The last long-bank holiday past I was determined to make something of the 3 days of expected blistering sun. Let’s face it, when the sun hits the UK it brings out a different side of people and makes everyone friendlier and way more approachable. No longer able to safely board a flight, I set about looking for country retreats with a focus on the natural and sustainable. Why should boarding a plane always equate a holiday? Even when you approach it from the sustainable side of the conversation, driving a few hours outside of London and setting up camp for equal doses of heat and tranquillity is a hugely reduced carbon footprint compared to that of boarding a plane (even if for a short flight).
Take our destination of West Sussex for example, where you still get the perks of endless miles of coastline, picture perfect treks and popular beach locations – Bracklesham Bay looks out onto the Isle of Wight and the English Channel – but with less time spent travelling for a 3 days or so our bank holidays usually afford us. I am not against the idea of flying away for bank holidays, but I wish more people would look closer to home because this was a truly magical experience for all of us. Armed with books, games, a car full of friends, food and trekking gear, we made the short drive of 1.5 hours to Warninglid and set up camp in The Farmhouse at Lydhurst.
After a friendly greeting at the gates by the estate manager, and being presented with a helpful welcoming pack we immediately took in the thoughtful touches – welcome flowers, tea, food cupboard stocked with essential basics – all of which added to the convenience of our stay. Little things like having hand soaps, bin bags and separate under sink waste and recycling bins (plus the larger recycling bin outside), a cupboard of multi-sized towels and cleaning products were clearly all geared towards making this a very easy place to stay, and more importantly, to live for the next few days.
Discovering Lydhurst Estate, a beautifully presented collection of design-led luxury holiday cottages founded in 2017 by couple Adrian and Amber Baillie meant a journey into character. I mean what does that even mean in this context? From our experience of staying on the private country estate in West Sussex, most specifically the Grade II listed self-catering Farmhouse, it meant those hard to explain sincere details on a micro and macro level. The log burner, oaky exposed beams, cosy inglenook fireplace tucked away in the cushy sitting room, charcoal BBQ, handmade cedar wood-burning fresh water hot tub and the enclosed, and totally private, garden complete with picnic seating for 6-8.
Owned and brought to life by the personal touches and subtle presence of the nearby situated Bailie’s – both kind and helpful, but not in any way intrusive – the restoration of a 16th Century Farmhouse to its full glory in an ‘easy English’ style has been executed in a way that the pair should be proud of. Their passion for the Sussex countryside and its conservation is truly apparent. Discovered through Mulberry Cottages, a boutique self-catering lettings agency and incredible resource (with 650+ properties) for anyone hunting for an authentic cottage experience, including more properties like The Farmhouse, we all fell in love with our stomping grounds immediately.
I mean, what was not to love? The converted Aga for a hearty slow cook, deep ceramic baths, grazing cattle or waking up to ladybirds on the window sill?! The cottage and its surroundings certainly gear you towards a more relaxed pace of life but you can get connected if you want or need – Apple TV with Freeview, Netflix (account provided) and DVD player are all available, and our group enjoyed a few full-bellied nights sprawled around the living room watching movies before crawling upstairs and falling into the heavenly mattresses.
The cottage has been tastefully decorated and well furnished throughout, the sunny kitchen is a large split-level room with a handy dining area whilst the living room is cool and perfect for nights in after a long day exploring the area or roasting in the garden. The sustainable attributes form a more subtle backdrop but are undeniably present; from the ease of recycling to the locally sourced, vintage or antique furniture and furnishings, a great deal of creativity has gone into making the cottage a responsible home. One of the bedrooms even featured a handmade bed made from reclaimed railway sleepers, and for those visiting the cottage in an electric/hybrid the estate offers a charging point made from a re-purposed railway sleeper. Many of our breakfasts, lunches and dinners were flavoured with seasonal herbs from the garden outside.
Tucked away on the Lydhurst Estate, the Grade II listed self-catering farmhouse, comes with its own orchard and is surrounded by intimate areas of woodland, formal gardens, lakes and parkland in the High Weald AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), an idyllic preserve of beautiful Sussex countryside and farmland. With a huge expanse of natural habitat, right on our doorstep, we completed a three-hour trek around the grounds on our second day which was so absorbing that until the last 30 mins I easily forgot that I was even carrying a basketball sized baby in my belly – thriving vegetation, mini-waterfalls, hidden tree games, we experienced it all.
The estate is located a 15-30 minute drive away from a horde of local pubs and the beautiful neighbouring villages brought variety when needed. If you so desire, you can reach Brighton, Lewes, Horsham and Amberley in half an hour. Across the ‘scoring’ board – location, cleanliness, comfort, decoration and equipment, value for money and property description I highly recommend this beautiful place which sleeps 8 in 4 bedrooms and has 2 bathrooms for friends, families or even couples wanting time alone together. The only con was that we could not stay there any longer!