The Temple of Diana is one of the highlights of our visitors’ route out of the Highclere estate. Coming out of the car park and down the driveway, you are directed left through some trees and over a small bridge which guards the entrance to Dunsmere Lake. A little further along, on a rise as the road swings to the right, is the pillared circular folly. Its situation invites you to look out towards the hills or across the nearer prospects of a seemingly never ending lake carefully designed by Capability Brown. It is an enchanting spot for a picnic and, if we are not careful, we can develop traffic problems as guests stop to take photos.
We should not complain however because this is the essence of a folly – a punctuation point to highlight a particular view or landscape just as a temple is a meeting place designed to bring people together.
For me, the word temple always brings to mind the collection of poems by George Herbert in the 16th century. Like many, he had a challenged life both in terms of health and financial resources and his attempts to manage his disappointments and travails shine through in his writing. The poems are intense and beautiful as he tries to find his vocation and his political and religious path: there is an inherent restlessness and a fear and desire to overcome it.
One of them in particular has been turning round in my mind in recent days. It is about being a tenant of this world, something that resonates particularly with the work we do at Highclere. Geordie and I walk under the trees, create new paths and plant anew knowing we are just tenants here for our lifetime; following in others’ footsteps and hopefully paving the way for others in the future. It is both our job and our desire to ensure that there are still beautiful trees for others to admire in a century’s time, that the land remains nurtured and the soil rich enough to farm.
Over the centuries, like many other British homes, Highclere has been endlessly adapted, recycled if you like, to meet the requirements of the times whilst maintaining the long view. This endless willingness on the part of 1300 years of “curators” to constantly invest in the well-being and future of the estate is the secret of its survival over so many centuries.
It is this thought that underlies most of my book “Seasons at Highclere” and which inspired our upcoming Highclere Festival (9th & 10th October). This is designed to be a weekend of reflection, hence our logo, and we will be joined by some amazing speakers. Where should we invest for the future, how can we support our health, how should we farm and eat well and what could help us find peace and strengthen our mental resources? Because we do need a plan. We all live on this dearly loved world and we need to negotiate both between ourselves and with ourselves about how we are going to nurture it because there isn’t another one.
Of course there will be fun as well. The Highclere guides are dressing up, re-enactors will be in character, the Highclere pigs will make an appearance, Luis will bring light and life to the cafes and cocktail bar and my husband will have a very diverse panel with whom to chat about farming, food and cooking. Happy times!