Sleeping in the Castle during the night of the storm, I felt both very snug and cosy, the shutters firmly closed and lots of blankets on the bed. Highclere Castle sits on a high chalk plateau so the wind really does howl around the walls and turrets, sometimes blowing down the chimneys into the Saloon. We slept fitfully, hoping we wouldn’t lose telephone lines and electricity, but found to our relief that they were both working when my husband went down to make a pot of tea very early at 5am. By morning the worst of the storm had passed Highclere by, and we began to discover what roads were blocked, who had lost power, as well as making sure that everybody here was alright. Driving around to check the damage, we heard on the radio some of the very sad news of those who had been caught by tide or weather.
All the staff arrived with their own storm stories of flying garden chairs or missing bird houses, and most of the staff ended up becoming experts in reversing as they tried to find clear routes up to the Castle. The storm was a reminder that today or a thousand years ago we still should have a great respect for what the weather throws at us.
Many of the trees at Highclere Castle have stood for 300-400 years so when you lose a tree you lose a sense of history and what they would have silently witnessed. A huge old Beech tree by the Temple of Diana had fallen across a Cedar of Lebanon. I hope perhaps enough of the wood might be salvaged to make use of it within the Estate today. Once the trees that have fallen are cleared over the next few weeks, it’s a chance to look at the new views created and think about what we would like to plant ourselves for the future.