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Noah’s Ark Charity Zip Wire

Zip WireLast 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

Easter had the Eggs Factor!

The StarsAfter a very busy winter season everyone at the Castle has been working flat out Spring cleaning and ensuring the grounds were in the best possible condition for our first opening to the public of the season.

As I watched the weather forecast leading up to the weekend I was feeling very nervous as the predictions were for a very wet weekend.  Everything in the UK seems to revolve around our unpredictable weather and as our first weekend was on the Easter Bank Holiday we were almost guaranteed a bad weekend.

However, Friday morning arrived and we were blessed with the start of a fantastic sunny spell.  Due to all our staffs hard work over the last few weeks the castle and grounds looked magnificent.  The shop was well stocked, the ice cream parlour gleaming, and even the portcullis office and toilets looked virtually new after their recent re-paint and clean.  Our visitor numbers were up by hugely on last year and walking around the grounds there was a wonderful relaxed friendly buzz about the place.

The weather was a great help along with the mountains of chocolate eggs and bunnies given away.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the Easter Bunny Hunt and we had thousands of entries to sort through to award a winner of the giant chocolate egg each day. 

If this is what the rest of the season will bring I think all our visitors will go away happy and our staff can be extremely proud of Eastnor Castle.      DL

Spring Cleaning

Rosemary up the ScaffoldOur house keeper, Rosemary and her regular team, Sue, Ness and Emma who have been reinforced by Janet, who helps in the office, and Sue, who does our internal catering, have just about finished the spring cleaning of our rooms open to visitors.

Although these rooms get a thorough clean every week and some are cleaned daily, there is no substitute for the annual treatment they receive when the house is closed. Furniture and brass are polished, chandeliers are dismantled and cleaned, chimneys swept, carpets lifted and vacuumed and stone floors are scrubbed. It is hard work, but Rosemary says she welcomes the chance to do a really thorough job, and the results are evident, with everything looking bright, with a good smell of fresh polish permeating the atmosphere. Occasionally, when in doubt, Rosemary refers to the National Trust Manual of Housekeeping:   which has most of the answers we need.

My job is to arrange to have a few things repaired. This year, we have had two lampshades relined, some door panels off a wardrobe re-lacquered, a chair re-caned and the two huge sofas in the Great Hall re covered with a material chosen by my wife Lucy, who luckily is an interior designer. We have also taken the chance to improve our emergency lighting in the public areas so the painters have been in, making good in the places where the electricians have been working.

It all looks very good, and I hope the visitors will come and appreciate when we open at Easter.   JH-B

Wall done, men!

Wall BuildersAfter nearly three months of hard, painstaking work, Chris James and Dale Allen have completed the rebuild of a major section of the Courtyard wall, under the watchful eye of Alan Smith, our Clerk of Works. This section had been leaning badly since it had been hit by a falling tree after a great wind storm in January 1976 and it had also been attacked by ivy from the back. 

Chris & Dale dismantled it yard by yard, marking all the stones so that they could be replaced in their former positions. The middle of the wall consisted of a rubble infill, giving no structural support, so our architect, Ian Stainburn, recommended using small sheets of stainless steel expanded metal laid on each course to make it more solid. We have removed the ivy from the back of the wall and plan to spray it annually in future to stop it renewing its attack. We also replaced some of the worn-out coping stones with new ones cut in the same quarry in the Forest of Dean as the originals.

It all looks very smart, and we must now plan to complete the next section before it gets any worse. Mending a wall is not the most rewarding way to spend money, but it is better to do it before the wall collapses…    J H-B

Removing the 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.

 JH-B