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My Christmas – Nick Dowling, Bird Garden Manager

NickBirdGardenBlog1.What is your earliest Christmas memory?

My earliest Christmas memory was looking at the presents under the tree and wondering which one was mine. My cousin (who could read) told me that a red lumpy oblong shaped one had my name on it and from then until Christmas Day I would pick it up and try to guess what it was. It felt like months until I was actually allowed to open it! I can remember the scent of the wrapping paper, but I can’t actually remember what the present actually was!

Another early memory was helping my Granddad put real candles onto the real Christmas tree and then lighting them. All the candles were top heavy and wonky in their holders- even then I remembered thinking what a fire hazard it was.

2. Do you have any specific Christmas traditions?

The tree goes up on 1st of December and that’s when I get the Christmas CD out for the drive to work. We aim to watch Elf, Home Alone 1 & 2, Love Actually and TV Christmas specials such as Gavin & Stacey and the Office. We also do Elf on the Shelf for our little boy and try to create more elaborate situations as Christmas Eve gets closer. On Christmas Day we normally go to see family for lunch.

During my career I have worked Christmas Day a lot of the time, as of course the birds will still be relying on us for their Christmas dinner of seeds, fruit, vegetables, mealworms, nuts, fish, meat and pellets among other things. It’s always a nice atmosphere at work as we have lots of Christmas goodies in our mess room and we have the run of Harewood to ourselves, apart from the security team of course!

3. Which period from history would you have liked to celebrate Christmas in?

I would have liked to celebrate Christmas in the Dickensian period, although it probably wouldn’t have been as fun as it looked on The Muppets!
I also would have liked to have been a bit older in the 1980’s so I could remember it better- it was a great era for Christmas songs and the presents always seemed cooler.

4. What’s the piece of music that gets you in the festive mood?

Usually its ‘Don’t Let The Bells End’ by The Darkness, although when we were frantically cleaning the Bird Garden kitchen at 7pm recently, prior to an upcoming Zoo licensing inspection, Shakin’ Stevens came on the radio which was the first Christmas song I’d heard this year and that gave me a bit of a boost as I mopped the floor.

5. What’s the nicest gift that someone has offered you / you have given?

The nicest gift I have given was a marriage proposal and the nicest gift I have received was being accepted….. or a book on pheasants, partridges and grouse!

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Christmas TV Programme Filmed at Harewood

MaryBerryChristmasatHarewoodChristmas just got an extra sparkle as we reveal ‘Mary Berry’s Country House at Christmas’ was filmed here. The one-hour programme, which will air on BBC Two in December, is one of the highlights of the BBC’s Christmas season.

It features stories from across Harewood, including tales from the House and gardens and the focus of this year’s 1929 Christmas Eve story. The traditions from past and present are woven together with scenes of Mary cooking in the copper-pan adorned Below Stairs kitchen, with recipes including traditional Twelfth Cake and Yorkshire Pie.

The crew filmed for two weeks at the beginning of November when Harewood was closed to the public. Stories expected to be featured across the episode range from the Walled Garden to the Private Apartments and incorporate some of the talented and generous Harewood volunteers spending time with Mary whilst they make wreaths for the House and decorate gingerbread that will play a role in the setting for visitors.

David Lascelles, Earl of Harewood and Chair of the Board of Trustees, also took Mary on a wider tour of the Harewood Estate, bringing the family’s history to life.

Jane Marriott, Harewood House Trust Director, said;
“We had two wonderful weeks with Mary Berry and the crew, whilst they explored the many stories at Harewood. Christmas in the 1920s, is one of these unique stories, which we have brought to life, in an enchanting and magical way, created especially for us by Simon Costin. Continuing our ambition to work with the best Artistic Directors in this country, we are delighted to now have the opportunity to broadcast this nationwide and to share the traditions of Christmas at Harewood, through the eyes of two little boys in the 1920s, celebrated in Mary Berry’s programme.”

Follow Harewood on social media to keep up to date with the latest stories and transmission date for the programme.

 

My Christmas – General Manager, Natalie Holmes

Christmas_Staff_Natalie

Here’s the very marvellous Natalie Holmes, talking about Christmas. Natalie’s role encompasses many areas of Harewood, including running the outlets of the kiosk and the Horse Box, and presenting this year’s festive treats.

1.What is your earliest Christmas memory?

Waking up on Christmas Day aged about four and running downstairs to find presents that were as high as the windowsill. We were always allowed to open one present before my Nana and Grandad arrived. Me and my two brothers would always sit as close as we could to the tree to see if we could see which presents were ours.

2. Do you have any specific Christmas traditions?

Breakfast Pie. Made by my Dad on Christmas Eve to eat on Christmas morning. It’s a full English Breakfast….in a pie!

3. Which period from history would you have liked to celebrate Christmas in?

I’d go back to the 80’s

4. What’s the piece of music that gets you in the festive mood?

Elton John, Step into Christmas

5. What’s the nicest gift that someone has offered you / you have given?

Every year my boyfriend’s mum makes us a hamper, the theme varies every year. It’s the present I spend most time unwrapping every item to see what it is….. anything food-related keeps me happy.

Keep up to date on more stories from Harewood, by following us on social media… @harewoodhouse

5 Minutes with award-winning Firenza Flowers

FirenzaFlowersAs part of our Christmas season, we are going behind the scenes with those who have helped ‘create’ Christmas at Harewood. Fiona Pickles from Firenza Flowers answers five questions here:

Where does your passion for flowers ‘stem’ from?
My love of gardening is where it all started. I adored working in my first garden, to the point of obsession! I transformed a small patch of a farmer’s field into a beautiful garden, with a wide variety of trees, shrubs and flowers. I became familiar with a huge variety of plants and flowers, their Latin names and most importantly their seasonality.

How and when did you begin your career in floral decoration/art?
I studied Print and had a good and enjoyable career in the printing industry, but I walked away from that in 2005 to retrain as a florist in London, then set the business up (named after my maternal grandmother Florence, known to all as Flo) I became a very successful wedding florist but gradually changed direction and focus, to utterly embrace my love of the landscape and seasons. I now enjoy creating large, striking designs and structures.

Where does your vision come from and how does it develop?
Everything I do is totally influenced by my surroundings and where I am working. I usually have a rough plan of the overall look and feel of what I am about to create, but the actual shape and style only comes as I work on each piece, they are totally dependent on the shape of each branch, flower, leaf and root that I use, meaning that every single thing I create is a one-off, never to be recreated or reproduced, no matter how hard anyone tries!

What skills are needed to create your designs?
I do have an ability to know what shapes are needed where, to elevate a design from something predictable and ‘samey’ to something totally striking, unexpected and dramatic. I also seem to be considering more engineering type issues as well as the obvious floristry considerations; weight, balance, attachments and fixings, which i actually relish. Fixings and stability are huge considerations, I am rather obsessed with hardware shops bizarrely! I try to work without floral foam too, so the main consideration in any design is ensuring everything that needs it has a water source. This is not always straightforward and I offer workshops and classes to other florists keen to understand this way of thinking.

How have you adapted to this changing world of online?
Having established a business pre-social media, I can recognise and appreciate the value of social media – believe me, it is so much easier, more pleasant, less times consuming and more focused to post an image on instagram with good photography and considered hashtags than driving a three hour round trip to attend a networking meeting, during which I might meet one person who may want flowers at some point in their life! I utterly embrace the effectiveness of social media and have met many fabulous people from around the world through it. If you have a business and want to find your ‘tribe’, you HAVE to make time for social media.

Firenza Flowers has created two large-scale wreath installations in the Terrace Gardens of Harewood. Visitors can see these as part of the Christmas experience.

Fiona is hosting a full day Stately Botanicals workshop, which includes a private, tailormade tour of the festively dressed House, making a bespoke wreath and a Festive Afternoon Tea.

HSBC volunteers give their time to Christmas

HSBC_volunteersWe talk about the wonderful work of our volunteers, but this doesn’t even relate to the additional support that we get from the local community and businesses around us.

We have been working with HSBC Customer Services and this year a team of nine came in to spend their volunteering day at Harewood.

As the House undergoes its transformation for Christmas, it’s all hands to the deck. The team split into two, with half spending time icing some of the gingerbread people who will form a display of 500+ in the Below Stairs kitchen, and the other half taking to the ground in the Walled Garden and turning over the soil for the next stage of planting.

Sarah Kirk, volunteer coordinator, said “We were delighted to get the additional support from the HSBC volunteers, they have definitely provided a boost to our Christmas activity. There is always such a positive input from volunteers and hopefully they got something back in return, it was highly amusing to see Artistic Director Simon Costin judging their creative icing on the day.”

Carol Harper, from HSBC Customer Service, said, “We work as a team in an office, and it’s great that the Bank provides us with the opportunity to spend the day working as a team for the benefit of the community.

“It’s something the Bank has been passionate about for some years now. We go out to a charity and spend the day doing something that’s quite often outside of our own comfort zone, but will be a great help to them. Either in doing a job that might have been on a back burner, or something that’s going to be time consuming for one or two volunteers to complete. We go back to the office with a feeling of accomplishment.”

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