At first sight, this 2020 opening appears to be an off piste selection: a luxurious, upmarket conventional country house hotel in a West Sussex mansion. But as soon as you enter the courtyard from the car park you realise that it’s something different: a meeting of hotel, outstanding garden and a sculpture park. The whole is much more than the sum of its parts, worth a detour – a unique experience.
The woodland gardens flow down a steep slope to a valley floor with a chain of 7 lakes. Common and rare trees and shrubs work their calming effect as you stroll the twisting paths downhill. Give yourself time to stop and absorb the diverse and imaginative sculptures, which are sometimes in keeping, sometimes in contrast with nature. The work of South African Anton Smit dominates. His work has a reputation for earthy power: figures are frozen yet seem to be in motion, reaching out to the onlooker, calling for movement.
Inside the front door is a tiled atrium-hall where a self-playing piano tinkles easy listening – the keys responding to unseen fingers. The style and furnishings of the ground floor is more hotel than private house. The downstairs restaurant, awarded its first Michelin Star in 2019, offers a seasonal menu using ingredients foraged directly from the gardens or sourced from local Sussex producers. The ten bedrooms upstairs are posh and individually designed, starting at £350 – in keeping with current prices – and building.
If you’re young and in search of a relaxed low-key vibe, perhaps not for you, but for culturally engaged folk, middle aged and upwards, not on a budget, this will be memorable.