Britain’s countryside is great and a chance to visit a truly great country house hotel surrounded by extensive gardens is an enchanting way to spend some quality time whether it’s summer or winter. Introducing Gravetye Manor – this intimate 17 bedroom hotel is considered as having one of the most historically influential gardens in the country.
From 1884 until he died, Gravetye was the home of writer and gardener William Robinson. His work to this day is seen as ahead of his time. He rejected the rigidity and formality of Victorian gardening and spelled out groundbreaking ideas which can be seen in his numerous books and publications. Today his gardens are lovingly nurtured by a team of gardeners – led by head gardener Tom Gardner – and their passion is appreciated by hundreds who come to visit.
Close to the pleasures of London yet 30 miles far from its hustle and bustle, Gravetye Manor is situated in East Grinstead, in Sussex just 12 miles from Gatwick Airport. The manor has been run as a hotel since the 60s and the garden has always been an important part of the experience. In 2010, the estate came under the custody of Mr and Mrs Hosking, and with their foresight and backing, a major renovation project was begun.
Unlike many hotels wanting to conform to a contemporary design with metallic wallpapers or chenille cushions piled on oversized sofas, Gravetye Manor bears the hallmarks of a true manor which gives you the feeling of stepping right back into 1598 when it was built. Despite the millions spent on the hotel to restore it, the feel of the place is still historical yet looks fresh and elegant. The very same dark oak panelled walls sweep from the restaurant to the 17-tree species named bedrooms and the hallway.
We stayed in the Ash Suite complete with a hand crafted four poster bed, fine antiques and furniture while the bathroom, as can be expected, had a more of a contemporary feel to it – with a huge bathtub, a separate walk in shower and complimentary toiletries. Floral arrangements were placed in the room bringing the garden into the manor. Talking of which, the huge windows overlooking that wonderful garden had me torn between exploring the gardens and spending time in this lovely room.
The gardens really are something and no amount of pictures of them can do justice to them. Today Gravetye is a mature, charming and very beautiful garden. The tree line and the masses of naturalised bulbs show Robinson was a true visionary. Wherever you are in the garden there is always a stunning view of the surrounding countryside and the waft of the plants and flowers especially after the rain was just something else.
One of the most prized works of the gardens is the Kitchen Garden. Victorian walled kitchen gardens were once a common sight throughout the country but this is one of the only few that remain in production. It’s uniquely circular sandstone wall encloses over one acre where fresh fruit and vegetables are grown. During the summer some 95% of produce grown here is used in the kitchens.
And after a while of spotting various fruit vegetables in the gardens with my mum – a keen gardener herself – it was time to sample some of that organic fayre on a plate in the restaurant. The wood panelled restaurant has a nice relaxed classical dining feel to it which made us feel very special in a pleasant regal way. Yet the chatty nature of the staff and relaxed atmosphere of the room made us feel at ease. The food was impeccable, beautifully presented and as fresh as you can imagine. I can highly recommend the poached sea bass accompanied with one of the juiciest tomato and herb dressings. Oh and the dark chocolate sorbet would help fill in the sweet gap even if you are full at the end of a meal as it’s nice and light.
Gravetye Manor is great place to escape to no matter what the weather. It’s not a spa, it’s not a fancy hotel and it’s not trying to be something it is not. It’s simply a beautiful manor where people are friendly, the food is amazing and the gardens stunning. So much so I had to go back after loading the car to have one final stroll in them before leaving. Until next time.
For more information on Gravetye Manor, visit www.gravetyemanor.co.uk.
By Sabi Phagura