Our lake is an important part of the landscape and castle grounds and was created soon after the castle was finished by damming up two streams that ran through the valley below. Generally, after works fifteen years ago to strengthen the bund or bank, it has stood the test of time quite well. It is now home to coarse fish, duck and herons.
At weddings, we use the far bank for as a base for firework displays, with the reflection in the water adding value to the proceeding as far as the party is concerned. When we are open for visitors, there is a good walk around its banks, with great views of the castle and plenty of benches for those wanting, or needing, to take their time. There is a syndicate of fishermen who enjoy the peace and quiet, put what they catch back into the water and keep an eye on what is going on.
The overflow is in the form of a weir, made of stone and “limecrete”, a concrete where the cement is replaced by lime. It was designed by the architect of the castle, Robert Smirke, but in the last few years it has been leaking round the side and a number of stones have become dislodged. After exhaustive advice and comment from the Environment Agency, English Heritage, Natural England, Herefordshire Council, a civil engineer and our architect, we drew up a plan, which met everyone’s approval for its restoration and were fortunately awarded grants towards the cost by Natural England and the Country Houses Foundation.
The contract went to Treasures of Ludlow: www.treasureandson.co.uk and the image shows work cleaning the stones on the top of the dam. When digging up the floor of the pool below the weir itself, the men found a cavity full of eels, which were all caught and released in to the lake. Otherwise, they have found the leak, which they hope they can stop. In the meantime, the water bypasses the weir and flows out through a sluice. The lake is emptier than usual with the level lowered for the work. It does not look quite so good, but it makes mealtime easier for the herons.
One happy couple who started their newly married life together this New Year are Bianca and Baz. They had chosen to get married on 31 December 2009 and we were delighted when they selected Eastnor Castle as their romantic wedding venue.
All wedding days are special but theirs was perhaps one of the most special and stunning you could imagine. The wedding ceremony was held in the Eastnor church of St John The Baptist with a guard of honour provided by the Royal Marines and the wedding rings were delivered in flight down the aisle by a beautiful owl. After the ceremony the happy couple and their guests proceeded to the Castle where they enjoyed their wedding breakfast in the sumptuous surroundings of the Great Hall.
Share in their wedding joy and watch their Eastnor Castle wedding video below on YouTube – it’s stunning!
As we write this post, New Year’s Eve 2010 is still available at Eastnor Castle. So if you would like an unforgettable, romantic wedding on one of the most special days of the year, please speak to Becky Johnson our Wedding Co-ordinator on 01531 633160.
It’s always a pleasure to work with local suppliers over many years. To build up a sense of trust and come to understand the expertise which they bring to their work. One such company is Special Ice which is run by a mother and daughter team of Sarah and Sheila. They have been making cakes for well over 30 years and offer our brides some fantastic advice for this very important part of any wedding. The following interview with them both will, we hope, help to explain a little more.
Q. First of all does the bride need to meet with you to decide on her cake?
A. Not at all. It’s obviously ideal for her to visit, taste some of the options and discuss the decorations. However we have made many cakes without meeting the bride until the wedding day.
Q. How do you decide on the size of the cake?
A. There is so much to take into account, for instance when will the cake be offered as part of the meal, as evening refreshment or as a pudding. Also will the cake be needed for absent guests or maybe you will want to keep a layer for a Christening?Also if it’s a small wedding we can use iced polystyrene to change a small cake into a very large one!
Q. Do you get requests to add heirlooms to a cake?
A. Oh yes.We have placed silver horses, china cows, antique model cars and other sentimental items on our wedding cakes.We have also used a mother’s 30 year old plaster pillars on her daughter’s wedding cake.
Q. Can you offer any guidance on how the cake should match with flowers or the bridal gown and so on?
A. The cake is designed with many of the other wedding details in mind. If colour is to be used it is a good idea if the bride lets us have swatches of the her bridesmaid’s dress materials or any ribbons. Fresh flowers used on a cake should be identical to those in the bride’s and bridesmaid’s bouquets because the bouquets should ideally be placed on the cake table during the cutting of the cake – this adds to the photographic presentation. Pipework can be done to imitate lace used on the bride’s dress. Pearls, crystals and sashes can also be made in icing.
Q. Please tell us a little about the different types of icing.
A.Royal icing seems to be a thing of the past and although we can produce this kind of finish, it clearly adds to the cost. Fondant is now the preferred cake covering because it is easier to cut and eat. Chocolate cakes can be covered with chocolate fondants, chocolate cigarillos or just butter cream if a rustic look is required. The temperature in the castle doesn’t really get too hot but if it did the chocolate cakes could suffer, so using very high chocolate content can be a problem.
Q.How far in advance should the bride order her cake?
A.It is advisable to place the order for a cake as soon as possible. When some of the decisions about the wedding theme have been made a phone call to the cake maker with the date of the wedding is helpful. We then recommend a visit to our cake studio where our cake designs portfolio can be viewed and ideas discussed. This gives us the chance to get a feel for the design of cake required and offer some inspiration. At this stage some brides come to us without a clue, whilst others have everything mapped out already. An average consultation takes about 1 ½ hours in which time we aim to find out as much detail as possible in order to be able to produce a quote which we send out in the following week. There is no rush to make decisions, ideas can be slowly developed over the weeks leading up to the day.
Q. I guess that the bride will also need to think about the cake stand and what to cut the cake with?
A. Yes, this is important and often gets forgotten.We have a range of stands all of which are available for hire. The Victorian Stand is particularly suited to Eastnor Castle because of its enormous size and antiquity. Also included with the stand is a large silver cake knife which has a history of its own. According to an old wives tale the cake should be cut with the knife upside down. Looking at our knife you can not decide which side is which therefore you can’t go wrong on this matter! Sometimes there is a family heirloom knife which can be used. Our cakes have also been known to be cut using a sword.
Q. Do you use additives in making the cake?
A.Because we use time honoured recipes there are no additives, artificial flavours, colours or preservatives in the cakes. There is plenty of brandy, whisky and rum all of which are used in various types of cake.
Q. What do you use to bake the cake?
A.All our cakes are baked in our farm kitchen, our Rayburn is not reliable enough to cook such important cakes so we use a wonderful NEFF oven or two Electrolux ovens. Timing is exceptionally important and a constant reliable heat is needed.
Q.What are the most popular colours for a wedding cake?
A. The majority of the cakes we make are covered in either white or ivory icing. This choice is often based on the bride’s dress or her colour scheme. We have however made pink cakes, pale green cakes and chocolate wedding cakes.
Q.We have seen a great variety of cake decorations. What advice would you give to the bride?
A. Simplicity is the key word in wedding cakes at the moment and therefore a perfect fondant covering is essential. Brides want little fuss in order to create the most elegant and uncluttered look. None the less, you can never go wrong with fresh, silk or handmade sugar flowers as well as ribbons and iced beads.
Q. Sugarcraft seems very popular at the moment?
A. Yes, it is. Sugarcraft is a vast subject to discuss quickly because it ranges from covering the cake with all types of icing to the most delicate handmade sugar flowers. In between we cover model making, pipework, embossing, cut outs, flooding, hand painting etc. No two cakes will ever be alike, we cope with whatever brides dream up next. It really is the challenge of their new ideas which fuels our creativity.
Q. How do you get the cake to Eastnor Castle?
A.Delivery to the castle is part of our service since it is well within our delivery radius. Because of our locality we feel that cakes are at very low risk whilst in transport. We aim to be at Eastnor 2 hours before the wedding but will time our delivery to coincide with the florist when using fresh flowers. We will happily liaise with the florist if required.
Finally we have some pictures of cakes made by the Ladies at Special Ice here.
Also we should mention that there are some really good late availability rates for any wedding bookings at the moment.
Following our recent interview with the people who provide flowers for our castle weddings, we are delighted to now share with you a similar interview, this time with Rachel from Vinehouse Catering.
Q:How long have you been involved in catering, Rachel?
A: Just about all my working life! And for the last 20 years in outside catering.
Q: How long have you worked for Eastnor Castle?
A: Oh, it must be nearly fifteen years I should think. I’d have to look it up.
Q:What do you enjoy most about wedding catering?
A:You meet lots of nice and interesting people! Contributing to the success of someone’s wedding is a never-ending source of pleasure and satisfaction for us. It’s a real buzz; we all love it.
Q: What’s the biggest job you’ve done for Eastnor Castle?
A: A sit-down dinner for five hundred people for the Chamber of Commerce. I’m glad to say it went like clockwork.
Q: What is the usual size of wedding party?
A: Somewhere between 80 and 150. The Eastnor dining room holds 80 and the Great Hall 150, so that sort of sets the parameters indoors. But we can do much bigger functions in marquees outside on the lower terrace.
Q: When is it best for couples to choose their food?
A: Well, at their convenience, really, though naturally we prefer to know their choices early, since it helps us do the best job possible. We offer a wide range of menus and discuss each choice carefully with the couple.
Q: Do you get requests for unusual or exotic foods?
A: Sometimes, not often. When we do, we make every effort to give customers exactly what they want. However, most couples choose quite traditional menus to appeal to all their guests, young and old. To me one of the most important things is to achieve a menu that the bride and groom love and their family and friends are equally happy with.
Q: What about special diets?
A: Not a problem. We offer a range of vegetarian meals, for instance, and often cater for people with allergies. We also do special menus for children.
Q: Do you get lots of requests for canapés, sorbets and cheese courses?
A: Canapés are a very popular option and we cater for these on our menus. Occasionally we are asked for sorbets and cheese courses but to be honest most people are keen to get on with the dancing and not to prolong the meal!
Q: Do you have any specialties at Vine House?
A: Not really though our Head Chef, Alex, does make the best Yorkshire pudding ever! He is also trained in patisserie, so his desserts are spectacular.
Eastnor Castle takes pride in the quality catering available for your wedding at our exclusive wedding venue.