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Charlie Malet de Carteret

Seigneur, St Ouen / Collector / Curator / Custodian

Life at St Ouen’s Manor is largely governed by the seasons. We are privileged to be living in such a beautiful house and gardens where nature feels so close. We are surrounded not only by the formal gardens which Georgina and the team keep in such good order, but also by wilder woods and meadows where we work hard to nurture a sustainable and biodiverse environment. The shrieks of the buzzards as they swoop overhead and the timid but lively red squirrels scampering up the oak trees give us particular pleasure. We always want to look at our best, not just for our own enjoyment but also for the thousands of people who come through our gates every year, whether for charity fetes, open garden days or wedding ceremonies and receptions.

Except for this year. 2020 had been looking good for us: we had been planning to have a full calendar of events. And then ... lockdown. We had a flurry of worried couples calling us, not knowing what to do. As the restrictions started to bite, the cancellations and postponements started rolling in. We had to cancel the plans we had made for the Parish gala dinner to celebrate the 75th Liberation anniversary.

Our other charity and community partners shelved the plans they had made for their various events. As for weddings, most decided to postpone their big day and our 2020 events diary quickly evaporated. We were so disappointed, not only for the organisers and the couples, their families and friends, but also for the whole array of suppliers – marquee providers, caterers, florists, photographers and many more – whose livelihoods depend upon events such as ours and who were staring into the abyss.

And yet there was one brave couple, who had already postponed their wedding but decided that they could not wait any longer. Towards the end of September, they went ahead with their reception in a marquee in our Walled Garden: socially distanced, of course, and restricted to only 40 guests. But what a joy it was to hear the sounds of a wedding, with people chatting and children running around and speeches and music and dancing and – above all – a lot of laughter! It was a brief and fragile reminder to us that the world we had been used to was still there: hidden, shy, tentative, but there nonetheless. It gave us a lot more hope that normality will return given the circumstances.

Until then, we’re getting back to the seasonal activities and the usual jobs around the grounds. We’ve got to look our best for next year’s events.