Spirits in London were dampened by the tube strike, but mine were brightened by the prospect of leaving work at 1 o’clock and starting my weekend early. The lovely Amie and Tim were getting married in their home county, Suffolk, and we were to make a whole weekend of it. The brady bunch descended on Sibton Park (also known as Wilderness Reserve), somewhere which has been firmly on my radar and holiday wish-list since the days when I worked on Brides Magazine, in which Sibton Park regularly graces the pages.
Set in pastures so green they would rival the manicured lawns of Wimbledon, the estate consists of a stunning manor house and a spattering of outhouses, each of which has been transformed into luxury self-catered accommodation. Each outhouse offers something different, for example, romantics and social-media addicts looking to unplug could head to Hex, a cottage where the ‘back to basics’ ethos means electricity is out (i.e. non-existent) and log-fires are in. As a much larger group, and one for which electricity was a fundamental necessity (I’m not sure we would have looked quite so polished for the wedding had it not been for some high-voltage hair-styling) the most obvious choice was The Farmhouse. It made for the most perfect digs for our long weekend in the English countryside.
So with the car laden with our wedding glad-rags, croquet sets, reading material in the form of a bumper September issue, snacks galore, and giddy excitement we set off for Suffolk- arguably one of England’s prettiest counties. The winding roads on the approach to the estate felt very Pride and Prejudice, and I had a bit of an Elizabeth Bennett moment when it came to the big reveal of the manor house as if we were gasping at the sight of Pemberley. Unfortunately in our sad cases inheritance of the estate in exchange for a feeble dowry wasn’t on the cards. One can but dream.
Farrow and Ball heaven, The Farmhouse is decked out in traditional yet refreshingly contemporary interiors – the kind of style you dream of decorating your fantasised country bolt-hole when you’re all grown-up and have money to splash around willy nilly in Anthropologie and Designer’s Guild (if you’re one of the few who ever gets that grown-up then count yourself lucky). Copper roll-top baths, velveteen chairs and pearly white console sinks – all terribly tasteful, and even more impressive when accompanied by Neal’s Yard toiletries, scented candles, the fluffiest of towels, and bedding so plump and comfortable that I peeled back the pillow cases and bed linen to take note of the product numbers. The end result was the perfect setting for eating, drinking and socialising. Luckily for us the English weather changed its usual tune and surprised us with sunshine so strong it even had tanning potential so we spent most of the weekend with the french doors wide open, light streaming through and the fridge stocked with cold beer.
So, what do you do when you’re in the English countryside? How do you make the most of living the country house dream? Play croquet, spark up some coals on the barbecue, make a devilishly good potato salad, and crank up the volume on the Ashes – how very Tatler. For those who come prepared, a tennis court also offers an excellent excuse to get overly competitive with your siblings and partners, whilst the al fresco swimming pool (found at the bottom of an inverted conch-like swirl of grass) is perfect for those wishing to brave a dip, chilly goose-bumpy bottom and all.
As far as country cottages go this one was up there. For more information and reservations (book up now or face regret next summer) click here.
Photo credit: Cameron Maynard / Aperto Photos