and enjoy reading your blog and remembering my visit.
I find it so interesting to learn they enjoyed doing a lot of the same things as we enjoy today!
Look forward to Mondays and your enlightening posts. Thank you so much
DEAR LADY CARNARVON:
WHAT A BEAUTIFUL PIECE OF WRITING. IT WARMS MY HEART ON A BEAUTIFUL, SUNNY, PEACEFUL MORNING HERE IN ONTARIO, CANADA TODAY.
BEING A COUNTRY GIRL I CAN RELATE TO THE LONG WALKS, UP AND DOWN STAIRS IN THE HOUSE AND THE BARN!!! LOL. IT IS THE BEST TO BE OUTSIDE IN THE FRESH AIR AND SUNSHINE GETTING YOUR EXERCISE, A REAL CONNECTION TO MOTHER NATURE.
THANK-YOU, ENJOY YOUR DAY.
how can I register on your website to receive your updates and newsletter and become a member of your community ?
This is it really!
Dear Lady Carnarvon
What a pleasure that I signed on to receive your blog. I appreciate your writing talent and the well-researched, sometimes just plain fun stories.
I take a daily walk here in Portland, Maine, our “ Forest City” on one of several official walking trails. Fitness plus the tonic of immersion in natural beauty.
I am a rabid Downton Abbey fan, as well as a lover of all things British, so I made a point of visiting Highclere on my trip to England in 2014. I’m proud to relate that my first glimpse of your beautiful manor house and gardens brought tears to my eyes. Before leaving home, I purchased and watched the PBS special Secrets of Highclere which proved to be an excellent introduction to your home and its history. I was also taken with “meeting” you and your charming husband.
Thank you for a new special daily adventure through your blog.
Stay safe and healthy
Thank you so much Cate!
Ah yes…not sinking oneself into the couch. Indeed a good reminder as I look for something to pry myself off. Your writing is a delightful mind vacation and I notice I linger over sentences not wanting it to end.
Just this morning I am waiting for a retired landscaper to arrive to cut back the liriope that edges the stone walkways in our self-preserved small garden. My husband and I got our workout this morning moving four bird feeders hanging from shepherd’s hooks and several very large pots of summer plants. It’s so funny to watch the birds feed on the two feeders still in their proper places, and others flying around the patio table wondering why the suet feeders and pellet hangers are sitting on the patio table! All will hopefully be back in place by this afternoon. Now for cooler weather with no mosquitoes and more gardening!
Thanks for another Monday morning look at workouts at Highclere!
Thank you- it has been warm here!
Finally found a copy of “Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey”. So wish I had read it before my visit there in 2018. A masterful work with so much interesting information and facts while still being immensely readable. You are a wonderful author! I now will read your next books and look forward to all of your writing – besides these wonderful blog pieces.
You are no less amazing in protecting and highlighting the wonders of Highclere in our modern times. Thank you for your many efforts and obvious love for your family, it’s history, and Highclere.
Sharing it with us is an important time in each week for me.
Lovely, lovely, and charming! Thank you for the beautiful reflections!
Did you ever count how many steps are in the the stairway that you shared a photo of?
No – too busy !!!
Dear Lady Fiona Carnarvon,
You have no idea how much your blog is a “lifeline” to those of us who had the opportunity to escape and relish in the history and beauty of Downton Abbey all those weeks and months—and then felt totally lost after the story’s conclusion! And, now, with the strife of Covid-19– and in our own particular midst: the shootings and looting and rioting anarchy in the streets of Chicago (just 30 miles away from us– yes, especially now), this blog from you is a temporary and essential restorative. Thank you for the history and the beauty; the gardens and the farm, the music and the art! God bless!
thank you -I hope this is as sense of place
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Loved your post this morning. It was interesting to read about the daily routine of former residents at Highclere.
Former generations had a more physical demand to get through the day than our generation. It made them stronger and more fit.
I wanted say I have fallen victim to the sofa during this time of shut down. With great intentions, I stepped outside this morning at 5:30 a.m. The temperature was 80 degrees and the humidity made the are feel thick. Plan B, to walk late in the afternoon, was immediately adopted.
Your recent Instagram was fun to watch. What was the drink that was made for you? It was the one with the Highclere melt away in it.
Have a great week.
Thank you again for your window into life at the Castle. I often thought, when watching Downton, and looking at the myriad of stairs, that people who lived in that time and I guess, even now, had to be more fit than the average person just to be able to go to bed or change clothes. Having visited the Castle and walked up the staircase behind the sitting rooms and down the main staircase, that impression was only reinforced, although I hike mountains in the US so it was not a problem, but still a workout.
Fortunately, even though some US states had fairly tough lockdowns, there was always an exception made for exercise outside on trails. Some large cities were stricter but in Iowa, where I live, walking, running or biking, even it you had to drive to a trail, was allowed. In my case, I was also able to drive to my barn and ride my horse, although my trainer limited people who could come to the barn to owners and private lessons. I still miss my yoga classes.
The interesting part is that when the weather changed, the trails I regularly used, were suddenly very busy (still room for distance) and people seemed happy to be out. Now that it is summer and things are semi opened up, not so much anymore as I guess it is hot and there are other things to do.
Good Monday Morning!
Mozart in the Garden sounds wonderful. What a perfect way to spend an afternoon or evening. It is certainly something to look forward to. Some day we will be able to travel again…won’t that be grand!
I enjoy your blogs so much. East week I note to myself —/—this week is always better than last. Thanks so much for the beautiful pictures also. Happy Monday.
Thank you again for your wonderful writing and a chance to escape. Here in America we are beset by disasters on all sides and a short trip to Highclerc is a welcome respite.
Stay well…hopefully we’ll meet again. When the lights come on again all over the world.
Such a delightful way to get the week going. Its a good thing i had already had my morning 2 mile walk or i would have felt guilty! I do hope you and your husband are each keeping diaries or journals for future generations; they will be a treasure for them as these are for you.
Thank you for your thoughts
Ah, the background frenetic activity to make everything look effortless. Your blog always resonates with me as your appreciation of your circumstance and surroundings is similar to the way I feel, although my situation is on a very much smaller scale here in Seattle, Washington. We just hosted a very lovely wedding for my daughter, keeping socially distanced, hand sanitized, and masked except when eating. The guest list for our garden wedding went from 100 down to 20 immediate family. My roses (all 62 of them cooperating by blooming on cue) were lovely and everyone seemed to appreciate the many tables set out so people could see each other during dinner but be separated according to living groups. My daughter wore the wedding dress that both my mother (married in 1941) and I (married in 1981) wore which had been hand made by my grandmother. Flowers everywhere, lights twinkling overhead, tasty food. It was a memorable occasion and we are relieved to be finished with the planning, and replanning, associated with any events this year (as you obviously well know). As I said, your blog resonates with me. I have the time now to rewatch the Downton Abbey series and take more walks with my dog. Stay well!
plus ça change
Recently on WHEEL OF FORTUNE show. The backdrop was HIGHCLERE. And there was someone up on the roof walking. A maintenance person I suppose. It was clear as day.
Lots of times I see your post pop up in my Monday morning e-mails and I think I don’t have the time right now to read them. I open them just to be sure I will keep getting them in case I forget to come back. ( I get a little kick out thinking I’m rubbing elbows with fame and fortune.) Anyway, I always do find myself reading them and I have to laugh at myself as I always do enjoy your narratives very much. I so glad you do this. It’s a wonderful adventure.
Thank you for finding time
Your post brighten my Monday mornings.
Thank you for your latest post. Thoughts of visiting Highclere, and taking a Viking Cruise, have helped sustain my husband and I through a long Canadian winter and lockdown.. We have especially enjoyed your Friday visits with us on Viking TV. You have the gift of encouragement: let us all pay it forward today by encouraging someone else we know and care about!
Thank you, Val Unger, Sundridge Ontario Canada
I was just talking to Viking – they are a joy to work with and again it is about understanding
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Physical movement is incredibly important in so many ways- for the body, mind and heart. It keeps us fit, clears the cobwebs from our head, and often gladdens the heart. Mozart in the garden would certainly feel like hearing God’s voice…. eternal and reassuring. Running up and down stairs, in and out of rooms, and back and forth across lawns is actually good for you!! I have a Fitbit watch that tracks my steps, and I feel a sense of accomplishment when I cross the 10,000 step” threshold. I may have been from running around in circles, but how productive those “circles” were! I actually do walk and hike for exercise, but with the back and forth in life, it’s good to believe in the positive benefits!
I hope you and your loved ones continue to stay healthy. Thank you again for a wonderful post- I so look forward to them.
Charlotte Merriam Cole
How kind thank you!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
We sadly had to postpone our April 2020 visit to Highclere Castle, but now I have my sights set on Mozart’s Gran Partita! That would be so lovely, and I agree with Salieri on its divine inspiration. On another happy note, after many months of trying I was finally able to purchase your Highclere Castle gin. It finally became licensed here in Illinois, though our favorite liquor store had to order it for us. We thoroughly enjoyed “restorative cocktails” on Friday night and toasted to our 2021 trip to England and to Highclere Castle!
Thank you for your weekly writings I so look forward to them.
Thank you so much – US licensing laws are very individual!!
At the moment, I am halfway through my bike ride in Milpitas, California. I love that you rode your bicycle around the estate to accomplish the main details involved in getting ready for your event!
I loved your descriptions of Highclere’s earlier residents taking a turn about the room. That is so great! If I could have had the time last July to walk even more of the lovely walking paths that you have on the grounds, I would have! As it is, I have to be content with the videos I took. I hope all of the events that you have scheduled go well. Do you think that Southern California might be a future destination for you? I hope so!
I do hope to head towards your way when I can!
Wonderful post this morning! So ready for 2021 and an entire new world and opportunities to travel again.
Your Monday letter has been so important through all the drama of the Pandemic and Lockdown. We continue to have problems in Texas; I’m rebuilding a house and the Lockdown/Pandemic has certainly complicated everything. I am sure that when this finally clears out and I can travel again my POINTS on my accounts will fly me around the world .
Every time there’s a decision/challenge with construction and even a decoration idea the thought runs through my mind that this “castle” is much smaller than Highclere and it’s one item/one room at a time. Oh, and each time the budget question is on the top of my mind i remember your postings about budget and giggle.
Best wishes for the rest of 2020. Hope you can see the Perseid Meteor Showers this week and enjoy the reopening of Highclere.
I read and can see your struggles – in fact it is a global community and we all need to get through it. We will.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Stairs are great for exercise, we have quite a few where I work, and no lifts, I love the staircase in the fourth picture, a cheeky question, but has anyone ever slid down any of the bannisters? I also love the description of where the musicians will play Mozart in the Gardens. Hope you are also enjoying this wonderful weather, and everyone including all the animals are managing to keep cool.
I have slid down the Red stairs and I hope others have before me!
Lady Carnarvon, On your Instagram, the photo of the stairs and paintings is beautiful. The rays of sunlight coming through makes the beauty of everything so enhanced. Stunning. With Kind Regards, Cheryl
Thank you so much! I debated it using it here and then did not ..
Dear Lady Carnarvon –
Thank you once again for transporting us to Highclere Castle. Just as Mozart had a gift for music, so you have a gift for writing. Contrary to what some might think from the movie “Amadeus,” scholars tell us that Mozart worked tirelessly at his craft. We sense that you also work very very hard to produce your inspiring, enlightening, and transformative writings.
The recent weather in Williamsburg has not been conducive to extended outdoor walks, but we do have an indoor treadmill that is again being used. As my wife sews new clothes for our eventual trip to Highclere, I walk on the treadmill in same the big room to participate in a little friendly competition I have with some friends in the San Francisco area. While we do not approach the numbers that you and yours did, a little friendly competition helps motivate for both mind and body well-being (and assuages a bit of calorie consumption guilt). My walking playlist now starts with “A Beautiful Noise,” by Neil Diamond and has ended with another Neil Diamond song. However, I am going to append to the list the adagio from Mozarts’ “Gran Partita,” which I have heard 100s of times, but never knew the name.
As always, we send good thoughts and prayers for continued success in the reopening and special Highclere and community events, including the next Newbury Spring Festival.
Steve and Robin Schroffel
You are the kindest and I have a wonderful insight and sense of partnership in your life!
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
Thank you for your “moving” Monday post, along with the pictures of the Castle’s events and grounds.
I wear a pedometer, which records the number of steps I walk each day.
As for exercise during Quarantine and eventual phase-in of face-to-face activities, my daily class transferred from in studio to virtual. I have been utilizing the confined space of my kitchen and living room for such activity. I am grateful that I did not become a “couch potato” during this time, but at some point my daily class must return to the studio!
Love the “dizzying” stairs of the Castle’s and Downton Abbey fame. Reminded me of when I was in college and resided in a third-floor walkup, which did not include the staircase to and from the basement. Weekly grocery shopping and laundry day was the most exhausting with its constant up-and-down.
When you have “Mozart in the Garden” next June, please consider recording it and sharing the same either here or on the Castle’s Facebook, Instagram, or website.
Until next week, all the best to you.
P. S. Since I do not have any other means of communicating with you, I would appreciate it if you would take a moment and have a quick look at The Georgia Sandman, a/k/a Dylan Edward Mulligan’s, Facebook page. Please let me know your thoughts.
I think I will try to share more and more!
Dear Lady Carnarvon, I have always loved stairs, and your staircases are incredible works of art! As our family grew we were so fortunate that my husband was a master builder and he added a top story to our home, such a superb renovation. And the lovely result was each of our three daughters could descend the stairs in their wedding gowns. Stairs mean beautiful memories to me. Thank you for prioritising beauty, sharing and kindness, these are Eternal values.
“Stairs are the best exercise equipment” I remember going up a flight of stairs on our tour of Highclere – it was STEEP. so not only do you have great exercise equipment all over the Castle – it is also aerobic!!! Thanks for another great Monday! Hope the re-opening is going well. Stay Safe is what we all say now instead of Have a Nice Day…
This past weekend I visited the Downton Abbey Exhibit at Biltmore House here in North Carolina. I was amazed at the set reproduction for example your dining room as shown above. The pictures on the walls were almost exactly like you have shown! My question to you and they might of said this at the exhibit, is did they use your dining room, kitchen, servants eating table, etc. or did they use the “sets” that I saw here? Or did they build the “sets” here to replicate your house for that time period? I don’t recall seeing pictures of your working kitchen in your blogs. Thank you for your time and I enjoy your Monday email as I have shared it with many friends!
They used our home and in fact were not supposed to reproduce it! They are our paintings and our IP – the kitchen is theirs
Lovely, just lovely! Wish I were there!
This reminds me a little of our annual county’s Concert on the Greens (held every May), which incorporates the young new talent winners who do get a chance to play with our city Symphony. It’s romantic to listen together under the stars over families on blankets. It began upon the greens of golf course setting, but has been held many places, too, in parks by the river or college campuses, just so we have the ability to gather in families or friends upon “greens” (any grass) and hear the beautiful music, with the cannon and fireworks’ finale. (Sadly to say, it was cancelled this year, as were so many other delightful events.)
Yet it makes us aware and so appreciative of what can easily be overlooked or taken granted many times.
Thank you for your writings, beauty, perspective, and history of your beloved castle.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you for bringing forward the memories of my visits to Highclere Castle. The walks were wonderful and with each turn they brought into view another beautiful vista of the estate. Throughout these past five months while being home-bound due to the world health pandemic I would reflect upon my walks while at Highclere with a cup of tea and find peace. Even at a distance, Highclere works its’ magic.
Best regards and thank you,
I am glad
My mind is with all your actions of motivations and knowing the grounds so well from my visitation
I live in Arizona now with temperatures of 115 far and wish to walk your wonderful grounds.
Thank you so much for mentioning the guests of the 4th Earl of Carnarvon and his wife, I am very interested as one of them was Frederick Francis Greenwood, a member of my grandmother’s family. He was the first editor of the Pall Mall Gazette and his visits to Highclere were weekends spent with the leading political figures of the day, but I am sure he would have so much enjoyed walks in the grounds, as although much of his time would have been spent in London, he regularly took himself off on his own for long walking holidays in Yorkshire. Whether this kept him fit or not is anybody’s guess as photographs portray a rather portly figure and I believe he enjoyed a glass (or two) of brandy and a cigar !! Plus the venison which the 4th Earl was kind enough to give him.
A long time ago you promised to let me know if you ever saw a reference to Frederick in the guest books or the diaries as I would be so interested. Thank you and thank you also for the regular and delightful descriptions of life at Highclere. I agree that stairs provide excellent exercise and it seems that you have plenty of those !!
Lady Carnarvon, Regarding your Instagram, for any of your admirers that have not seen it, it is a must read. The photos are stunning and videos are great. They will enjoy it to the very max, just like your blog. With kind wishes, Cheryl
Lady Carnarvon, I just love this unknown quote, No matter how busy a person gets, always take a minute to appreciate the simple things. It is a short quote but a powerful one. With All best wishes to you, Cheryl
I think, in these days, ‘walking around in circles’ is the only exercise some people get!
Dear Lady Carnarvan,
I am late in reading this blog entry, but have quite enjoyed it. Thank you as always for sharing. I do have a question and wish I’d asked when touring Highclere last winter: Is the painting of the servant stairway with sage and a brown line at shoulder level something traditional to such stairs, or is it unique to Highclere? It seems the reason would be practical in that the colors would hide marks better, correct?
I happen to really love the aesthetic of it.
Thank you again, and I hope you are able to see my belated comment. Suzy
It is traditional!