Living the luxury
Crunchy chips, creamy chocolate, Cotswold cheese. What more can a girl want from a stay in a luxury lodge on Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park, asks Katie Jarvis
Ian and I are sitting in front of the Ox Shed restaurant at Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park. I’m tucking into a delicious vegan chilli. Ian has sliders – pulled pork and barbecue sauce; lamb burger with harissa mayo; and a beef burger with tomato relish.
There are potato wedges with mine. Which – don’t get me wrong - are genuinely lovely.
But Ian has a huge pile of crunchy thick-cut chips with his. I mean, you know. Thick-cut chips.
The view from the terrace is distractingly gorgeous. Which is handy. “Isn’t that the golden glow of the historic town of Stow I can see?” I ask Ian, as he starts on his meal.
He glances round over miles of unspoilt countryside. “Yep,” he confirms.
Not nearly enough time.
I think again.
“This is one of only five sites in the country where the incredibly rare
Cotswold penny-cress grows,” I say. “Maybe in that field over there,” I add, vaguely pointing.
“Umm,” he says, digging into the juicy lamb burger without even looking up. …OK. This time I’ve nailed it. “Isn’t that a Mark 2 Escort RS Mexico, built in Saarlouis, West Germany, between November 1975 and July 1978, on the horizon?” I ask.
“Where?” demands Ian, swinging round, agog. “Have a chip,” he throws over his shoulder as he scans the vista for classic cars.
“I couldn’t possibly,” I protest, generously. “You appear to have hardly any left.”
We’re staying in one of the farm park’s six new luxury Sunset Lodges, set in their own private field by the Humpty Dumps – a hand-dug Victorian quarry where (privileged info) Adam Henson used to play as a child. Villagers once dug their roof-tiles out from here; they say even the roof of former owner Corpus Christi, Oxford, originated from this quarry. Nowadays its undulations – self-regenerated – make it look like a gloriously wild green sea.
I’m an instant fan of these lodges – works of genius. They were designed from scratch by Duncan Andrews (Adam’s business partner and old college friend) after he’d failed to find anything
he much liked on the market. On the outside, they’re a mix of wood and metal – a modern take on traditional agricultural buildings; inside, they’re beautifully thought-out: kitchen, two-beds, bathroom, sitting room with TV, and a private deck overlooking countryside. I love the little touches: a torch in the bedroom; birdfeeders; a clip for your dog by the bench outside. (Indeed, Ruby - the stunning but astonishingly dim cocker spaniel - is with us. Six years old and still the word ‘Walkies’ goes over her head.)
There’s even a welcome pack with soap, milk, tiny bantam eggs, beer, biscuits for Rubes and two blocks of chocolate.
Did I say two? I mean one. One block. “I thought there were two?” asks Ian. In the evening, we explore the farm park’s wildlife walk: two miles of unbroken countryside through a palette of wildflowers, and along Gorse Valley – an old river channel – with its plethora of rare plants. Alongside rabbits – irritated at having their evenings disturbed – there are skylarks singing their hearts out. Woodpeckers – green and greater spotted – abound. Rare yellowhammers live here. Tons of noisy house sparrows, flocking like teenagers in a Friday-night gang. Even a couple of pairs of tree sparrows (the UK lost more than 90 % of its population in four recent decades) call this place home.
“Wouldn’t these lodges make a great place to stay at Christmas,” Ian says, as we sit watching the sunset.
Adam Henson once told me his actor uncle, Nicky, was married to Una Stubbs.
“Imagine the pressure of Christmas charades in that household,” I shudder.
Next morning – try waking to sun over endless green fields – we’re up and ready to explore the farm park: years since I was last here. We’ve no children with us; we’re both classified as adults. But, genuinely, such fun. I feel six again as I feed the rare breeds that gaggle around me for farm-park snacks.
Once upon a time, we valued the differences rare breeds (literally) brought to the table. Each had its own landscape to which it was ideally suited – up a mountain; able to thrive on brashy ground; an ability to walk miles to Smithfield Market, like the old Gloucester cattle.
My absolute favourites are the Golden Guernsey goats; many moons ago, I was an au pair on that idyllic Channel Island, the safest environment any 18-year-old could imagine. Beach walks by myself at midnight. A local paper where headlines were of the ilk: Man parks on doubleyellow lines. (What’s more, we were all deeply shocked.)
As we leave, I spot Duncan. He’s deservedly chuffed. The council man who came to sign the lodges off wants to put them up for a local authority design award.
No surprise there. They’re superinsulated – low carbon footprint and low energy costs - made by local carpenters using as much locally sourced material as possible. The larch, for example, came from a saw-mill near Evesham. Duncan has never designed anything like this before. “I can tell you, there have been quite a few sleepless nights. My wife felt she’d lost me for the past six months,” he grins. “We’ve lots of plans – such as to create some experience-based stays. Come and learn how to be a smallholder, make sausages, paint wildflowers, a Christmas wreath!”
Experiences are what the farm park is all about. Even to the point where autumn visitors are invited to dig their own potatoes from the two-acre field behind the car park. “It’s part of our sharing the story; people understanding where their food comes from. It’s probably one of the most rewarding tasks from the point of view of families going out and doing things – children digging in the ground and finding potatoes,”
“They get a bag to take home. If they’d like to dig extra, we take those to the local food bank.”
There are also pick-your-own sunflowers. “We’ve probably got about 30,000! We’ve had enough rain; and, with the sunshine, they’ve gone bonkers. Bit more photogenic than potatoes.”
As we leave, I pop into the farm shop for my favourite cheese – Greystones Single Gloucester. Heavenly.
“Did you find any cheese,” Ian asks, as we get in the car to go home.
“Sadly not,” I say.
The six fully-equipped luxury lodges can each sleep up to five people, plus one infant. One has enhanced mobility features, including a wet room. All are dog-friendly, and include unlimited access to the farm park during the stay. Prices start from £180 per night: cotswoldfarmpark.co.uk
EDITOR’S NOTE: For clarity, this was a freebie.