Thursday, 8 May 2014

How Does Your Garden Grow?

 If you remember this post: The Secret Garden, you'll forgive me in advance for this mega post.
You see; I have fulfilled a childhood fantasy.
My mother-in-law and I were lucky enough to get a ticket to Highclere Castle this week.
I say "lucky" because I discovered last year that due to the popularity of Downton Abbey, tickets for Highclere are rather hard to come by.
I'm a late blooming Downton fan, but for me, Highclere Castle IS Misselthwaite Manor; my favourite movie adaptation of The Secret Garden was filmed entirely on location here.

Hence the goofy smile.

Photographs within the house are not permitted. Although I was disappointed, it was quite nice not to have the desperate feeling to try to snap everything to keep as a memory for always.
But I can say:
It is worth it.
Especially if you are a fan of Downton Abbey.
Even if you are not, it is still a pleasant place to visit.
Elegant, yet homely.
I would feel very comfortable staying the night and I don't think that I would have the feeling that I didn't belong or that I might break or dirty something.
It felt welcoming.
I felt a sense of belonging. 
Perhaps that is because I spent many years immersed in those rooms on screen...
(Yes. That is me. Fishing for an invite.)
Nice touches to see the family photographs dotted throughout.
Snooper's Paradise.

To the Gardens!

The surrounding views were astounding and could be seen from the rooms of the house.
The bedrooms looking out onto this view were weep-worthy.
I can't think of a suitable adjective to describe the way the huge windows framed these views. 
But I imagine it would be divine to take one's morning coffee, propped up on a mountain of cushions on the bed, gazing out upon this. 
There must be a scene or two when Cora Crawley does just that.
Lucky lady.

I believe this is where the gardens grow the plants for display within the home.

The Bricks.
Oh. The beautiful bricks.

Being the nosey body that I am, I couldn't resist being drawn to this little corner. It wasn't roped off, but it didn't look as though I should be going back there, but I wish that I had now.
After returning to collect the children from school, we watched the movie through and I think that this might be where Ben Weatherstaff pottered about with the fire and chatted to Mary in the film.

I'm not a fan of shaped topiary, but I thought I should take a quick snap anyway, and the arches were featured in the movie as well.
I didn't remember these.

Look! It's Ben Weatherstaff, working away in the gardens!

 I knew that they weren't actually the gardens from the movie, but The Secret Gardens at Highclere certainly exceeded my expectations,

My copy of The Secret Garden that my Grandma gave to me. In The Secret Garden at Highclere.

Still trying to be in my own little fantastical Secret Garden bubble, we stopped to chat with the kind gardener. I asked him if he knew where they had filmed the bits for the movie, half expecting him to think I was confused, thinking I would mean Downton.
From what I could gather, he was there
He has been working at Highclere for forty years!!!
He told me about how they used the garden for inspiration, but made and painted a fake wall, and used bits of ivy from this part of the garden to create the garden set by the Jackdaw's Castle; a monumental structure near the entrance.
I could have asked him for story after story after story, but I was aware that I was behaving like a crazed fan and that he probably would have wanted to get on with his work.
This was the ultimate highlight of my day.

Sadly, I forgot my skipping rope.

Now I could just leave this without comment, hoping that those abroad might come to believe that this is how the British people regularly dress on days out to stately homes and gardens.
But really, I believe these ladies were like myself in living out a screen fantasy on location.
Aren't they gorgeous! There were quite a few outfits to be admired.
I did bring the masks from our Team Honk Downton Abbey Fun and we took a couple of selfies:-)

For such a popular and beautiful place, it never felt overwhelming with crowds. There was a short bit of queueing in the upper corridors to snoop through the bedrooms, but it never felt like too much.
In this way, perhaps it is a good thing that tickets are so hard to come by if they are limiting the guests to make the experience more enjoyable for all.
Bonus Points to the organisation there! 
At times, we even had the gardens to ourselves!

Jackdaw's Castle

No Filters.
This Azaleas were so bright!

I was snooping around, trying to find evidence of where they set up the garden set. This was a quiet area, off of Jackdaws castle, and I liked the over grown hedges and Azaleas, and probably wouldn't have snooped round this area, had I not been on a mission.

Could the ruin of the garden (even the set) be in there?

Is this the tree?!
Which is the tree?!
I took a lot of tree pictures to try to compare them to the movie.

Content and fulfilled, it was time to leave.
I would love to know more about the filming.
I am curious and nosey person.
But it's nice that there is at least a small bit of mystery left.

And then, look what I found in a clearing in the overgrowth:

An old shed!
Literally, nestled in the overgrowth.
And I probably shouldn't be here.
But I have found a little secret place anyway.

See? It's a secret place. And I am hiding.

Thinking it was all over, it was not.
The drive out leads through "The Moors", and is the drive featured in both The Secret Garden and Downton Abbey AND holds it's own as a scenic route that goes on for a pleasant amount of time, with no other fellow cars or visitors to be seen.

And then, before you know it, you are on the outside, near the busier roads, and wanting to be back on the inside.
In the bubble.
If I had an official list of my favourite places in the world, this would be the latest addition.

Now for real this time- 
Happy 1st Birthday to the best linkup on the world wide web!

Mammasaurus and How Does Your Garden Grow?
Hip Hip! Hooray!

And wishing a very Happy (American) Mother's Day to my mother and my Grandmother who introduced me to The Secret Garden and tolerated it being played on vhs on repeat for many, many years.


  1. What an absolutely wonderful opportunity and your pictures are, as always, divine! :-)

  2. I havent seen an episode of Donwtown Abbey but I saw the Secret Garden and I love it! It is where I found out that plnats and gardening has this healing power. That movie is still fresh in my head and I saw in my country (Philippines) & when I got here it all became so real. Everything here reminds me of that movie and then this! I am gushing! I am so happy too about that gardener. Such a kind man! THANKS YOU FPOR SHARING PHOTOS! #HDYGG

  3. You have outdone yourself! So beautiful and nostalgic. Happy American Mother's Day back to you!

  4. Bloody brilliant! Now, hide your shock and horror but I have never seen Downton Abbey on tv, I KNOW! But as a whopping great Secret Garden fan this excites me a lot.

    Much love for this post because:
    1. You are actually in it - you, the real you!
    2. Old bricks oooooze character
    3. It makes me want to get in the car and drive there
    4. Those are the brightest azaleas in the universe and uber lush
    5. I want to live in that glasshouse
    6. Your photos are all so awesome. Seriously love how you drop in one of the sky and always mixe them up so that you never know whats coming next.

    Much super-dooper love - and it's good to see you so happy and bursting with Downton joy! Thanks you thank you thank you for joining in again xxx

  5. Great photos. I want to go there now! Another one for the "to visit" list then... :)

  6. A bumper post with lots of bonus footage! I have to confess to not watching Downton Abbey (yet) or the film of The Secret Garden (yet), but I've read the book and watched the 1975 series (I'm showing my age). The scale of Highclere house and garden is so grand and I love those ladies in costume.

  7. It's wonderful there isn't it, we went for my birthday a couple of years ago, as I also love all things Egyptian as well as Downton and The Secret Garden #HDYGG

  8. Such lovely images - I am also a Secret Garden fan, but have never seen Downton Abbey!

  9. Such lovely images - I am also a Secret Garden fan, but have never seen Downton Abbey!


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