Luxury Explorer Review

5-Star Hotel Review

Heckfield Place

United Kingdom

The country house hotel reinvented

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Heckfield Place
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Heckfield Place

Location

Heckfield, Hampshire

Travel Information

45-minutes from London by car, 30-minutes from Heathrow, 20 minutes from Reading station and 5-minutes from Blackbushe airfield

Top Tips

Walks in the arboretum, tours of the farm, the Little Bothy Spa with its own products

5-Star X-Factors

Stunning suites, especially the incredible Long Room; the screening room; and the holistic approach to the whole estate

Heckfield Place - the wait is over

When poet Violet Fane wrote the opening line ‘all things come to he who waits’, she was attributing the value of patience to willpower. Perhaps never before has a coined phrase been so applicable to a 5-star hotel opening as this one.

The wait was worth it, necessary even, for the realisation of a dream, when the dream is as multi-faceted as this one (even when supported by a talented team of like-minded, passionate, forward thinking, hands-on individuals). However, I suspect the owners, the Chan family from Hong Kong, will continue to enhance and evolve the dream well after the doors open on September 1st. After all, some dreams should never end.

A sneak preview for Luxury Explorer

We were fortunate to spend time here prior to its opening. In fact, we were the very first paying guests and, although I was hoping for a start-up hiccup with the card machine, all hitches and glitches had already been fixed. Heckfield Place is ready to fly.

We were greeted by Olivia Richli, Heckfield’s General Manager, talented and much loved-the-world-over by luxury aficionados and Aman-junkies, who bears the reputation (albeit subliminally as she glides ego-free), ‘where she goes, others are sure to follow’. So follow we did and now we can say, without prejudice, Heckfield Place is up there, right up there, right at the top.

Though wonderfully stylish and, of course, grand for a country home, we felt instantly relaxed as we sipped our welcome rose cordial while inhaling the serene splendour. Heckfield Place feels like a familiar home, one that belongs to an understated, refined but nevertheless very rich relative or family friend who you’ve always admired for their keen appreciation of aesthetics and uncompromising ability to achieve perfection.

The main house is grand but not overstated. It has been restored without paying exact homage to its 1790 origins, which makes it feel ‘homely’ rather than an exhibits-archive, yet its past is present in many refined details. These include the first resident’s coat of arms embossed around one of the stately marble fireplaces. Charles Shaw-Lefevres, a prominent Whig politician, hired the passionate landscape gardener and horticulturalist, William Wildsmith, to turn the rambling landscape into one of the most beautiful private grounds in England, creating lakes and planting rare trees from around the world, many of which still thrive today. The Shaw-Lefevres then sold the property to another high-profile politician, Horace Walpole.

The covetable art collection of mid-20th Century British paintings, curated over many years by Gerald Chan, links one divine drawing room to the next and then continue through all the bedrooms. Each picture hangs, expertly framed, on flawless matt earth-toned walls. Extraordinary glassware, pottery, and quirky odes to British icons dress original marble fireplaces, glorious chandeliers hang from restored plasterwork ceilings with their original cornices and domes, and so it continues. Hand-blown vases hold freshly cut flowers from the cutting garden and fabulous glossy books are placed on bespoke suede ottomans and low tables. Vast linen sofas are so comfortable you could settle-in for the night in any of the drawing rooms, all with cosy corners, facing the expansive york-stone terrace, the lake, and beyond.

The Coppice Suite

We stayed in the Coppice Suite, a signature suite which is one of 13 bedrooms in the main house, overlooking the lake with its soaring fountain and endless woodland. The Georgian’s always win on proportion, and the tall ceilings and sash bay windows open up a vista like no other period in British architectural history.

What wooed me even more than the wide vistas was the bedroom itself. I was love-stuck. My dream palette of dusky pink with pale sage, avocado and off-white – spanning velvets, pristine calico, hand-washed linen and silks – along with the natural woody tones, was absolutely enchanting. The creamy emperor bed, the bespoke soft carpet, the grand original features, the twinkling chandelier – all exquisitely assembled and restored – sent me spinning. I wanted it all, in my home, but I settled for inspiration instead. I must de-clutter, re-cover, less is more…and so on.

The luxury here is not overt, it’s compatible with its period host, echoing its glorious setting with genuine rapport, while its seamless incorporation of the very latest technology is miraculously obscure. This really is intuitive luxury at its finest. Staying here is smooth, slick, and impossibly sumptuous, down to every stitched and loving detail. Sleep is sublime in a bed that works like a mint humbug, firm and soft in the right ways with goose down pillows and satin-soft cotton sheets. We chose to close our shutters and keep the windows behind open, in order to be lulled by the symphony of water features, and to hear the calls of the resident tawny owls.

Bathrooms feel opulent, both in size and detail. We had a freestanding ball and claw bath beneath a window to the view, a shower suitable for several, set against a wall of the most exquisite reddish-brown and golden onyx marble I have seen. The sensational bath and skin products, inspired by, and named after, William Wildsmith, are lavishly laid out and replenished daily. 

Treasures beyond the suite

Dining at Heckfield Place has historically been provided, in the main, from the estate’s Home Farm and plentiful gardens. Today it is no different and the focus on biodiversity and ecological sustainability is paramount. The talented Skye Gyngell is the culinary director, overseeing menus and a variety of dishes created and inspired from their own produce. There are two restaurants: Marle, which will be open to outside guests, and the ‘guests only’ fireside cooking at Hearth, on the lower floor. Both dining venues are beautifully designed, earthy and organic, with high-end finishes and spot-on lighting that creates a sense of private dining experience at each table. You really can taste the home grown in this cooking and it’s sweeter and fairer than most. The first plate of sharing vegetables, a medley of brightly coloured organic delights from the farm with celery yogurt sets the scene for the following courses, which excite and delight the palate in a variety of homespun, delicate and delectable ways. 

The Bondesque screening room

With a capacity for 67 seated in scrumptously comfortable First Class leather chairs, complete with their own lamp and wine holder,  this ‘cinema’ promises to become a coveted ‘paradisio’. It also offers bluetooth and Dolby Surround’s revolutionary sound technology. It is situated underground, beside the wine cellar, an oenophile's dream, which will supply the ‘Cinema Bar’ with exceptional wines by the glass.

The Little Bothy Spa, the gardens and grounds.

Located off the apothecary garden, this little oasis of healing, with essential oils and ingredients sourced from the soil outside, offers five cossetting treatment rooms, steam and relaxation rooms, plus yoga, ballet and pilates studios. The Wildsmith Skincare range is already available on-line and again, there is something richly magical in these potions. Next year the Spa will expand into The Bothy, an exclusive members and guests-only club, with a swimming pool, dining terrace and further gym and treatment rooms.

Within the walled gardens next to the spa is a Sun House, a beautiful glass space, filled with natural light with a capacity for up to 30 people for private dining. The upper and lower gardens are filled with fragrant flowers, wisteria, lavender and roses, while a variety of fruit - apples, quinces, pears, sour-figs, plums and figs - sprawl up and around the magnificent old stone walls. 

The country escape feeling flows through the gardens into wilder ancient wooded areas with part of William Wildsmith’s arboretum still in existence. One of many outdoor experiences to be enjoyed here is with Heckfield’s own passionate tree-loving, hugging and nurturing arbourist, Sam. Not only does he know the origin of every species, from the rare to the plentiful, but he also understands exactly why they are thriving and, after an hour with him, you really do believe he understands how they are ‘feeling’. It’s a tree-lover’s paradise here.

Biodiversity

Aside from simply ‘taking off’ from the main house and walking through the grounds, perhaps pausing under the pavilion beside the lower lake, where you can row in a little boat, you can learn much about biodynamic farming and biodiversity from a stay here. The livestock, orchards, chickens, honey bees, vegetable gardens and fresh river fish that supply the creative kitchen here, are flourishing and you can visit or tour the farm at any time. Home Farm follows biodynamic principles and will soon be licensed as such. Guided by the moon to help with planting times and watering, the farmers bring the fruits of the earth together with the solar system. Hot water and heating is supplied by massive biomass boilers, fuelled by wood pellets from the estate’s organic eco-system, creating a no-waste cycle supply of energy.

It is difficult to describe the ‘genre’ of Heckfield Place because it has many layers but the final outcome is modern yet authentic, eclectic, serene and down to earth, respecting its Georgian heritage but in and on its own contemporaneous terms. It is not fussy or fancy; it’s more high-end 5-star country estate than deluxe antique-cluttered country house hotel, and, as a result, more inviting, let alone more enticing. The wait is over as Heckfield Place really is the English country house you would aspire to; and only 40-miles from London.

Heckfield Place offers 13 bedrooms, including the signature suites, in the main 18th Century house and 31 bedrooms in the Upper and Lower Corridors. Prices start at £300 and rise to £10,000 a night – for the Long Room – an apartment that redefines plush country house living.

 

Sophie Marchant
Sophie Marchant


Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer

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