Sarah Slazenger Of The Powerscourt Estate Shares Her Weekend Routine

A weekend rarely means time off for the custodian of her family’s POWERSCOURT ESTATE in Co Wicklow …

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I admit, I do live in a bit of a bubble, the estate is all-consuming. At weekends, I am away from it only if one of the kids has a hockey match or an eventing competition. I am officially on call every second weekend. Working or not, every morning begins with riding out early, about 6.30am, for about an hour: I get to observe what’s going on before the visitors arrive. I might see a fallen tree, or a fence that needs mending, or get a chance to have a chat with the greenkeepers on the courses. It connects me to the estate. Being pony-mad from a very young age, I’ve always had the run of the place, I know every inch of it.

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Summertime is so busy: as well as the usual daytime visitors there are the scout groups who camp overnight, a long tradition at Powerscourt since Lord Powerscourt became Baden Powell’s chief scout. There might be film crews – Into the Badlands and The Tudors and Vikings were shot here – as well as weddings, golf outings, delegations of VIPs. When I’m working I am based in the Estate Office in the courtyard with an absolutely brilliant team, many of whom have been working on the estate over generations. My cousin, Alex Slazenger is in charge of the truly glorious gardens. When I’m not on call, the family has lunch together. We live three minutes away in an eight-sided house designed by my husband, William [Micklem], to have great views from all angles. He’s a breeder and trainer of sports horses, and we met when he was my eventing coach. He’s also the cook, so when he’s away in Kentucky or elsewhere, there’s the Avoca foodhall on our doorstep! Enniskerry village is where we get meat at Donovan’s butchers, bread from Kennedy’s bakery and vegetables from Tony’s. We always seem to have a full-on agenda but I feel we are entering a new phase: our eldest, Leo, an engineering student, will shortly leave for Auckland for a year, our son Sam will leave school, and our youngest, Holly, will be 16. I might even get to the movies or theatre more often …

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As a child, I spent most of my free time at Powerscourt although my parents, both doctors, brought us up in Ballsbridge. When the accidental chimney fire happened in 1974, my grandparents were devastated at the destruction and felt guilt at the loss of heirlooms. They continued to live in the undamaged east wing and I was always conscious of the catastrophe and the hope of resurrection. In 1990, my father, Dr Michael Slazenger, took a sabbatical from his medical career and, with the backing of the family, he asked me, then a graduate of economics, to help implement a masterplan for the restoration, and ultimately for the estate to become a sustainable business. After we developed the site of a disused gravel pit for housing [now Eagle Valley], we had enough money to reinstate the roof. Implementing the plan for the golf courses, the hotel, the retail aspect [now a lifestyle site offering shops, café, home furnishings, garden plants, tools and accessories] and events at the big house followed, each element helping to create a solid future for the house and estate. Dad returned to medicine but gave up private practice so he could devote as much time as possible to Powerscourt. He was inspirational, a great man for the detail, enormous respect for everyone. I will never forget that day in 2010, seeing the smoke rising from the airstrip from my kitchen window and realising there had been a terrible plane crash.

His death was a massive blow, so unexpected. My mum, Noreen, still lives near the Waterfall, and weekends include a visit to her, often an opportunity to meet other cousins. If we are taking my daughter to an eventing competition, I get to see lots of the country beyond the estate, it is spectacular. Weekend nights at home involve friends and family. It takes a lot to drag me away. But, in winter, the place is quieter and that’s when we can escape to Switzerland to ski for a week and I get to totally switch off.

www.powerscourt.com

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