Another exchange from the De Silva family office
I’ve just had the head of Property Vision’s ‘Sporting Estate’ dept on the line saying that Felicity and James have put in an offer for £5.8 million for an estate called Cranach Loch. If you get a copy of this week’s Country Life, you can see a picture of it on p.18. I also discovered, through my sources, that the reason you had to pay almost double the asking price for the neighbouring 4,600-acre Glen Allen estate which recently came on the market is that James and Felicity were the underbidders. I know we thought it was al-Fayed – but it seems that James wanted to ‘surprise’ Felicity with the present of a sporting estate that they can run like a country club hotel.
I should add that they also want an organic farm produce store in London that sells venison and wild boar steaks from your estate – James says if you let him run the ‘farming’ side of it, he might be able to team up with the Prince of Wales (James once played polo with Prince Harry) and package the estate venison along with a Highgrove label. After HRH’s thinly-veiled comments in the press the other day attacking the idea of ‘zoo reserves’, I suspect that you won’t be wanting to go into business with him any time soon but I wanted to pass on the above. What do I do about the estate?
So James and Felicity’s eco-philanthropy has cost me around £1 million already as they bid up the price of the extra land I just bought. Fucking typical. I very much doubt that Felicity will be slaughtering any wild boars on her land any time soon. When she was a young girl she used to blockade the drive when any farm animals were sent off to the slaughter house; every lamb and piglet on the farm had a name and we ended up having to give them all away as pets. Unless we do something to stop them, the place will be over-run with boar piglets in no time; and they will dig up the roots of the few trees we do have left. Please tell Property Vision (owned by HSBC) that unless they somehow scupper the deal, I will resign as a member of the board of the private bank as well as withdrawing all my offshore accounts. They won’t like that. Re: HRH, I’ve got him and Wills coming up to the estate in a few weeks as my guests in August for some stalking, so make sure that James and Felicity are nowhere close. Suggest you call James to say that as a belated ‘baby shower’ gift, would they like the use of the Ilaria for a week off New Mexico in August? I’ll have Kevin in the kitchen serve HRH a particularly leathery piece of veal; and that should put him off the idea. The only reason that we bought the estate, as you know, is because owning forest is a wonderful tax dodge; in order for the tax advantages to work for us, it is essential we make a loss which can then be set against other more profitable businesses so I certainly don’t want any commercial eco-tourism being touted by James. To add some colour when HRH visits in August, can you please invite al-Fayed around for tea?
I think it was a great idea of yours to turn eco-philanthropist and buy up this 35,000-acre estate in Scotland. Pity Mohammed al-Fayed has the estate next door but I hear he’s hardly ever there. We’ve been here three days now and James is adoring it (other than nearly decapitating his knee when trying to load up the clay pigeon trap). I love the wild boar and James says he is going to buy me half a dozen for my birthday present and we are going to keep them in a field that we can lease off the man who does my hunting livery in Berkshire! The boars are really sweet and James says that he will make a special type of wild boar paté and we can sell the boar hair to a paintbrush firm.
I love that James has caught the eco-philanthropy bug from you. He told me that one reason there were so few trees left in this part of the Highlands is that one of his ancestors (who once worked as an Inverness-based coach-builder for the Duke of Sutherland before going into forestry) was personally responsible for stripping about 30,000 acres of pine forest during the Industrial Revolution, shipping the trunks down river and selling the timber as fuel to the Manchester mills.
Anyhow, James now feels a bit guilty about his ancestor’s rape of the land, so he is now talking of us buying a small Highland estate and devoting his time to helping you ‘re-wild’ the area. Are you okay about this? You’d be amazed how cheap some estates are – you can get about 5,000 acres with a ‘new build’ castle for around £3.5m. We tried to bid for a local estate the other day but it went for way too much. James was very clever and used a false name so that the local estate agent wouldn’t realise we were interested!
James thinks if we find the right sort of property, we can turn it into an eco-country estate with similar facilities to Skibo Castle. He says it could be an excellent investment for us as land and food prices are rising and land in the Highlands is currently the cheapest in Europe. I’ll keep you posted; oh, and James also says that if we have a ‘farm’ it is a great way of avoiding any inheritance tax!
I was a bit nervous when you told me at Wilton’s the other day that you had bought the estate to turn it into a natural eco-reserve and introduce wild wolves, bears and moose there. But now I think it’s a terrific idea. I gather from Malcolm, our clay pigeon shooting instructor, that there was a bit of problem shipping the pair of moose over from Sweden (I heard they’re £17k a piece). He said the tranquillised moose suddenly woke up on the plane and he had to pour half a bottle of scotch down its throat, combined with half a bottle of sleeping pills.
We went for a long hike with the head ranger into one of the glens but James had on cross-country running trainers rather than walking boots so he sank into the peat bog. Malcolm had to pull him out with his walking stick. James has always wanted to climb a ‘Munro’ – that’s a Scottish mountain above 3,000ft. After his efforts (and training with the Acton Athletic Club) to win the Taki Cup in Gstaad (for the fastest time to walk up to the Eagle Club from the road when there is no snow), he is now talking about ‘Munro Bagging’. At least he didn’t try anything quite so exhausting on our honeymoon!
Love Felicity xxxx