The dogs and I were out very early this morning. It had the promise of an early summer day with little pillowing clouds and some blue sky. The dogs don’t care – they are glad simply to run and explore, suddenly finding something important to sniff out and call their friends over to look at so that all I can see is just dogs’ bottoms and waggy tails – very Downton Abbey.

This is an immensely busy weekend because not merely is the Castle open for the Whitsun Bank holiday but there is a large Country Fair in the Park as well.

The main challenge for Highclere is the traffic management plan and car parking. In order to make it work, we reverse our usual routes to bring everyone in and off the road as efficiently as possible. However, our roads were built for carriages and horses rather than cars so we do need one way systems especially as the country fair may well welcome towards 18,000 people over the Sunday and Monday depending on the weather.

Despite the fact that there are large signs marking turn left into the fields for the Game Fair or straight on to the Castle, some castle visitors inevitably are too busy playing the Downton music or just following the car in front and so end up in a large grassy field looking round in confusion for that well known and quite large building. They then have to be shepherded into the correct car park.

The first task of the day after the dogs were sorted was to offer any help as needed to  Hannah, Geordie and Simon who were setting up the Highclere stall in the showground.

The farm is selling their oats and haylage and we have lots of leaflets to distribute about our new lamb boxes, whilst the castle is selling our Highclere Castle gin and our new roses. It is an unconventional and possibly unique combination and thus very Highclere.

Downton Abbey ventured towards a rose competition in a flower show and later on had a fete but never quite got as far as a country fair. Fairs have a been part of English rural life for centuries. Just like today they were huge annual gatherings which took place over several days, drawing in visitors from far and wide, from foreign merchants to local farmers, from inn keepers to royal courtiers and various entertainers.

These were the often rowdy fairs of medieval England. They gradually faded away until they were a mere shadow of themselves during Victorian times but now, once again, they have become popular annual events which celebrate Britain’s rural culture. There are always a good range of local products both on show and available to try and to buy. In some ways it has become a family day out which shares farming life with those who live in towns.

There are various display rings which showcase entertainments ranging from field dogs to somersaulting motorcycles, bird of prey exhibitions and horse displays. Around them are the shopping opportunities, food tents and old farming equipment. Children are spun into the air attached to trampolines and wellie boots are selling well once more  – the weather is after all very British and keeps changing its mind.

What was very pleasing was a call for help from my husband who needed more gin. I rather hope the roses are selling as well.