A Tranquil Escape
"Meditation, yoga, walking, cardio, boxing, core – Hencote brings it all on, with such style."
If anyone had ever told me that planning a wedding could get a sane, middle-aged woman (who runs her own company, is a mother, a homeowner, likes to travel the world and is known for her juggling ability on any given task with relative ease) into a state of worry and exhaustion, I would never have believed them.
The reality is that two weeks before my wedding, when in hindsight was when I should have been looking and feeling my best both mentally and physically, I was a wreck, in both departments.
I needed a break, just me, and somewhere that allowed me to recharge and refocus, and I found my little bit of paradise, just over two hours from Oxford, in a place I had never heard of – near Shrewsbury!
Shrewsbury, for those of you not in the know, is “west of Birmingham” and “near Wales” and is, as I discovered to my delight, a beautiful medieval town full of history and the most divine array of independent shops dotted across its landscape, hidden between narrow streets and buildings.
Just ten minutes away from this discovery is the answer for anyone needing something extra special to reboot or refresh – ten minutes away is Hencote.
Hencote is an elegant, private country estate and vineyard in Shropshire, and part of this is a beautifully restored Georgian Farmhouse, impeccably furnished with sumptuous fabrics and exquisite style. The brainchild of extremely affable former CEO and banker Andy Stevens, who after many years in the Middle East, decided that the rolling hills of South Shropshire were the place to bring up his family and set down his roots. Like most people with a combination of charm and boundless energy, the next project emerged, hence The Grange, an intimate building with just seven suites of such unparalleled comfort and luxury that staying here makes a return to everyday life simply intolerable.
Set amidst a backdrop of vines and hills, The Grange from top to bottom is simply delightful. Cashmere, velvets and woodburning stoves, suites with freestanding baths or hammams, the whole building scented by Diptyque and the pull of clean crisp linen. It is impossible not to become seduced by the sensory overload, with robes so thick they refuse to allow everyday clothes to reappear, and every nook exposing a hidden gem of interior design loveliness.
A huge part of the Hencote charm is the personal touch, and the team, led by Swiss trained Olivia Britton, ensure that your needs are catered for – even before you needed them! With a personal chef, nutritionist and a team of wellness coaches, Hencote provides you with as much or as little help that you need to reboost, recharge and balance, and for me – I needed it all.
Meditation, yoga, walking, cardio, boxing, core – Hencote brings it all on, with such style. A massage that was on par with the best spas in the world from the Wellness director Liz Chate who, like the rest of the team, seemed to morph into a glamorous fairy godmother, gently coaxing away the stress and bringing a feeling of wellbeing to the surface. The food was a testament to successfully combining healthy eating, the finest ingredients and culinary skill, and the personal chef on my visit, the charming Paul Foster (of Saturday Kitchen fame) made each meal a delight.
A couple of days at Hencote gives the results that a full-on holiday would, so the place itself is just perfect for a staycation, family event, girls weekend or just an off-season break, and the team are so flexible that whether it is wellness, shooting, an intimate setting for a corporate get-together or simply relaxation that brings you to South Shropshire, you will not be disappointed.
And as for the rest of the year? Andy has plans for 2017 that include a winery, venue and visitor’s centre, in the middle of these 65 acres of sheer loveliness, so watch this space as the Hencote tale unfurls. And for me, the break achieved the seemingly impossible – I returned to work, recognising that the wedding would be just perfect and feeling ready not just to face the day, but to enjoy it.
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