Cradling Books and Taking Tours

Now it is the new year the castle is open weekends only and we are giving guided tours! Well we should be, however the snow has been playing havoc with our plans slightly and the castle was closed for a few days. While it was snowy I stopped taking my usual route to work through the gardens and started going up the East Front. I say this is to avoid making footprints in the pretty, unspoilt snow, but really I’m trying to avoid getting snowballed by the gardeners!

Perfect snow in the Formal Gardens

Perfect snow in the Formal Gardens

All this snow has meant we have been checking all the rooms in the castle for leaks everyday (for some reason I keep getting sent to the spooky top floor!). We have to be vigilant and check the windows when there is bad weather anyway. We check for leaks, windows blowing open or wind causing detritus to fall down the chimneys. As it has been snowing we are also now looking out for snow piling up on window ledges. If the snow starts to melt on a window ledge with a gap then it could drip inside. Luckily the windows at Powis aren’t too bad and a few well placed towels seem to be doing the trick and keeping everything dry!

My weekend duty I had been preparing and psyching myself up for giving tours it seems it was not to be on Saturday, the roads had turned to ice so the property was closed again. Since me and Emma were the only people in the whole castle we were wondering what to do with ourselves (not that my to do list is anything like short!). In the end we decided to get crafty! We are preparing a new display to go out in the Ballroom and we were going to commission some new book cradles to be made for the books that we will be putting out on display. However after an e-mail back from the man who would have been making the cradles said we could have a go at making them ourselves we decided to rise to the challenge. We had the acid free card, and now the time, why not give it a go.

First steps

First steps

And it turned out ok, we have made seven book cradles over the weekend, and once I got my head around the tricky mathematical part of the process it was easy enough. Book cradles are used when books are put out on display open at a page. You can get generic sized cradles but ones specific to the book gives the pages better support, spreads the pressure out and minimise any damage being open for a length of time could do. When a book is laid out on a flat surface open it puts a lot of pressure on the spine. It is better for the book to be supported in a V shape, to prevent the spine from cracking or the pages coming loose. This is especially the case in the books we are putting out on display, as they are one-of-a-kind accounts personal to Powis, and are all around a hundred years old! I was really eager to attempt the cradles, not only to save the property a bit of money, but also to add a new skill to my repertoire!

The finished product

The finished product

Sunday was not as quiet as Saturday we had a huge amount of rain that washed away all the snow. I went to bed in a world of white and woke up in colour! It was a shame to see the snow go but I’m glad that the property could open fully again! However the rapid thaw meant there is some quite bad flooding in the fields beyond the castle grounds. I have seen them flood before, with the heavy rain we have been having this winter, but I had never seen it this bad! The ponds in the castle grounds were overflowing too, and flooding into the meadow next to the Great Lawn. This did reveal something of interest to the Archaeologist in me however. The flood waters pooled around a small mound in the centre of the field, and Emma told me this was where a fountain used to stand!

So with the property open the tours could commence and all my preparation would pay off. I was excited to get back into giving tours, something I used to do a lot of as a Student Ambassador at uni. The first tours we agreed that Emma would do the most part, and I would talk about the family history in the State Dining Room and about the Kitchens (since they’re my baby). Then as the second tour was running a little behind I told Emma I would go and start the last tour while she finished the second one up. I was feeling very confident after listening to Emma and taking mental notes, and I was eager to do a bit more talking, and showing off just how much I have learnt since coming to Powis.

It look so different without the snow

It look so different without the snow

I really enjoyed delivering the tour, throwing a few jokes in and engaging the visitors by asking questions. I love talking to visitors, and until I started preparing for the tours I didn’t realise how much I had learnt about Powis’ collection and history. Emma says you absorb the information by osmosis the longer you’re here but I know it’s spending time with our House Team. They are so knowledgeable and willing to share (and be bugged with endless questions!).  Especially at the moment doing the winter clean; me and Emma have spent days sat on the scaffold cleaning items while I ask questions about the room, a particular objects or the family, and she seems to know every answer! I guess that happens after ten years at a property!

Snowdrops!

Snowdrops!

The history here is so long and complicated but so varied and interesting! I’m glad I know enough that I can fill an hour-long tour around the castle, but I’m still a long way off feeling confident about the whole of Powis’ timeline! Again it reminds me how lucky I am to be in this industry, and especially here at Powis, where it seems everything has a story to tell! I’m looking forward to giving my next tour, the weekend after next!

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