Wylde World: Hencote, Shropshire
Review and Photographs by Thea Lewis-Yates
Before the frenetic Christmas whirlwind of wall-to-wall parties and panic present buying kicks in, we decide to recharge our batteries on a break in Shropshire. After a short hop from Euston (a little over 2 hours direct to Shrewsbury) we’re the heart of the bucolic English countryside. The Grange at Hencote, set amongst a 65-acre vineyard and overlooking the rolling landscape of South Shropshire and the distant Welsh hills, is steeped in tranquility. Our Diptique-scented suite, ‘Winney Hall’ looks onto picture-postcard-perfick gardens, and boasts an enormous roll top bath, boy-toy sound system, and a bed so comfy, I risk becoming bed-bound.
Over almond milk cappuncinos, we meet owner and founder Andy Stevens, an enigmatic former banking CEO who now devotes his boundless energy to making Hencote the ultimate re-boot retreat. Part of Hencote’s charm is its deeply personal approach. Manager Olivia, Wellness Director Liz and their brilliant chef Paul (we are all friends here) provide a bespoke wellness and relaxation package. The intimacy of the Grange (there are only 7 suites), and a seductively snug communal food and flop-out lounge, creates a home-from-home feel that ensures instant switch-off. Sharing a dinner table with other guests runs counter to my insular London instincts, but Paul’s hearty cooking, and the chilled vibe makes for convivial dinners with cool new friends not yet met. Everything we manage to pack away over the course of the weekend is made on-site with fresh, organic and whenever possible, locally sourced produce. Highlights include succulent chicken roasted in tangy tarragon pesto; unctuously savoury local goats cheese paired with beetroot and fresh walnuts, and a hearty brunch of home-baked rye bread, avocado and cured salmon. A treat that cheats on calories, Paul’s dairy- and sugar-free chocolate torte is rich, sticky and addictive.
For the more adventurous (read - less lazy) guests, there are boxercise lessons, nutrition workshops, mindfulness walks and yoga classes. Our all-too-brief break involves naps (serial), reading (uninterrupted joy on our toddler-free time out) and an autumnal meander to Hencote’s medieval riverbed.
Hencote Grange’s prize asset is its staff's genuine warmth and generous hospitality. Like the most chivalrous host, Stevens's team is open and amenable to whatever their guests fancy doing; be that keeping busy with activities or doing b***** all . On Sunday morning, we summon the energy for a massage by local therapist Julie Hales, who uses reassuringly firm Swedish massage techniques to remove knots and alleviate deep-rooted tensions. At the end of my hour-long treatment, all sage and lavender scented, I leave refreshed and walking on air, after Julie ends the session with some reflexology.
The Grange at Hencote is available for private hire, great for family getaways, non-toxic hen weekends or wedding parties. Andy’s plans for for 2017 include a winery, a restaurant and a visitors centre. We’ll definitely be back to see how Hencote Grange unfolds…and for more of it’s premium pampering and fine food.