Out for a Duck
Traditionally Easter is about rebirth, spring flowers, chocolate eggs and Easter bunnies. Unfortunately, this year the weather has well and truly interrupted the more secular parts of the celebration. Very sadly we had to cancel our much loved Easter egg hunt in aid of the local hospice, Naomi House and now, instead of fluffy Easter chicks, this year’s Easter at Highclere is all about ducks.
There are, of course, some charming children’s stories about ducks and one of my favourites is “The Ugly Duckling” which is not really about a duck at all-the ugly ducking turns into a beautiful swan.
Unfortunately the story bears an uncomfortable allegorical resemblance to Highclere at the moment. Storm Katie managed to turn our beautiful park into a soggy waterworld and a few days later we still have not turned back into a swan. We lost a couple of trees and suffered a temporary loss of power but more seriously gained an alarming number of new water features which are not disappearing again as fast as we would like them to. We have new ponds and lakes in unexpected places and ducks swimming madly all over the park.
It’s not that we have anything against ducks, but perhaps we don’t need quite so many!
The result is that, for the first time since we first opened in 1988, we have had to close for two days. It was forlorn for visitors – whom we hope to accommodate on other days – and the staff at Highclere who worked so hard to get the Castle ready for our Easter guests. Highclere’s Park is an outstanding Capability Brown landscape noted for its “infinite variety” which, in this case, means undulating landscape. As a result, it has limited flat car parking which became completely waterlogged and every time we hoped for sun we had another thunderstorm on winter rain soaked land.
We had to reopen on a limited scale but those who came had a good time with fewer other people, just more ducks. Of course it cannot keep raining so those who have transferred tickets to the summer are very welcome, but on the condition they bring some sun!
Apart from ducks, Highclere has a tremendous amount of wild birds, from the lapwings to stone curlews, woodpeckers, fieldfares, a peregrine falcon and red kites. We do not have swans though. I have a photograph of one by a small lake leading into the larger Dunsmere Lake. We have now begun to restore the lake, clearing the water margins and opening it up again, so you never know – perhaps we will have swans by the summer!
As the park dries out we will also begin to work on the cricket ground. As anyone who plays cricket knows, if you score no runs and are out, you are “out for a duck” – I do hope that is not my husband’s fate at our first cricket match in May but it sounds horribly appropriate!
I saw the pictures of the fallen trees. It so sad. I’m looking forward to my fist visit next Saturday. I hope it will be the first of many more visits. I do enjoy reading you’re blog Lady Carnarvon.
Have you thought of publishing a collection of you’re blogs?
I would enjoy that – plus I have some blogs I have never published because I laugh so much at them that it might not be very good for Highclere! They might make an amusing book however…
As John says a publication of your blogs (with photos) is a great idea!
I didn’t think about with pictures, but it sounds like a great idea.
Hoping things dry out soon! Excited for the summer! Bringing my mom for her 75th birthday! Was wondering:are they still displaying the costumes of Downton? We saw them here in the States last year. Beautiful. Thought maybe a few of them could be displayed at Highclere when you are open for visitors. Of course, now that DA is over, Highclere can go back to being the beautiful historical home of the Carnarvon family.
Hope “April showers” are few for you! Sounds like you’ve had enough rain for awhile.
So the ducks are having a field day! It happens here in SW Ohio constantly. I read recently that Storm Katie wreaked some havoc on Highclere as well as much of southern England.
When I visit in August, will try to bring warm sun along. Should be a little easier in the summer! I’m looking forward to it, ducks or not!
The duck ponds are getting smaller…. sun is most welcome
Jolly old England!!! Rain, rain, rain. I’m sorry you had to cancel the Easter Egg Hunt, but perhaps the children were told WHO Easter is really about, so all is not lost. Happy Eastertide, anyway! Love the ducks. They need love, too, even if they are messy and aggravating.
I am one of the forlorn visitors who had tickets for the 28 March visit….so sad to have missed the day at Highclere, but completely understand as the storm was quite terrible! I had traveled from the USA and was visiting my niece in London who is studying at the RVC. I hope to return at some point in the future, and your beautiful home will again be high on my list of places to visit! You so graciously meld the historic with the contemporary…..it is a joy to behold! Thank you for the hard work you put into making it so welcoming. I hope the fields dry out soon – and the ducks really are quite wonderful!!
I am so sorry. Easter is mid April next year and we actually think that we might try to harden the Easter opening weeks to mid April to make it easier for visitors from abroad and those two further weeks of spring weather make all the difference to us.
Such a sad Easter holiday, but what a great blog! I certainly enjoyed reading it. I agree with those who say you should publish with pictures. Here in Kansas, we too are having miserable spring weather with snow just a few days ago. Luckily, the snow was very heavy and wet and it snuffed out the prairie wildfire that had been burning in central Kansas for over a week. Many people with respiratory conditions suffered greatly as a result of heavy smoke being blown on a pretty brisk wind from the south. It’s all over now, thank goodness. All that is left is for regular pasture burning to take place, an annual occurrence used to burn off the weeds, cedar saplings, and thatch. Happy Easter to Highclere despite the ducks. Cute pictures though.
We visited Highclere last September, when you gave us a wonderful tour.
We are in Texas, and we have ducks in our pool this morning. It’s fun watching the mother deal with them.
So sorry about all the rain . Please send some rain to Phoenix, Arizona we haven’t had any rain for 50 + days. We’ll be happy to send you sunshine!!!!!
That would be a good swop! We have never known such incessant rain as this winter.
So sorry about the storm damage. I saw photos on BBB emails. Hope spring winds come soon to dry the fields.
Lady Carnarvon…..love reading your blogs…so informative, entertaining and educational !! I have never seen Highclere Castle outside of the Downton Abbey production…but reading your blogs puts one in mind of a great community within itself…and you bring so much joy to people. I would count it an honour to one day say, “I’ll be coming to Highclere” . I look forward to designing, making and gifting you with my much loved pillows in the near future.
All the very best from Niagara Falls, Ontario.
We do have a great community here and just like Downton Abbey it has its ups and downs.
I can totally understand the challenges brought about by the mightiness of nature in your neck of the woods. Your ladyship was lucky enough to be out of Canada as the dreaded freezing rain poured(?) down on us again in Ontario, breaking ancient trees like matchsticks under the weight of the ice and causing driveways to become sinkholes – not to mention power outages for days for some people! I do hope the sun has come out in the meantime and dried the temporary ponds out (sorry, ducks). Hopefully the lost trees your ladyship refers to are not any of those majestic ones seen on Downton Abbey.
The power outages have been very boring and we are going to have to overhaul the server systems here – they got blasted despite all the protection. A huge old oak tree came down across a road – not a cedar this time but it does weaken them. The winds were extraordinary.
Sorry to hear about your troubles. Hope you dry out soon and get back to a normal routine. It might sound crazy to most people but I love the rain. In reasonable amounts of course! Would love to see some swans at Highclere. Have there ever been swans there in the past?
Somewhere I saw a photo with swans and the keepers can remember watercress and swans!
Disappointing after all the hard work and preparations.
We have Singing in the Rain on in Melbourne this year,so perhaps you could put on a performance.
Daylight Saving is finally over and we enjoyed getting out for a walk early.
Hope the weather improves soon.
My friends and I just saw the Downton exhibit at the Driehaus Museum in Chicago this past Thursday! Wonderful! The mansion was the perfect setting for the costumes worn by the actors that we all loved to watch on the series! I’ve not found a substitute for my Sunday evenings as yet!
Sorry to hear about the rainout:( the egg hunts are always a hit with the kids, I know my kids love them! Well, sorry it is so wet and you lost power, but it is better than SNOW in April! Yes, it is snowing in Michigan, U.S.
I feel your pain..last winter Canton,Massachusetts had 113 inches of snow. My home borders 57 acres of Town of Canton owned Conservation Land.. A sluce way is malfunctioning and totally blocked.. As a result the pond on the conservation land has overflowed its banks and flooded my backyard and my neighbors backyard. The Town Conservation Agent says she does not have the people or equipment to repair it and stop the flooding. The wild turkeys deer and other wild life and a couple of ducks love it..
I am so sorry for you!
Sending you a huge abundance of Greek sunshine (about the only thing we can get out across the borders at this time).
Hope the fields are drying up a bit, though planning new ponds or small lake for swans and ducks would be awesome.
They call me Kate, Katie, Katrina here in Greece, and I seem to have a name for horrid storms, that was really a windy time
at Highclere. May Spring now blossom in and around the castle, as I saw during my last April visit , with magnificent daffodils !
And I agree, your ladyship most definitely should published these blogs…illustrated of course!
The cherry blossom is most welcome as the trees seem to be relentlessly brown still. I cannot wait to see the touch of acid green colour as the leaves begin to come out!
Hoping your weather improves and things start looking up….I am from Boston and there is a wonderful children’s classic book, MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS by Robert McCloskey that tells about a family of ducks trying to navigate living in the Boston Gardens. You might need to write a similar book for your experience…”MAKE WAY FOR DOWNTON DUCKS”!
The ducks are rather adorable – they actually try to nest in the bottom of some trees nestled amongst the roots in the fields…
I like the British saying for a shutout in a sporting event “out for a duck”. Here in the USA, if you are shut out it’s “you just got skunked”. Now I ask you, which one has the most elegant and colorful appeal?
The winds have been extreme over here on this side of the Duck pond too! I hope the house structure was not inundated with water?
There isn’t much to be done when weather takes over and ruins our best laid plans. Praying for sun and lots and lots of resulting flowers would be the best thing to do. I know a lot of people who enjoy a good duck hunt, but that would be a bit of a sad ending for the duckies.
The good news was the Castle was fine… we keep the gutters and hoppers clear of leaves, and as long as the roofers go up to do that it should be ok!
We have a similar frustration now with snow! It is said here in the Northeast United States that if March comes in like a lion (snow storm) it will go out like a lamb (warm gentle breezes) and vice versa. It my lifetime it has never failed and it is more often than not to have a chilly Easter than warm. However thanks to El Nino (who we love) this year we had an awesomely snow free winter and very warm Easter. However also came the dreaded March in like a lamb meaning you know there is one more whopper coming at the end of the month and sure enough it hit on Sunday. The temps have been above average warm causing an early rise of the spring bulbs and buds on the blooming trees. Now all are under 7 inches of snow and temps in te 20’s. Temps are due to rise above freezing again and then another wollop of frigid cold air from our beloved Canada. It is so depressing after months of waiting for those little beauties to break forth – a scene we get but once a year for only a few short weeks. Oh well – — the geese have landed as well and are so grand and some ducks. Swans are so lovely and enchanting. It would be an awesome addition to your gardens to have a real swan lake.
Hello, I had booked I bust to come this Easter but unfortunately couldn’t make it. Your blogs do so inspire me to come one day and visit the castle, it is ones dream! Any recommendations as when one should come and visit the castle?
My mum and I have just returned from the most loveliest of days visiting your home and gardens, we were lucky to duck (pardon the pun) the one shower and enjoyed blue sky for the rest of the day. Everything from the grass to the daffodils were so vibrant in colour and the lambs were delightful. We look forward to returning in the summer to see it all again in a different season, My mum is particularly looking forward to seeing the rose bushes in full bloom, no pressure 🙂 Thank you again for an unforgettable spring day 🙂
As I look out my back window I am watching a pair of ducks that love to swim in my small koi pond. They are everywhere!
Here in Minnesota we also have a resurgence of turkeys. Monday morning my husband and I counted 22 of them near our home.
I am so excited to be able to visit Highclere on May 2nd. We are traveling with another couple from the U.S. and meeting friends from Southampton.
I met our British friends on a plane a couple of years ago and we have been email friends ever since. We can’t wait to see each other again and at such an amazing place. It will be a dream come true for these six Downton fans.
Love the App!
We were lucky enough to visit your beautiful estate the Monday after the stormy week. I had not realized that you had to close for a few days. We loved your guides and the helpful information they so willingly share. The gardens were fresh and beautiful despite the few muddy areas. Our home is in Salt Lake City. We would welcome more information about your family’s American connections especially to Sheridan, Wyoming from our general area. We have been living the past 17 months near Preston and we have greatly loved Great Britain and all we have discovered and enjoyed especially the beautiful manor houses, castles and remarkable gardens connected to your history in special ways. Thanks for being “home” to Downton Abbey these past years. I love the idea of a movie. Our visit opened up your own family’s connections to stories portrayed in this series. We are sorry the series must come to an end for television, at least, and that our own 18 months in your land is also ending in May.
I’m a bit slow in my Easter wishes, so will wish you Happy Spring and lots of sunny, breezy days to dry up your grounds, and the extra watering ‘holes’ not normally so abundant.
Here in America a custom has become quite popular, and I’m sure it doesn’t stem from anything old or although it might possibly be ethnic. Have you ever seen an Easter Egg ‘Tree’? Maybe it started when the ground was wet , the concept being to hang candy filled Easter eggs from branches of the trees in your yard. Obviously the smaller children can’t get to them, but the bigger one. Can, and until they do, it makes for a very festive look in your yard. (Good thing about the hanging, the neighborhood pets, and pests don’t eat the goodies inside!) If you haven’t tried this, you might want to try it on a small scale, the effect will pleasantly surprise you. You are such a creative lady already!
Our daffodils are blooming against all odds, as we are having a Very Cold Spring. I guess the weather ‘Genie’ needs to check his crystal balls. Between your buckets of rain, and our cold and wind, we all seem a bit ‘off’. Surely we’ll come around to enjoy some Summer sunshine and warm days soon. Until then, enjoy your DUCKS !