One of the farmers at Eastnor has reintroduced pigs onto the farm. Until 1939, most of the farms and cottages here had pigsties. Whereas farms would have had quite a few pigs grunting away in brick-built accommodation, there would only be one or two pigs at the back of a cottage, but they performed a useful function consuming food left-overs, potato peelings, excess apple crops etc so that the sort of food waste that today gets recycled or simply buried in the landfill was avoided. It was an efficient and thrifty approach.

Simon & Sophie Blandford have decided to bring the pigs back. They have plenty of space at Netherton Farm, and the pigs seem pretty content. As they are woodland animals, they like the freedom to wander amongst the trees and grub about in the shade. We haven’t quite organised the waste food from our catering to go to them yet, but that is the next logical stage.

In the meantime, we are able to offer our guests home-grown bacon and sausages, in the old fashioned way. Herefordshire is proud of its food and drink and we are delighted to be able to offer the real thing to our visitors too. Come and try them! J H-B 26/3

Mountain Bike Race Eastnor Castle

Last weekend we hosted the great 24-hour mountain bike race, Mountain Mayhem.  Hundreds of competitors camped on site and took part in an endurance race on a ten mile course around the woods and hills within the Park and beyond. The weather was mostly dry, and not too hot, a relief for the mountain bikers if not the cold drink salesmen. 

The race runs through the night, and you could see the lights traversing the slopes after dark. As the Park is not open to mountain bikes normally, this event was a good chance for riders to compete on the slopes that are reserved otherwise for walkers, deer and Land Rovers.

The organisers and sponsors did a great job, leaving the site undamaged and giving everyone a good time. It was amazing to see the range of equipment for sale and diversity of the competitors. One year, but I did not see them this time, one or two monocycles competed. When we were children, my brother and I used to ride our normal bikes in the park, with the Sturmey Archer three-speed gears. I now see why we did not get very far…           JH-B   1st July 2009

Fundraising Eastnor Castle Event

Last Bank holiday weekend, we hosted a fund raising zip-wire event where supporters of the Noah’s Ark charity were sponsored to take off from the top of our north-east tower, cross the lake and arrive, luckily quite safely, on the far bank. The zip wire, which is reputed to have a breaking strain of 20 tons, was set up by D3, otherwise known as Outside, who are now based at Eastnor and organising a range of challenging activities for their clients on the estate.

The event was well supported and Noah’s Ark raised over £7,000.00 to support their work. No-one lost their nerve, although getting through the trap door onto the top of the tower proved a serious challenge for some as the opening is rather narrow. The ride on the wire is great once you have recovered from the nasty moment of stepping through the parapet off the top of the tower. The wire is the longest of its type in the UK, and we will be using it again later in the summer.

Meanwhile, below the wire and on the route back to the house from the landing point, there is a great display of flowering shrubs and wild flowers, including azaleas, rhododendrons and wild garlic, looking their best in the spring sunshine and helping to calm the nerves of the riders.

It was a great event, and we hope others will put this challenge on their agenda.  J H-B

How to Kill Virginia Creeper

At the end of the 19th century, Virginia creeper was planted around the walls of the castle. It grew so well that much of the east and south faces of the castle, the Porte Cochère and Portcullis were shrouded in a lattice of branches, with leaves which turned a wonderful red in the autumn. The bad news was that many of the leaves were blown onto the roofs and had to be swept and bagged up ideally before but occasionally after they blocked the drains. The branches also damaged the stonework, although less so than ivy would have, and one architectural historian commented, with obvious disapproval, that it looked as if Eastnor had a beard. 

It was not hard to decide to kill the creeper. It was harder to work out how to remove it. First, the late Fred Dibnah, came to the rescue. On one of his visits to Eastnor, he suspended his bosun’s chair from one of the turrets and scraped the growth off as he lowered himself down. He was very effective, and there is a photograph of him at work in the Octagon Saloon. Sadly, he could not stay to finish the job.

We are now using Wallwalkers, a local firm, who specialise in accessing awkward parts of buildings. They are using a similar approach to Fred, as the attached image shows. We are looking forward to putting pour appearance back to the look originally intended by my ancestors for visitors to enjoy at our Easter opening.