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After an hour of driving we had swapped monotonous motorways for country lanes snaking their way through the High Weald’s rolling fields and forests. As we peeled away from the road and began bouncing our way down the bumpy mud track towards New House Farm, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of coming home. Surely I’m not the only one that regularly toys with the notion of abandoning the big smoke and setting up camp in the sticks, all Little House on the Prairie style?
I know what you’re thinking; you would miss the restaurants, bars and spas. Well fear not, west Londonites, for I have uncovered a stylish under-the-radar rustic bolthole crammed with twenty-first-century luxuries. Hot tub, check. Spa treatments, check. Private chef, check. REN toiletries adorning your roll-top bath… it’s got the lot folks, and it’s all hidden down an ominous muddy track and guarded by a horny chicken.
The Lodges at New House Farm are a family run affair, with six luxury lodge conversions dotted around an old hilltop farmyard that boasts breathtaking views of the Rother Valley. Situated on the East Sussex/Kent border, the 12-acre farm is home to various furry and feathered friends; bottle-reared goats think they are part of the family, the miniature horse used to hang out in the main house and I have it on good authority that one of the chickens is feeling rather fruity—hence the strutting and booty-shaking.
We were staying in a one-bedroom Garden Lodge, just behind a wonderful walled garden with swinging chairs, cosy fire pits and sweeping vistas of the valley beyond. Inside, the furnishings were minimalist yet decadent, with warm oatmeal walls, exposed beams and an enormous deep plum velvet sofa providing the perfect fireside perch for a post-walk pick-me-up. King size beds were decked out in pristine Egyptian cotton and snug throws and the indulgent REN bath oil also made an evening soak in the roll-top bath a must.
Poolside Lodges are popular with families, offering direct access to the heated pool that is used during summer months, while girlie getaways should book the Stable Lodge—it is a little more secluded than the other lodges and has great views of the valley. It is also right next to the hot tub and treatment lodge, where Shelly from Shhh Holistic provides indulgent bespoke massages. Using organic hand-poured essential oils she incorporates elements of reiki, Ko Bo Do and Balinese massage into her treatments.
Throughout the year the lodges also offer a wide variety of retreats and workshops, including yoga, pilates and fitness camps. A magnificent 300-year-old barn is open to all, with grand leather armchairs huddled around a roaring inglenook fire—here you will also find communal games and a secret play loft for young guests to plot away.
Each lodge has its own small kitchen and dining area and with so many fantastic local farm shops nesters can be forgiven for going into lockdown mode. In this area you can’t drive for more than a minute without finding a grand abode selling home reared duck eggs, or stumbling on an independent butcher or baker. Award-winning farm shop Eggs to Apples is a few minutes away and is bursting with local produce—buy one of their refillable wine bottles and help yourself from the barrel each day! They also have outdoor seating overlooking the countryside, perfect for an al fresco lunch.
We enjoyed two fantastic dinners at The Bell in nearby Ticehurst—it made such a good first impression that we booked for the following evening mid-way through our starter. The cosy, award-winning pub offers interesting and well executed seasonal dishes in quirky surrounds—and where else can you pee into a tuba? (Sorry ladies, this novelty is reserved for the gents).
For those after a quintessential English pub, Ticehurst is also home to The Bull; think an old-fashioned bar area traditionally decked out in dried hops, a good selection of local ales and decent pub grub.
For a special occasion, The Lodges at New House Farm also work with a talented local chef to offer exclusive private dining experiences within the grand Long Barn.
WHO GOES THERE?
Your weekend Hunter-welly-wearer! Lots of guests flock from London in search of a shot of true village life (sorry Chiswick). The fun on the farm and swimming pool attract families seeking fresh air and freedom and the log fires and roll-top baths pull in professional couples after a romantic weekend of good clean (or muddy) fun.
OUT AND ABOUT
It is easy to see why the High Weald’s medieval hills, wild flower meadows and forest streams have been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) for over three decades. The misty valleys are scattered with well-preserved villages, traditional timber-clad abodes and of course the odd oast house for good measure. Many of the area’s high streets boast thriving independent stores—in nearby Ticehurst you will find a great local baker, a weekly fishmonger, a sophisticated art shop, various tea rooms and the aforementioned pubs. The popular coastal town of Hastings is just half an hour away, as is Royal Tunbridge Wells and its Georgian parade, The Pantiles.
The farm itself is set within 12 acres of private fields and gardens. Beyond this is the beautiful Rother Valley; latticed with picturesque walking routes, it is ideal for hiking. We abandoned the lodge’s maps and itineraries (okay, we forgot to pick them up) and headed off aimlessly into the abyss, weaving our way through fields of sheep and cows, over the river and trainline and towards Etchingham, where we rewarded ourselves with a treat at the local butcher… who took us through old photographs of the shop in days gone by.
Do allow an extra hour, for the friendly locals are keen to hear all about your plans for the day… and where you come from, your hopes, dreams, ambitions, and anything else you are happy to share. I knew more neighbours after 48 hours there than I did after a decade in London!
Wine lovers will be excited to hear that the lodges are also located close to some great English wine producers. If a stay here leaves you wanting more, check out Vine Social’s English wine tours. Departing regularly from southwest London, a day out with these guys gets you into some of the best wineries around—including the nearby Oxney Organic Estate.
THE WORST THING
We found the kitchen a bit small for serious cooking—but frankly, with an award-winning pub down the road and a private chef just a phone call away, why waste time cooking?
THE BEST THING
The Lodges at New House Farm offer a genuine taste of life in the sticks without having to sacrifice life’s little luxuries. Mornings begin with a freshly baked pastry basket delivered to your door. Muddy walks in the valley are rewarded with a bubble in the hot tub and days spent exploring the beautiful High Weald end with a glass of world-class local wine in front of the roaring log fire.