A Very Merry End To 2017
Christmas has come around all too quickly and the end of the year is always a time for family and reflection. As we look back on our year, there have as always been the highs and the lows of running a business and dealing with the day to day stresses whether personal, financial or physical!
Five years ago we were living in the South, Angus working long hours in London, bringing up seven children between us, and enjoying visiting his parents a few times a year, fishing or staying in Garden cottage with friends. ( the castle was let on a long lease after his grandmother died). If you had told me that as fifty something yr olds we would be running an exclusive use venue, a fishing business, holiday cottages, build a café and visitor attraction garden open to the public 363 days, start up a shop and a products business ( the gin is going down well!) I think we would have just laughed at the impossibility, but here we are! The learning curve has been steep, but we have met amazing people and made many new friends along the way.
There are so many different parts to the Estate and Walled Garden that sometimes we ‘run’ from one thing to another and never seem to have time to stop and take stock of what has been achieved in a relatively short space of time.
The Walled Garden
For us the high points were seeing the building of the garden advance yet further. The bountiful harvest of plums, apricots, apples and pears from our ancient trees and listening to the comments of returning visitors who all said they could see such a difference in the garden from last year. It is hard when you are in the garden every day to see the progress and not focus on all the things we still have to do and improve. So lovely people, thank you! It will give us fresh impetus for planning the coming year. The ‘lows’ were the terrible Summer, horrendous for our vegetables, everyone’s morale and our pumpkins which were puny! Nothing grew except the weeds which were unstoppable. For the café staff waiting to serve on all those lovely outdoor tables, so many wasted weekends, although we were lucky with our outdoor theatres ( except Mikado!) and our birthday weekend and market day were ‘made’ by finally having some good weather. We were so excited to win ‘best food tourism experience’ and it gave everyone on site a huge lift.
The re-plumbing and re- wiring and total re-decoration have now faded slightly from our memory as we continue to ‘fill’ the Castle with people from all parts coming to enjoy either the fishing, (not too bad a season), corporate guests wanting to give clients a special experience, some unusual wearing of kilts and plenty of whisky tasting, weddings, we did a lot of weather watching but were able to make use of the newly restored Orangery where we have replaced the roof that had collapsed and had been open to the elements for a decade, and some very happy family celebrations.
We welcomed our first festival ‘refuel 2017’ and despite the weather they are returning next year. We also had the circus and a number of smaller lunches and dinners.
The Highland Games
This has now become a ‘date’ for the diary both locally and further afield and has grown into a serious part of our year, although this year with Angus struck down with ‘man flu’ for the whole week before it was not our easiest or happiest ‘lead up’ and as the torrential rain fell on Saturday it was a very ‘wet’ low point. However the sun shone for Sunday and 10,000 people came to support the many different competitors and exhibitors which made it all worthwhile for our small team who really put the hours in, and work so hard to make it a success. It is a crazy amount of time spent for one day with so much preparation and planning needed but I think we have all created an event with a really special atmosphere, that is wonderfully supported by our local community and we could not have enjoyed more handing over a cheque to the head of Milnes and look forward to hearing what the pupils have been able to do with it. We have already started planning for next year! May 20th!
The Gordon Castle luxury branded products continue to grow, our bath and beauty products get rave reviews from the guests in the Castle and we are looking forward to having an amenities range for hotels and restaurants during the next year.
The gin won gold medals from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Brussels and China. It is now found in many independents and some supermarkets so we hope to build on the success next year. More cider will be made from our apples and pears and hopefully some new products for the shop.
On a personal note I became a grandmother for the first time, to gorgeous ‘Sienna’ which has made me reflect on the miracle of new life whether a baby or rejuvenating the land and look back over the last few years as well as looking forward to all the excitements to come.
Angus’ youngest son left school and has been working in the Walled Garden office before going to New Zealand in January! A big milestone for us to get them all through some kind of education. The rest are in the South currently and fingers crossed employed.
We feel incredibly lucky and very blessed that we live in such a beautiful place. Although the snow is falling as I write, being in the garden after everyone has left on a Summers evening is my ‘happy place’, watching the oystercatchers or red squirrels whilst I weed or mow and watching nature perform miracles through the seasons, from seed to fully grown plant is truly inspiring and makes me feel we can all work together to try and create something that can benefit our planet and protect it for future generations. I hope we can all find time in 2018 to do that which makes us feel happy and more connected with the world around us.
Which only leaves a huge thank you to all our very dedicated and hardworking team without whom none of the above would be possible and to all our visitors, customers and clients for your continued support, we appreciate and value each and everyone one of you. ‘Tis the Season of goodwill, frosty days, warm fires and maybe even a glass or two of our gin or cider, may we wish you and your families a very happy Christmas and amazing New Year.
Best wishes for 2018,
Angus and Zara