For Serenity, always Prefer the Cottage to the Palace
Located on the thriving Cowdray Estate, the estate’s self-catering cottages offer seclusion
Review by Andy Barnham
For all the advantages of staying in a hotel for a night away, there are times when they’re just not quite right. Yes I love clean sheets daily, despite the obvious carbon footprint, and the breakfast buffets normally on offer entice me back for repeat tastings. However, for all the convenience on tap, sometimes the lack of living space and kitchen irks me. Often it’s as simple as wanting to make toast or having a fridge large enough to accommodate something other than tiny canned drinks. Luckily in the world of choice in which we now live there are alternatives to hotels and B&Bs. For those who enjoy staying in homes Airbnb is just a few clicks away, while for those who prefer to escape the big smoke and breathe in some English countryside air, self-catering cottages are increasingly available.
Located in the South Downs National Park are the self-catering cottages of the Cowdray Estate. The Estate, which also includes polo grounds, a golf course, Cowdray House and Cowdray Heritage (the remains of an early Tudor house) has four cottages available for rent for a minimum of two nights. On the eastern edge of the estate and backing onto the golf course the cottages form a half crescent, secluded from prying eyes while being merely a stone’s throw from the local A road. Recently renovated, the cottages sleep between two to four people, with one of them also being dog friendly. As you’d expect the cottages come with all the mods cons including wifi and Heathend, where this reviewer stayed, had a generously sized and well equipped kitchen and an ensuite bathroom next to the master bedroom in addition to a shower room accessible for all who stay. A welcome pack, including fresh eggs, a loaf and apple juice from the Farm Shop greets guests and can be found alongside an information pack offering local knowledge, advice and phone numbers. For history boffins the grounds behind the cottage are open to walks and include the Queen Elizabeth Oak, a tree named after Elizabeth I who it is claimed once waited beneath it for a stag to be driven towards her waiting bow. Fortunately for the stag, she was unsuccessful. Designated one of 50 Great British trees, the girth makes it the second thickest Sessile Oak in Europe and it wouldn’t feel out of place in a horror movie were various undead to erupt from its virtually hollow trunk.
For anyone enjoying the various festivities the local area has to offer, the cottages are perfectly situated. For polo fans Cowdray Park Polo Club is one of the leading polo clubs in the country, hosting 450 matches each season between April and September. And in addition to the activities on offer at the estate, which include shooting and fly fishing, Goodwood Motor Circuit is 20 minutes south by car.
Yet for all the positives, there are limitations to the cottages. As indicated, the cottages are self catering and guests should ensure they bring with them all they require as there is no corner shop for the just in case purchases; the Cowdray Cafe and Farm Shop are over a mile away by car with no walking option unless you like enjoy ambulating along the verge of a busy A road (which is ever audible from the cottages). Whilst the farm shop is well stocked with local, fresh goodness, and full of friendly staff, there is often a premium to pay for local and hand made produce; eggs, sausages and bacon will set you back £10 and full English breakfasts with coffee for two costs £26 (the next nearest supermarkets are a Tesco Express in Midhurst and a Sainsbury in Liphook, 2 miles and 10 miles away respectively). Guests should be mindful that travel to and from the cottages requires four wheels and more likely than not, their own wheels. While there are a dozen or so taxi companies that operate in the area anyone wishing to have a drink will need to book in advance; of the dozen taxi companies called at 4pm, all were completely booked up for the remainder of the day apart from the £35 quote to go 2.4 miles to the local town of Midhurst. Despite all elements of the estate being accessible by car within five minutes, the necessity of wheeled as opposed to walking transport, make the cottages feel isolated – a feeling reinforced by the requirement to keep the windows closed lest being eaten alive by mosquitoes (I stopped keeping count of my tally after I reached a dozen). And while there is a BBQ available to be used, for some reason it is located in the middle of the car park.
Do these limitations detract from the cottages? I clearly missed the memo about the exact location of the cottages on the estate and expected synergy between the elements of Cowdray and the feel of a local community. I had been hoping for a short stroll to a countryside local in the evening, enjoying a pint of local ale and then a jaunt to the cafe for a full English in the morning. However, maybe you’re not after a local or local conveniences and maybe an isolated cottage offers the independence you’re after. Maybe you’re after a pillow for the night a stone’s throw from a convenient A road. So if you’re looking for a base of operations from which to sally forth, then the chances are what some may regard as limitations will be viewed as positives. Just make sure you bring your mossie repellant.