The farmhouses, cottages and barns dotted throughout the Wilderness Reserve – 5,000 acres of private parkland in rural Suffolk – seem to only reveal themselves the deeper you delve. It’s hard to miss Sibton Park – an opulent honey-hued Grade Ii-listed manor house, which stands proudly in the centre of the grounds, but then there’s a 17th-century long barn tucked behind a crowd of trees, a converted clockhouse hidden beyond a curl in the road, a row of Victorian bothies (gardeners’ cottages) obscured by a walled garden and the gate lodges – two follies that cleverly conceal a two-bedroom cottage below. They are all available to rent – with bedrooms ranging from one or four, although Sibton Park has 14 (oh, and a butler service). And then there’s the Farmhouse, a raspberry-pink-plastered, six-bedroom property, the oldest on the reserve, which is to be our home for the weekend.

Like all the other dwellings on the estate, the Farmhouse is a mix of the beautifull­y preserved and thoroughly modern. Thick wooden beams, stone floors, exposed copper pipes, roll-top baths and an extremely rickety, charming wooden downstairs loo meet giant Hypnos beds, underfloor heating, cinema-sized TV screens and a state-of-the-art wine fridge, which is chock-full on our arrival. And that brings me to the most joyful home-from-home elements of our visit. While the reserve is just miles from some of the most coveted parts of the region (Richard Curtis and Emma Freud have a home in the nearby chichi seaside town of Walberswic­k), we have very little reason to leave the bucolic bliss of our weekend residence. You see, on arrival, we (two families with four kids under five) are met with the most extravagan­t welcome hamper you could imagine, which gives us no plausible excuse to venture further afield. And if we did feel the need to expand our culinary horizons, we could have just booked one of the estate’s private chefs for the night.

As for our physical horizons, the tennis courts and Pashley bikes are faintly alluring, as is the sunken oval swimming pool (open May to October). We could have also paddleboar­ded in a variety of lakes, or taken part in dawn yoga. In the end, as it is lambing season and the estate is gloriously car-free, we let our young clan march through its wild grasses and skip alongside the newest members of the reserve (I can’t decide who is the more nonplussed). They also enjoy playing hide-and-seek (the kids, not the lambs) under the massive oak staircase at the Farmhouse, and dive bombing across the two-metre-long cushion-dense sofas that flank the sitting room.

The Wilderness Reserve is special. Whether you’re a twosome looking for an off-grid thatched cottage for a weekend or a colossal family in need of somewhere spectacula­r to while away a week of the holidays, there’s nowhere else quite like it in Britain. SARAH TOMCZAK

 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Above and left: pretty in pink: discover the Farmhouse, with its ornate wall coverings, thick wooden beams and stone floors
Above and left: pretty in pink: discover the Farmhouse, with its ornate wall coverings, thick wooden beams and stone floors
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom