Catching up with John the Castle manager in the courtyard last week, I idly asked him how many steps he thought had walked that day. He said it had been an average sort of day and therefore about 14,000 steps.
It was only an average day since, during one week of Downton Abbey filming here this spring, he had actually walked seventy-five miles, an average of 15 miles a day and no – he couldn’t even remember how many steps made up that figure. I immediately doubled up with laughter because that was actually seventy-five miles trailing round listening to what was not going to be possible and telling people things they did not want to hear. So, he had walked seventy-five miles and got absolutely nowhere except to go round in circles and ended each day where he began.
I had asked John to be my guest on my podcast (you can find the podcasts on Spotify, Apple and all usual platforms) and, slightly to his surprise, my opening question was to ask him what he actually did each day. Despite the bows and arrows flung at him from all directions most days, this did seem to take him aback. It was however a good question because life and work at Highclere is extraordinary and in all our employment contracts there is always the catch all phrase “and whatever else might be deemed necessary”. In fact, it is this bit which often turns out to be the biggest part of the job.
In order to carry out any task here you have to move – you have to walk, climb stairs, spot puddles, find leaks, go up ladders and run uphill in both a real and metaphorical manner.
Many of our events also involve walking. The year before Covid, I was a complete twit and organised a music event with three different choirs in three different parts of the garden. By lunch time Charlotte from the office had walked 26,000 steps and I had appropriated a bicycle. Our guests were fine, just happily moving round the garden but the rest of us needed to lie down that evening and open wine.
Equally, much of Highclere’s life involves water, usually coming out of broken pipes in the wrong place which we often only find out about by checking the water metre regularly and spotting when the usage shoots up. We end up taking off across fields looking for soggy patches. James from the estate office likes sitting in his car to look for said bogginess whilst John argues that is a waste of time. Half an hour later and the leak is still elusive.
Walking round the Castle or the gardens also involves quite a few steps and we cheerily reassure visitors that is will go a good way towards their 10,000 steps a day, let alone staggering up the staircase. Personally, I find the staircases particularly annoying as it seems irrelevant how often I climb them: they are always tiring. Perhaps that is the point however, to keep trying and to get tired.
John walks a lot and writes a lot using old papers which grow into teetering piles. Every so often I have a clear out and the easiest way is to put a skip on the lawns and a run a chute down from a window into it. It is such fun that I send everything I possibly can down it and sometimes get a bit too enthusiastic.
Once it is full, the skip is removed, a new one comes in and I keep going. What is bizarre is that whenever I look round everything seems as full as it always was. It is however an excellent way of reducing the number steps needed up and down stairs.
Walking and talking, going for miles, looking out at miles of views, sharing the journey: it does not get much better.
During this Downton filming period John did in fact walk 225 miles, so he could have walked home to Yorkshire .
Wow Lady Carnarvon,you put us all to shame!
But how fit you must be!
I am upping my steps / walks round our valley ,but my little dog Cosmo goes at his own pace …he is 13, and only has little legs as he is a Jack Russell!
Lovely to read your blog as usual I might add.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
an idyllic way to keep fit, walking around Highclere all day must be so interesting! As an office wallah, I make up my steps each work evening on a treadmill, with a TV to keep me entertained. Coincidentally I am watching Jeeves and Wooster at the moment on DVD. When I get to the episode at Totleigh Towers, I will think of John your Castle Manager, and soak up the vision before me.
Kind regards to all,
I so enjoy Jeeves and Wooster!
Great topic Lady Carnarvon! We do lots of walking too. Just to keep the joints from getting “rusty” in our old age! Would love to know the story behind you getting doused with the water hose. The dog
looks like he was enjoying the prank too!
Keep using our legs and they will keep working!
I got tired just thinking about all that mileage! At least the view outside is always lovely even if the stairwells might get a bit boring. Certainly the grand staircases have a bit more scenery.
I can just hear the Dowager Duchess in Downton Abby saying, almost the same as you did, “Keep trying and stay tired.” I hope you enjoyed the wine after a bit of rest!
Lady Carnarvon loved the information about John , I am just about to listen to the pod cast . I actually walked 8,456 steps around Highclere and the gardens on Saturday it was amazing .
Wow well done you!Thank you for trying the podcast, there are some fun ones as you travel somewhere I hope they will amuse you. One is with John alone and another with Sparky Downton Abbey Location manager which will make you laugh!
Ah, Lady Carnarvon, John is an absolute gem! How blessed you are to have him!
Can’t tell him that!!! Do listen to my podcast with him..
That is a lot of walking – even for such an immense project involving filming, Lady Carnarvon!
Regarding the photo of being cooled down with a spray of the hose, we recently attached two clamps (thankfully a lovely deep blue) to an end post of the vegetable garden to secure a wand that offers a very refreshing mist while picking, adding fish emulsion, and weeding.
Have a wonderful week and fewer steps for John, Charlotte, and you!
That sounds a great idea!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you for your latest blog – entertaining & amusing as always. I used to love walking, & walked miles every day with my three dogs along the beach when I lived in Scotland.
Tragically I fell downstairs in 2018 & broke my neck – now I cannot walk unaided, & use a wheelchair or mobility scooter to get around. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Highclere twice & managed to get around ok in a borrowed wheelchair, though the stairs were a problem!!
I hope you are all keeping well, & I wish you a sunny safe & successful Summer, see you soon I hope
Stay well and come and visit us again!
Thank you! We certainly WILL! See you soon I hope, love Caroline x
And to think I was proud of having walked a mile every day so far this month! (I walk further during my daily duties around our much smaller estate, but I purposely walk 1 mile every day as a fund raiser for the American Cancer Society.) I love your posts that show even though our houses and property are far different in size, a lot of the chores are the same!
What a wonderful charity to support
Another great story about Highclere Castle and the operations.
I love all your weekly e-mails and podcasts, looking forward to visiting you soon, Thanks for keeping up our spirits!! 🙂
Thank you for your kind comments Rhoda – please do tune into the podcast on any of the platforms eg Apple or spotify
Wow, did John lose any weight with all those miles. . That’s incredible. My husband use to have the same job at a boys camp and I remember him looking down those Mike’s of pipes for the leaks! Use to drive him crazy. He’s retired now but enjoyed reading your article too today as it brought back memories.
Thank you Linda
We were lucky enough to visit last Tuesday, when the weather was just perfect for enjoying the Secret Garden, after we had spent time marvelling at the wonders of the house.
I thought of the hours and miles put in by your estate staff and gardeners, as we gazed in awe of the wonders they had achieved. Please tell them how much their hard work is appreciated by your visitors.
Our gardeners do a wonderful job at Highclere
This is the best post ever. The realities of live are often forgotten in the polished production that we get to see. I love your sense of humor. The spraying of the hose on dog and person is priceless.
Thank you Page – very funny moment!
I LOVED the smart idea of the skip and the window shoot! that is my kind of idea! what is the saying? necessity is the mother of invention? or something like that… my saying is this, “if you can’t have fun doing it, then your doing it wrong!” haha
i look forward to our visit and walking some of those steps….not as many as you or John, but enough to see all we can!
MY DEAR LADY CARNARVON,
I LOVE THE BLOG AND YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR, MILADY. THE PODCAST IS PERFECT.
CHEERS FROM BRAZIL.
RIO CLARO – SP
Thank you for listening to my podcasts
Lady Carnarvon l love get some pictures and lovely to visit highcelere castle and seventy-five miles l am fan Downton abbey and thank you for the email and enjoyed the lovely sunny weather
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Your blogs are so entertaining. The amount of walking that occurs at Highclere and step climbing puts me to shame. After reading your blog, I vow to walk more!
I look forward to listening to your latest pod cast.
Thank you Pam
I think climbing the stairs increases the exercise quality of your steps by a ratio of 1 to 10. Incentive: Wine and cheese at the top of the stairs.
This has nothing to do with walking. I just have wondered if you have live in staff and what the rear, red brick building at the back of the castle is. In DOWNTON ABBEY. The delivery area in the back, is that yours or a TV set. The bedrooms. I marvel at the sites I get to enjoy on DOWNTON. Thank you for sharing your home via the tv, and I enjoy your blogs.
It is all part of the castle – there has been a home here for 1000 years so it has just adjusted itself over time
Continue to so appreciate your blog! Wow,that’s a lot of walking yet fabulous scenery n and out. Thank you again.
Hello Lady Carnarvon.
Good to learn about the behind the scenes at Downton.
Does John get a new pair of trainers after your 10,000 mile audit?
Was he the one to hide in an alcove to avoid being caught on camera when filming?
All join in ……….these boots are made for walking.
Carry on Highclere and keep cool the best you can.
All the above!
While reading your post, I got to thinking about how you acquire your managers, gardeners, etc. Are the positions generational at all? How does one apply for a position at Highclere? (Don’t tell John, but he is a gem)!
We advertise like anyone else! What is amazing is how long everyone walks the walk here…
Lady Carnarvon, Your Monday stories are just the way to start the week. They are always delightful, you never fail us. Cheryl
Love today’s post Lady Carnarvon as I am a fan of walking even after two bunion surgeries in 205 & 2016. I try everyday to get 10,000 steps or more in via chores and walks. Would love to use your property to get my daily walks in for certain but living in the US won’t allow that. So glad Johns feet and knees are in good shape so he can keep up with his distant walk about given his position. Same for you as well! Hope they continue to stay in good shape as ageing does take its toll eventually. Good luck going forward oh and by the way I love your podcasts and listen weekly, while I am on a few mile/one hour walk! Thank you for getting us going with such joyful and interesting reads Monday mornings and ending our week with entertaining podcasts!
Remain well. Oh and sorry for responding so late in your day. Hope you are enjoying a quiet time cocktail or glass of wine now given your hour.
If you keep walking you keeping going …
Hello Lady Carnavon
You uplift me every Monday with your writing.
John is a treasure!
Love your sense of humour!
I love reading your blogs.
I was fortunate enough last week to visit highclere for the first time whilst on holiday on our motorcycle.
I was blown away by the beauty of it. We sat in the garden and had cake and coffee and I kept looking at the house, it is just amazing.
I began thinking of all the hard work that must go into running a place like this and I’m so pleased I subscribed to your blog as it gives an insight Into just what it all entails.
You need to install an elevator at Highclere, somewhere hidden so that you can get up to the top floors when it becomes too taxing to climb in years to come. Visitors would be in awe of your vigor to climb all those stairs when you’re old! Just climbing from the ground floor to the first floor can be tiring as it’s quite high! I’m so glad I visited earlier when I climbed the stairs without a problem. I can certainly appreciate the mileage you and your staff walk to work and manage Highclere. It shows in the beautiful gardens, lawns, upkeep of the buildings, and interior maintenance.
Lady Carnarvon, walking in the forest here at the farm is so wonderful. A walk a day keeps the Doctor away! Cheryl
My friend & I visited Highclere last Friday. What a magical place it is.Whilst looking at your lilies we were fortunate that as you were passing through you stopped to inspect the flowers & had a chat to us.Thank you so much. Everywhere in Highclere is stunning but your flowers are outstanding. Well done to the gardeners. Hopefully we will return one day
Best regards Barbara Benson.
Dear Lady Carnarvon
I do love to receive your blogs, they brighten my day immensley and I had a good laugh when I saw the man with the hose and his quarry. I hope it was a hot day!
Oh how I wish my legs would work for me, I would give anything to stride out once again and walk the length and breadth of Highclere, even the steps!!! Still to quote something we say here in Oz……..quityabitchinandgetonwithitJoy 🙂 I should not complain I have had a wonderful and interesting life and I am quite sure I will be around to get my telegram from someone in Royalty when I reach 100 (18 years to go), and a whole lot of love and laughter to enjoy before then.
Enjoy your fun filled days at Highclere and God Bless one and all
Thank you for sharing a part of that beautiful landscape we take for granted. We see beauty and often neglect to see the amount of work it takes to truly upkeep this national gem that you invite us into.
Thank you Lady Carnarvon for sharing and thanks to John for all he helps you with
Thank you for your amazing thoughts in this blog
Enjoy your podcasts & all the responses.
Keep them coming,
Carol from Santa Rosa ,California
How very kind!
Please ask everyone to Say where they live.
Carol – thank you – I suppose it is up to the Monday club as they choose ..
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
As you may recall, the prior e-mail (Balls) did not arrive, and I replied via the Castle’s Facebook page. This matter has been corrected and the weekly transmission has been re-established.
Thank you for this week’s Monday blog. I have had an unbelievably busy week, so this is the first opportunity I have had to read your story.
As usual, you have provided your readership with a relatable story and accompanying photographs. Highclere Castle is fortunate to have John as such a dedicated manager.
So until next week, keep calm and wear a pedometer.
Dear Lady Carnarvon!
Thank you SO much for this particular blog!!! I am very interested in what it takes to make such an historical castle work on a daily basis!! You manage to inform and amuse at the same time!! I hope you’ll post more about what it takes to run Highclere! I’m hoping that the UK will start allowing vaccinated Americans in very soon!! I can’t wait to visit!!