Stylist’s deputy production editor Amy Adams heads to a converted farm in the Cotswolds to feast on all that the region’s natural larder has to offer.
A towering gold sculpture of Pan, the Greek god of shepherds and flocks, greets us when we round the corner into Eckington Manor, his bronze six-pack and chiselled jaw gleaming in the sun. “We asked the sculptor for a cross between Brad Pitt and Michelangelo’s David,” owner Judy Gardner tells me later. “We didn’t want him to be ugly”.
Very little is ugly at Eckington Manor. Set on the edge of the Cotswolds, the converted farm buildings that make up the 15 rooms and cookery school surround a neat courtyard, lawn and herb garden, where purple alliums punctuate beds of mint and sage. The working farm has been relocated just up the road and its 260 acres of water meadow pastures, dotted with Highland cows, stretch around Eckington Manor and down to the River Avon.
Aside from a large modern building – housing the reception, restaurant and cookery school boasting five Agas – the essence of the original farm remains. Our room in the milking parlour has recycled grain store boarding on the walls and an antique milking stool – giving a nod to its original use without going too far. I doubt the cows had White Company cosmetics and a freestanding Fired Earth bath at the foot of a bed decked out in Italian linen.
It's fair to say the milking parlous has been given an overhaul, above
In the 13th century timber-framed farmhouse – rumoured to be one of the oldest in Worcestershire – the floorboards undulate with the lay of the land and the battered Chesterfield sofas of the sitting room are overlooked by an oil painting of Norman – Judy’s first Highland bull after buying the rundown farm in 2004. Just in case you feel you’ve drawn the short straw by staying in the more conventional red-brick Cyder Mill barn opposite, the rooms here are decorated with Fromental handembroidered silk wallpaper.
Tour complete, the manicured lawn cries out for a glass of wine in the afternoon sun. After a stop at the well-stocked honesty bar we make our way to one of the artfully scattered benches to enjoy the lack of blaring sirens and the attentions of Raffles, the farm cat who makes it her priority to get to know all the guests.
Later, from the windows of the first floor restaurant we can see her flirting with new arrivals. We can also see where much of the menu comes from. The Eckington Garden aperitif features apple juice from the orchard (as well as gin, elderflower and cucumber), the pan-fried seabass is served with saffron potatoes and pak choi from the garden and the lamb (with dauphinoise potatoes, spring greens and mint sauce) is the farm’s own. I’m not sure if there is any Eckington in the warm banana cake with salted caramel and peanut crumble but the dessert almost makes me sign up for a cooking course there and then.
With food like this, it’s good news that the farm is surrounded by walking trails. After a breakfast of Aga-baked granola and fresh croissants (we’re still too full for the English breakfast including, of course, Eckington Manor sausages) we set off on the three and a half mile route around Judy’s farmland (maps are supplied in the rooms). Following a country lane of towering cow parsley we arrive at the River Avon where a bankside path winds between the peaceful passage of the odd narrowboat and meadows scattered with buttercups. It’s as green and pleasant – and as far away from ugly – as England gets.
Rooms start at £130 per night including breakfast; eckingtonmanor.co.uk