Reading about history tells us that some centuries, some decades and some years are more challenging than others and it seems this ‘time’ may be one of them.
Whilst it is good to try to stay informed so is “time out” important. Perhaps it may be time spent curled up with a book, watching a favourite TV programme (would that include Downton Abbey for any of you?!!) or a weekend away. It might be a brisk walk with every breath curling into the cold air, discussing where to find some sun after the long dark winter or planning a visit to friends. It all helps to keep a sense of perspective and hope.
Without these essential grounding moments, it can seem too dark a world. There is such pleasure in the little things in life: the puppy sitting on top of a basket of ironed clothes (Poppy!), a snowdrop just appearing, the smell of a log fire, the scent of the yellow flowers of a prickly mahonia shrub drifting across a path.
Safe experiences, memories and places help us get through bleaker moments. We cannot just sit in a heap for too long as that does not achieve anything. Walking, moving, friends and travel inspire all of us.
I often turn round the same question in my head: what is Highclere? How can we persuade visitors to come here, to feel attached to Highclere’s world, to care and to feel part of it? My brain, such as it is, never stops spinning around considering different points of view, different perspectives and imperatives.
I do think Highclere’s main role – Highclere’s team – is about making visitors happy, making them feel welcome whether they are here in person, through social media or through groups like Friends of Highclere thus establishing a shared community and memories of happy times.
To widen our appeal, we try to offer tours of different sorts, several days each week, nearly every week of the year (although we do all collapse between Christmas and New Year!). From ‘Wintertime’ tours this month where the focus is inside the Castle to the early spring guided tours which bring both the story of Tutankhamun and that of Highclere and Downton Abbey together. Later there is Easter Opening when the spring flowers are so welcome as is of course the Easter Egg Hunt which is once more in aid of the Murray Parish Trust.
The natural cycle of the year leads us into different options although the diary gets more complicated as this year progresses. As the trees unfurl their vivid green leaves and the lawns become clothed in the bright colours and scents of azaleas, we welcome our midsummer guided tours. Hopefully we will keep adding tours as we can.
In addition, this year we are creating some new guided ‘Behind the Scenes’ tours for Friends of Highclere and a Summer Garden Party for all our Friends on Saturday June 15th: roses, traditional music and afternoon teas, my beloved Labradors and guided Castle tours.
The country fair is back in the Park on the Whitsun May Bank holiday and of course my favourite – Battle Proms on Saturday August 3rd – a date for your diary perhaps.
I think it helps if we plan ahead so that visitors can plan ahead too. I am just completing
Highclere’s History Festival on October 5th and 6th It will be different theme again this year but the Castle is ready for its next role!
Planning further ahead we will publish Christmas 2024 in April – so that special family days out can be organised and looked forward to.
Curiously my parents (in spirit) and sisters remember with glee that I always said I did not like planning ahead – in fact I would always procrastinate like mad about it.
Hilariously, Geordie and I now sketch out 5 and 10 year plans as well as focusing more sharply on the next two years. It helps everyone – the team here at Highclere for their own lives and those who might wish to visit. It also makes business sense as it makes the prospect of gathering future revenue much less scary and it means I can focus on filling the gaps.
Having said that, time is a gift and there is no time like the present. It is a precious commodity and the most anyone can do is try their best each day to make the tomorrows easier and better.