April 2019 - The start of a new season
The new season has just begun at Chirk, with record temperatures, sunshine, showers… and wind, as two days lost due to storm force gales will attest. The car park of our neighbouring property, Erddig Hall was temporarily under water after torrential downpours, and the negatively-minded have already predicted the end of the world as we know it – such a start is clearly a sign of even worse things to come! Or is it...?
Actually, even those of us with the poorest of memories will remember that during March 2018 we were closed to the public because of heavy snowfall, which itself was followed by seemingly endless rain. It was generally agreed that it was going to be an awful season... then the rain stopped, the sun came out, and stayed out for so long that we had a record-breaking drought-predicted Summer on our deeply-tanned hands!
It is often said that Britain does not have climate, but ‘weather’, and we all confidently recall occasions when the seasons were simply more predictable: winters were cold (it always snowed on Christmas Eve) and Summer was always hot – especially during the school holidays, when we all played out for days on end, drank out of hosepipes and played happily for hours with the greatest friends we ever had. The Meteorological Office suggests (via their quite accurate recordings) that our memories are all wrong - surely not! Maybe we should shelve these memories with the distance we had to walk to school and how much better chocolate bars used to taste...
As far as the National Trust is concerned, seasons have become distinctly longer – we used to close at the end of October and reopen in March, thus giving everyone a sporting chance of “repairing and preparing” for Spring, but now, with opening for snowdrops in February, behind the scenes tours in November, and extended Christmas experiences, there is very little time to draw breath before the castle happily throws open its doors to an eager public.
It’s the same small number staff who attend to the ‘deep clean’ which the castle demands after 170,000 sets of inquisitive visitors have walked happily through in a season: given that each room in the castle takes a considerable time to record, restore, and clean (scaffolding has to be laboriously put up, before being used, and then taken down to be re-erected in another room) it doesn’t take much imagination to realise that the House Team is now always working very hard just to complete what needs to be done, let alone consider ‘extras’.
The Garden Team can do very little to maintain our magnificent lawns when those lawns are being used– it would be hypocritical to fence everything off, and then tell our keen visitors (of which there are very many) that they are welcome. That these lawns are so beautifully manicured come the Summer is not a case of luck! The Garden team is battling against weather, as well as time, in their endeavour to keep everything as first class as it always is.
Our long-awaited ‘new look’ car park is under way! Part of the levelling process was undertaken by the Estate Team as an extra responsibility – already fully employed tending the other 468 acres of Trust land, this was a massive contribution, as they are also wholly focused on tending the estate as a SSSI. This enormous responsibility continues all year. That we have such a nationally-renowned and thriving centre of natural resources is a credit to their ongoing commitment.
It was uplifting to see so many cheerful faces at the recent pre-season meeting – and even nicer to hear the comments ranging from, “You have been busy,” to, “Thank you – Chirk always looks beautiful... and we know who’s responsible”. These comments mean a lot, especially to those for whom the season lasts for 52 weeks.
Have a great 2019 Season!