You don’t need to compromise on glamour when you opt for a sustainable break; from glamping to five-star luxury, the UK has some of the best resorts for couples and families. We spent a night at one of England’s finest luxury hotels and another at a fantastic family campsite to get the best of both worlds – and prove you can take a gorgeous green break in style.
South Lodge Hotel, which dates back to 1883, is a luxury hotel set in acres of woodland and parkland in Horsham, East Sussex. It was the family home of Frederick DuCane Godman until Eva and Edith Godwin, his last descendants, died in 1982. The estate was converted into South Lodge Hotel in 1985.
Since then, the hotel has blossomed into a haven of sustainability. Great care was taken to ensure the beautiful camellia between the dining room windows was not disturbed when the home was converted, and The 2 AA Rosetted Camellia restaurant is now an impressive showroom for its head chef, Steven Edwards – the winner of last year’s MasterChef: The Professionals.
The restaurant uses fresh vegetables from its walled kitchen garden and combines them with the finest local Sussex ingredients. The food is absolutely superb; ‘The MasterChef Journey’ (£55) is a five-course menu featuring everything from popcorn to quinoa (a non-veg option is also available) as beautiful, perfectly portioned works of art. Each course was taken from an episode of MasterChef: The Professionals, and rooted in Steven Edwards’ philosophy of ‘creating dishes around humble, seasonal, local produce – using technique and creativity to bring the most flavour out of each ingredient I use.’
To top it off, all the new dishwashers and glass washers at South Lodge feature both water-saving, chemical-saving and energy-saving technology, and the hotel has installed a system to macerate any waste food from the kitchen (though we can’t imagine there’s much of it), which is sent through a ‘rocket system’ in the kitchen garden. Over the following two weeks, it generates compost which is then used on the gardens. The heat produced by the rocket system is directed through the pipe and into the greenhouse, so a meal at The Camellia really is a guilt- and waste-free treat.
The hotel has 89 individually styled bedrooms – some with double baths, steam rooms, private gardens and huge seating areas. There is even one with its own bubbly terrace hot tub overlooking the wonderful Sussex Downs. Hildon Natural Mineral Water – from the closest source to the hotel – is provided in the rooms, along with organic bathroom toiletries which are free from parabens, sulfates and artificial colours. Each hotel room has a ‘green’ card, allowing guests to choose not to have their towels, bed linen, unfinished bottled water and toiletries replaced daily. All mains electricity purchased is from 100% renewable sources, and energy-saving LED lightbulbs have been installed throughout the hotel.
There’s so much to explore at South Lodge that you won’t want to leave, but when you do, anyone with an electric car will be able to drive away on a full charge, thanks to the charging station in the car park.
For rates, availability and more information about South Lodge Hotel, visit www.southlodgehotel.co.uk.
Wellies? Check. Bike? Check. Tent? Not needed. Welcome to Wowo – a glamping experience that keeps all the best bits of the camping experience, but ditches the guy ropes and mallets and ends the nightmare of packing your canvas in the rain. You just rock up and get into your tent – which, by the way, has its own outside area with benches, a small barbecue and your own campfire to keep you warm when the sun’s gone down.
We turned up to find an erected bell tent stocked with mattresses for four, sleeping bags and a picnic basket jammed with cutlery, crockery and a chopping board. Pans and a kettle were available from a huge Aladdin’s cave in the games room, and an on-site shop sells local produce to cook.
Jean and Paul set up Wowo in the beautiful land surrounding their home, Wapsbourne Manor, in the heart of Sussex. Pellingford Brook runs through the centre of the campsite and – as well as hosting a swing that ferries children from one side to the other – provides beautiful waterside camping. You can pitch up your own tent or select one of the site’s yurts, sheperds’ huts or lotus bell tents for a true glamping experience.
There’s so much to do at the campsite that you can’t help but be entertained – whatever your age. It rained for a day while we were there (but then it wouldn’t be a proper UK camping trip if it didn’t) but we were never stuck for things to do – even with a six-year-old and Granny in tow.
As well as workshops with qualified bushcraft and survival instructors who teach you about fire, shelter, water, tracking and how not to get lost in the wild, foraging days are available – and well worth the extra £20-45 per person.
We went foraging with Alice, a lovely and knowledgeable member of the family-run campsite. She gave us a running commentary on the medicinal value of the flowers, leaves and plants beneath our feet as we toured the meadows adjacent to the campsite. Before long we were kneeling to eat the daisies (‘poor man’s arnica’) and dreaming of hawthorn vodka.
We collected clover blossom and made a delicious tea over our campfire when we got back to base, and flambéed nettle leaves in the flames as the water heated. We’d borrowed a BioLite stove, an incredible gadget that lets you charge up your phone as the fuel inside burns. Jean and Paul really have thought of everything to give guests a camping trip like no other.
For information on workshops and to book a trip to Wowo, visit www.wowo.co.uk.
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