Country getaways always promise much. Few deliver. Either the drive from the city is tortuously far, or the boutique hotel in question is suffering from infestation of beetles/damp/chronically inept owners/all of the above. Perhaps your lodgings are next to a brewery or a meat-curing plant, or look out – as was personally experienced once – directly onto a motorway. Often, expectations are simply too high: we seek to get away from life itself, rather than embrace the call of the wild, and the result is disappointment that seeps slowly in, particularly if your nation (as Britain has this Olympic “summer”) fallen victim to the ardour of those annoying deities, the Rain Gods.
But sometimes, just sometimes, you come across a little gem of a place, tucked away in a pristine corner of the countryside, and you start to rethink everything you thought you knew. The Barn at Roundhurst, a few miles from Haslemere on the border of West Sussex and Surrey, in the southern reaches of London’s commuter belt, describes itself as offering “stunning bed and breakfast accommodation” but even those five words barely do it justice.
For one thing, and not to labour the point, but this really is a cracking little getaway. The barn itself, an old threshing hall, has been newly and lovingly renovated by its owners, Richard and Moya Connell. Even on a wet day, the light just floods in to the main building, drawing attention to the massive oak beams that soar and interlock from ceiling to steepled roof. In the corner, a new, wood-burning fire, sits, itching to be used in earnest as the days shorten and winter beckons. Leather sofas – the sort you can really relax on – line the sides of the barn, while a standalone staircase, to an upper-floor reading room simultaneously acts as an attention-stealing mechanism and a way of breaking up the sheer spread of the building.
On the far side of the barn sit the real reason for being here: the rooms. And they don’t disappoint. Super-king-size beds, covered with thick duvets and pillows, and a proper bathroom (big shower, big bath, big sinks – no fannying about here) are de rigeur in each of the spacious six rooms. But what you really notice are the smaller, more ultra-modern touches: electric windows, curtains and blinds keep or dispel the light plus – and this is a blindingly clever touch for any hotel operating in such a damp and soggy island – underfloor heating. And hold onto that thought for a minute – underfloor heating! Yes, it may not be a totally shocking development these days, but how wonderful to find it where you least expected it. No more cold tootsies in the morning or on the 3am trip to the loo. No more insanely hot radiators that merely succeed in extracting all the water from your scalp and giving you a headache.
Richard and Moya are finding their feet (the barn has only been open a few weeks as of early July 2012) and there were a couple of glitches, but only little ones. There is, as yet, no liquor license, though Moya says they are ‘working on one’ and happily invites visitors to bring their own bottles. But these are tiny faults, like rivulets in a sanding beach rather than cracks in stone, and both of the owners, moreover, come across as the sort of people who genuinely care about their guests.
Everything here, in short, has been clearly well-thought-through. There’s a sense that the barn, and its six beautiful little cottage-style rooms, has been meticulously planned. Indeed Richard and Moya bought the barn, which addends their own property, which sweeps down out of steep hills to a valley lined with hornbeams and ash and dappled orchards, in large part because of the existence of the barn, and its commercial potential. A morning breakfast gives you the proper treatment – a full English, complete with bacon, sausage, mushrooms, and eggs, most of it sourced from the property itself or local farms – or a healthy option of berries and cereals. (Great coffee and tea, too).
Finally, there is the countryside. The Barn at Roundhurst allows you to enjoy our green and pleasant land in one of two ways. Here, you can be the sort of person who escapes to the country simply in order to look at rolling fields and cows from the comfort of a plush, well-heated room. But you can also get your feet dirty. Slip on some wellies or some sturdy shoes and head out down Tennyson’s Lane (Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s house, built by the poet, stands on high, in the woodland above the property) for a gander at the real stars of the country. Here, you will find fields full of Sussex cattle, of a type that has been grazing here since Norman times, and – more thrillingly – Richard’s and Moya’s own piggies, snorting and snuffling very happily in a muddy little field a short walk from the property. The woods are great to tramp in, and the South Downs way is a stone’s throw from the property.
And if you want to get out, and enjoy a quick freshener at the local pub, don’t worry – the choice is hearteningly generous. The Mulberry, two miles down the A283 to Chiddingfold, is well regarded, while the Crown Inn in Chiddingfold itself is a 12th Century icon, and popular among tourists. But perhaps the best local pub around is The Swan, also in Chiddingfold. Recently renovated, it offers good grub that’s sometimes exceptional (try the foie gras and the sea bream with samphire), along with a lengthy wine list and at least three ales on tap, including Adnams Broadside and the locally-brewed Shere Drop.
Drink and eat your fill, then, but remember where you are staying and why you are staying there. Richard and Moya have only just opened, but already the place feels like a staple of this genre. The Barn at Roundhurst is a beautiful gem in a carpet of pristinely quilted countryside, and a reminder of how perfect a getaway, if done right, really can be.
Rooms are available at £110, £130 and £150 per night. For reservations call 01428 642535 or visit the website.
The Barn at Roundhurst
Lower Roundhurst Farm, Jobson’s Lane, Lurgashall, West Sussex, GU27 3BY.For more information please visit http://thebarnatroundhurst.com