Travel Dispatch – Heckfield Place, most U.S. travelers lack a several hundred-year-old charming countryside manor for a weekend escape, the fringes of London are chockablock with choices and we recommend staying at several for various reasons. My travel mantra – each of us has a unique fingerprint and thus the proper hotel or manor house may be suitable for one but not another. We solve the mystery.
An inspired 19th Century estate, Heckfield Place is the very latest in countryside lodgings, albeit fairly close to London, but far enough removed, residing amidst 400 glorious acres of secluded Hampshire grounds. Formal garden terraces and provocatively described ‘pleasure grounds’ truly feel like a private park. The epitome of Georgian excellence, gently evolving for over 250 years, the property consists of walled landscaped gardens, an organic farm and extensive woods. Dig out your wardrobe for country pursuits: wellies and tweeds and your herringbone woolen flat cap. Boots and slickers are available for guest use in the mudroom. Brilliant British countryside at is best, activities include farm and orchard tours, fly fishing, classes, cinema, horseback riding nearby, clay pigeon shooting. Discover the gardens and the hidden historic follies with one of the residential experts.
Every month a selection of courses is offered in the ancient crafts and pursuits of happiness: create and connect to craft, this month it’s rush weaving and paper making. Upcoming essential oils with scent creators; master class in wooden spoon carving; oenophiles offered a tutorial tasting with senior sommelier; speaker events, circuit training; for kids: mud and guts outdoor activities. A plush screening room offers a curated program of films, speaker events a full program called The Assembly, the events are also open to the locals, a lovely gesture, making everyone feel welcome in this grand manor home.
Billionaire owner, Gerald Chan, has filled Heckfield Place with his personal 20th Century British art collection – a stop in your tracks painting around every corner, Persian rugs, original wood burning fireplaces, light flooded morning rooms, long inviting hallways and several casual rooms for reading, scratching away at a crossword puzzle or perhaps catching up on your needlepoint or drum away on your laptop. Needlepoint, yes, there were two guests stitching away in the morning room – I queried if they were ‘props’, but no, a couple of Michigander ladies at leisure! Stop and sit at a round table with an in progress wooden puzzle. Massive works of art pop off of darkly painted lime plaster walls, a dramatic effect adding punch even in hallways. After over 12 years of restoration, nothing was left to chance at Heckfield Place.
The ambience is elegant, yet homey and enormously comfortable, period antiques mixed with contemporary mid-century furnishings. Imagine plush sofas you sink into, corners peppered with comfy wing back chairs and tables set for working or afternoon tea, crackly wood burning fireplaces – a stately historic home rendered comfy for 21st Century guests. My leisurely enchanting morning consisted of views of spring ranunculus just beginning to pop through the soil, perfect fresh mint tea served alongside an orange infused muffin.
Each signature room tells its own story, offering a connection to Heckfield history, a late Georgian Mansion. The rooms are split between the main house and the Corridors, reflecting the flawless design of Ben Thompson, who trained under Ilse Crawford, illustrating the understated brilliance of British interior design. Heckfield Place has 45 bedrooms in total, spread about comfortably in the modern wing aptly named The Corridors and upstairs in the main house. I loved both. The website photos don’t say enough about some of the rooms, including The Long Room. In reality, it is an upstairs apartment with generous terrace and 180-degree views, a fireplace, fully functioning kitchen and dining room – a superb spot for multi-generations to gather.
The emphasis on self-sustainability has been essential to the reimagining of the estate. From the website description: here it begins with the soil. The kitchen garden, greenhouses, and over 700 apple and plum trees in the ancient orchard on the five-acre farm supply vegetables, milk, cheese, fruit, honey, and flowers to two on-site restaurants, Hearth and Marle. The restaurants are at the helm of celebrated chef and culinary director Skye Gyngell. Menus will rotate according to the season’s bounty. At the main restaurant, Marle, Gyngell devises a menu of just five daily-changing main dishes. A light filled room that feels more like an aerie greenhouse provides gorgeous views to augment the divine dining. I swooned over charred calcots withe Romesco and soured cream. We enjoyed Dover sole napped in grilled cucumber and a light Béarnaise sauce, fresh crunchy asparagus and of course, who can resist a custard tart with nutmeg for dessert?
The Little Bothy spa offers three spaces for personal training, yoga, and Pilates classes. Offering all-natural products from the Wildsmith Skin range. William Wildsmith, a noted 18th Century horticulturalist created the arboretum on property. A perfect place to unwind and invigorate after a day of exploring the grounds, the lakes and the walled gardens in the Hampshire heartlands. A full-size spa and swimming pool are under construction and will be open this summer.
When the sun sets, follow me to the Moon Bar. Nestled in the center of the mansion, inspired by the lunar phases, Moon Bar Cocktails are unique to Heckfield in concept, presentation and most importantly in flavor. A unique list of handcrafted cocktails uses liquors, tinctures and infusions created with fresh ingredients from the Home Farm and gardens. The spirits range from exceptional classics to incredibly rare small batch discoveries. May I suggest a Peach Leaf Spritz? A pre-dinner cocktail is essential here or in one of the other comfy sitting rooms, really no request is denied for a snack, lunch tea or cocktail in all of the public rooms. I found sipping a bubbly under the enormous sparkling ancient disco ball in the Moon Bar magical.
Best sipped after sunset.
Historic hotel lovers, Jane Austen Junkies, laidback luxury leisure seekers, beauty disciples, wanderers and garden aficionados will all be enchanted at Heckfield Place. The property is barely 40 minutes from Heathrow. Jane Austen did once live down the road in nearby Chawton, the charming bucolic villages that surround the property set the stage for the arrival. Bring a bag of books, or peruse the library shelves, so many comfy quiet rooms for indulgence.
Once is not enough, I will be back to be scrubbed and pampered at the new Summer Spa! Heckfield Place is a trifecta combination of Gerald Chan’s obsession with perfection, GM luminary Olivia Richli (multiple Aman openings over 18 years) and Michelin chef Skye Gyngell. Highly recommend!
Heckfield Place offers the luxury of an elegant estate home without stuffiness, multiple sun dappled rooms for leisurely languid afternoons, a luxurious spa, lakes and tree studded acres for roaming and hiking.