Stylist’s editor Susan Riley indulges in a terribly British weekend at an ever-blossoming Cotswold retreat.
I don’t know what it is about January that makes me want – no, need – a quintessential British weekend away. But it happens every single year. Straight after the Celebrations tub has been cast aside, all I long for is to retreat to a village like the one Bridget Jones visited whenever she went home and wore ridiculous jumpers. My quest? To stroll past picturesque steeples and over stiles, get my wellies muddy enough to look authentically countrified and be reinvigorated in the way that only crisp English air can do.
To this end, I would place money on the fact that if there’s ever a Bridget Jones’ Baby 2, location scouts would definitely be sniffing round Thyme – a peaceful yet impressive ‘haute hamlet’ that’s not so much tucked away in the Cotswold village of Southrop, as becoming its beating heart. Across 150 acres with a working farm (complete with two flocks of sheep, chickens and ducks), pub, spa and cookery school, checking in here is like The Truman Show meets Postman Pat, in the very best way. Being here (‘here’ being 35 minutes from Oxford or a scenic 30-minute drive from Charlbury station) is also to be transported back in time. Mentioned in the Domesday Book and once owned by Elizabeth I’s secretary of state, Sir Robert Cecil, Thyme is now a walking tour of 17th-century buildings and cottages, which are – piece by glorious piece – being lovingly restored by their current owners, the Hibbert family. They first opened Thyme to guests in 2009 – first as cottage holiday lets followed by hotel rooms in 2015 – and, like everything with strong roots, it’s continuing to grow.
The latest addition is the Ox Barn, launched in November, former home of the farm’s working oxen and now Thyme’s impressive new restaurant. Charlie Hibbert heads up its vast open kitchen, showing the mechanics behind local dishes such as roast Southrop lamb with braised beans and salsa verde, and the ultimate dessert for a winter’s evening: almond and crab apple tart with cream and ice cream. Also new is the Lodge, a refurbished house across the garden and past the heated outdoor pure water swimming pool (DO IT). With nine botanically-named bedrooms and an honesty bar stuffed with half bottles of Nyetimber and midnight snacks, its opening alongside some just-finished garden rooms, brings Thyme’s bedroom tally up to a very village-y 31.
I spent my day here thinking very hard about where to walk (Thyme’s pub The Swan takes two minutes so an obvious choice), or to cycle (the bikes have those wonderful wicker baskets that you want to steal a dog to put in), or whether to channel my inner Kerber on the tennis court. In the end I didn’t get my wellies muddy. But I did sit on a woolly ‘sheep seat’ in The Baa Bar and enjoy the most epic glass of rhubarb and bramley apple gin with tonic and a doorstopper wedge of orange. So quest completed. Reinvigoration achieved. This is most definitely what a British January is all about.
Rooms start from £300 B&B. Book via thyme.co.uk or contact firstname.lastname@example.org; 01367 850 174
Images: Courtesy of Thyme