Tag Archives: countryside

Babington House

Babington House Drive

Miles from London, in a faraway land called Somerset, there’s a long tree-lined lane. It leads to a pocket-sized chapel, St Margarets, and just beyond it, the dour Georgian manor that is Babington House.

Part of the Soho House portfolio, I was expecting a snazzy English countryclub scene, but the other guests were mainly just local mums bringing the kids swimming, and a few other couples in for the weekend from London. But mostly, we had the place to ourselves.

Babington House St Margarets Sign

Babington House Lawn

Babington House Lawn Chapel

Babington House Cobblestone Path

We stayed in the Coach House, in a delightful room over two stories. Sweet touches were everywhere you looked – fresh flowers, vintage books with winsome titles, a silver tin of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies.

Babington House Coach House

Babington House Do Not Disturb Door Soho House

Babington House Coach House Room Velvet Sofa

Babington House Room Coach House Dressing Table

Babington House Room Coach house Spiral Staircase

Babington House Room Coach House Loft Bed

Babington House Room Coach House Bed

Babington House Room Coach House Loft view

Babington House Room Cabbages and Roses Blue Velvet Dress Knit Bobble Hat

Babington House Room Bathroom Tub White Tile

Babington House Room Bathroom Clawfoot Tub

Babington House Room Robes Big Feet Little Feet

Babington House Room Coach House

Babington House Coach house room Flowers

Babington House Room Fresh Flowers

Babington House Eat Sleep Nap

Babington House Room Tea

Babington House Room Tea Treats

We couldn’t resist a spot of tea before heading outside for an afternoon of countryside pursuits – strolling the sprawling grounds, going for a bike ride, and then a swim.

Babington House Wellies

Babington House Walled Garden Green Grass

Babington House Walled Garden Cabbages and Roses Velvet Dress

Babington House Walled Garden Spa Cabbages and Roses Blue Velvet Dress

Babington House Pond Rear

Babington House Backyard Tree Pond

Babington House Bicycle Cabbages and Roses Velvet Dress

Babington House Bicycle Path

Babington House Bicycle Cabbages and Roses Blue Dress

Babington House

Babington House Chapel

Babington House Chapel View

The outdoor heated pool is a perfect warm-up for these chilly February days.

We raced to see which one of us could shimmy back into their hooded robe the fastest, thick clouds of vapor wafting off our poached bodies like a pair of Chinese steamed buns!

Babington House Pool

Babington House Pool Steam Sun

Babington House Pool Swim Bun

Back in the room, we opened a bottle of champers, but before you could say “Pop, fizz, clink!” I was already in a clawfoot tub full of bubbles, where I had a good long soak before dinner.

The bathroom was stocked with shelves of Cowshed products, so no shortage of goops and creams to daub on.

Babington House Bathtub Clawfoot White Tiles

Babington House Bathtub Bubbles

Dinner was A-OK. Candlelight, dainty flowers on the table, the universal Soho House playlist audible above the din of the orangery. It felt a bit like going out to dinner on Valentine’s Day, surrounded by other couples.  But we are far too diffident to canoodle publicly at the dining table. (As my husband likes to chide, “We’re English, not savages, Sarah!”)

Instead, we sipped our Babington martinis (amazing, with Noilly Prat, Tokaji and grapefruit oils, by the way) and nearly choked with laughter piling up a tower of mussel shells, a perilous house of cards of molluscs, which eventually gave way and sent a few shells toppling to the floor!

Most-meal pastimes, such as pool, were on hand, but we found we were happiest in the Study sipping Moscow Mules by the fire.

Babington House Lobby Mirror Flowers

Babington House Games Room

Babington House Study Fireplace Light

Babington House Study Fireplace Drinks

Yes, it’s a chain and not really a country club in the true sense, but Babington House is a great choice for a relaxing and romantic weekend.

I can say I was actually sad to leave. But London missed me, I had to get back! Lots more city adventures coming soon…

Walk This Way: Shaftesbury, Dorset

Following the end of the festive season, I needed nothing more than a quick escape from the city to unwind before starting the New Year afresh.

Loaded with refreshments and entertainment for the train journey, we departed Waterloo station and hurtled down to the lush pastoral lands of Dorset.

Train Journey Reading Drinks

We arrived in the picture-perfect hilltop town of Shaftesbury and checked in at The Grosvenor Hotel, formerly a busy Georgian coaching inn.

Shaftesbury Grovesnor Hotel Sofa

Grovesnor Hotel Lounge

Shaftesbury Grovesnor Hotel Dining Room

We had a perfect lunch of pizza, cooked while we watched in the brick wood-fired oven.

Grovesnor Hotel Pizza Counter

Grovesnor Hotel Pizza Room

Grovesnor Hotel Pizza Oven

Grovesnor Hotel Pizza in Oven

Grovesnor Hotel Pizza

After polishing off our pies, we took a walk around town, past the old 14th century church, down the scenic Park Walk, and to the summit of Gold Hill.

Gold Hill is famous for its striking views across Blackmore Vale and Cranbourne Chase. If you’re English, you might recognize it from Ridley Scott’s memorable commercial for Hovis bread.

Shatesbury Gold Hill Cover

Shaftesbury Gold Hill Morning

Shaftesbury Gold Hill Back View

Shaftesbury Gold Hill View Down

Shaftesbury Gold Hill Cottages

Park Walk is a wonderful, spacious promenade with serene southerly views across the Dorset countryside. From the viewpoint near the sundial you can see for twenty miles on a clear day. I strained my vision to see Dunclie Hill and Gillingham in the distance.

Shaftesbury Lovers Walk Countryside View

Shaftesbury Sundial

Shaftesbury Lover's Walk Downhill Path

Shaftesbury Town Wreath Door

We passed by the old Pump yard – a quaint reminder of Shaftesbury’s need to pump water from the wells in St James up the hill into town until a pipe network was laid in the mid-19th century.

Shaftesbury Pump Yard Gate

Shaftesbury Pump Yard

Our Shaftesbury walk looped us back to Gold Hill, and this time we heaved ourselves up the steep cobbled path.

Shaftesbury Gold Hill Walking Up

Shaftesbury Gold Hill Walking Up Swing

Shaftesbury Gold Hill Hanging Basket

Gold Hill Eddie

Huffing and puffing, we reached the summit and staggered back to the hotel just before dinnertime. We had an outstanding supper at the Grosvenor, arguably some of the best gnocchi ever…

Gnocchi, cavolo nero, chanterelles, parmesan cream

Gnocchi, cavolo nero, chanterelles, parmesan cream

Filet of hake, baby spinach, trumpets, capers and brown shrimp

Filet of hake, baby spinach, trumpets, capers and brown shrimp

Shaftesbury Grovesnor Olives

If you visit Shaftesbury, definitely pick up a complimentary copy of the Grosvenor Arms Walk booklet. It gives some excellent routes to help you explore this lovely historic town and surrounding countryside.

 

Lunch at The Wild Rabbit, Kingham

Britain suffered the coldest August bank holiday on record this year.

To many, a perfect excuse to ball up under a warm throw and indulge in a Netflix marathon…

But not I!

I couldn’t bear the thought of a squandering a day off doing nothing. So I threw on my slicker and hit the Cotswolds country roads!

Cotswolds Landscape Sheep

Cotwolds Cottage

Cotswolds Rainy Landscape

We had lunch in my most favorite village, Kingham, at the Daylesford pub venture “The Wild Rabbit.”

Wild Rabbit Pub Front

Wild Rabbit Rear

Wild Rabbit Pub Fireplace

Wild Rabbit Dining Room

Wild Rabbit Table Bread

Wild Rabbit Bloody Mary

Wild Rabbit Bloody Mary Sip

Once I had my bloody mary in hand, I was all smiles.

Though someone was less than impressed to have been dragged out in this weather…

Wild Rabbit Date

Not much choice on the menu, but everything we ordered was delightful.

Bruschetta; smashed broad beans, whipped goat's curd, ham

Bruschetta; smashed broad beans, whipped goat’s curd, ham

Lentil salad with gorgonzola and red onion

Lentil salad with gorgonzola and red onion

Wild Rabbit Lentil Salad

Wild Rabbit Chips Staub

After lunch, I literally had to tug my squire by the sleeve to accompany me on a little walk around the village. He hates wet weather. But I think England is romantic in the rain.

Wild Rabbit Pub Porch

Wild Rabbit Pub Porch Point

Kingham town

Scampering under the drizzle, we made our way to the village church and had a contemplative moment inside.

Kingham Church Path

Kingham Church Gatre

Kingham Church

Kingham Church Side

During the Middle Ages, the Cotswolds enjoyed a booming wool trade and the area became very prosperous. As a result, there are many handsome churches dotted around the countryside built of this yellow Jurassic limestone. I can’t get over how dignified and sumptuous it looks!

Kingham Church Doors

Kingham Church Coat

We hid out in the dusty old church, escaping the rain for a while.

When it reduced to a sprinkle, we dashed back to the car, and whizzed home to snuggle up with a hot cup of tea.

Broughton Castle

British people have a saying, “An Englishman’s home is his castle.” The phrase is taken to mean that everyone has the right to do as they please within their own home, and no one can enter a dwelling without invitation. On a weekend trip up to the Cotswolds, we stopped in to see one of the finest private moated manor houses in the country, Broughton Castle.

Located outside of Banbury and made of magnificent golden honey limestone, the core of the house dates from 1306. It has been home to the Fiennes family since the 1400s, and has appeared on-screen in films such as Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love (1998) and Jane Eyre (2011).

The owners open the house and grounds to the public on select days of the year, and we seized the invitation to have a poke around.

Broughton Castle Entrance

The Gatehouse

The Gatehouse

Broughton Castle Outside

Broughton Castle Landscape

Broughton Castle Shells Window

Broughton Castle Viscount Falkland Portrait

I have to admit it’s a bit weird roaming around a complete stranger’s home – no matter how magnificent. However, the interior is so perfectly cared for and preserved, it feels rather like a museum. As I became more and more lost in the details and grandeur of each room, I began to forget the sense that I was somehow intruding.

Armor on display in The Great Hall

Armor on display in The Great Hall

Broughton Castle Great Parlour Wallpaper BUST

Ornate Plaster Ceiling in The Great Parlour

Ornate Plaster Ceiling in The Great Parlour

Broughton Castle Bedroom Dragon

Broughton Castle Portraits

Breezing through the drafty stone corridors, and up the creaky wooden staircase to the long carpeted gallery filled with art and antiques, we amusedly nosed around the historic chamber rooms.

Broughton Castle Bedroom Wallpaper Chair

I freaked for this gorgeous wallpaper in the King’s Chambers, hand-painted in China with impressive detail in the 1800s.

Broughton Castle Bedroom Wallpaper

We were even permitted to climb out on the roof and look down over the luscious green landscaping and gardens.

Broughton Castle Roof

Broughton Castle Roof Panama

Broughton Castle Roof Shot

Broughton Castle Garden

The last room to see was the Oak Room, an opulently panelled drawing-room with an oak interior porch put up by William, the 1st Viscount.

Broughton Castle Sitting Room Doorway

Broughton Castle Sitting room fireplace

Broughton Castle Sitting Room Books

Broughton Castle Sitting Room Door

The Oak Room led out into a perfectly coiffed garden with neatly manicured box hedges and a smattering of pastel pink roses.

Broughton Castle Outside Garden

Broughton Castle Outside Garden Looking

Broughton Castle Outside Garden Arch

Broughton Castle Outside Garden Bench House

Broughton Castle Outside Garden Bench

Broughton Castle Outside House

Broughton Castle Outside Walking

Broughton Castle Outside Side View

Broughton Castle Outside Side Walking

We weren’t the only ones roaming the grounds on this beautiful day!

Broughton Castle Cows

Broughton Castle Cow

An udderly amoo-sing day in the country!

Thank you to the owners of this remarkable property for letting us have a captivating peek inside.