Treat yourself to a luxury escape at one of the grandest hotels in Sussex, set amid the beautiful Ashdown Forest – home to AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh
If you’re after a taste of the finer things in life, however, then Ashdown Park Hotel and Country Club could be just the ticket, with its own 18-hole golf course, spa, refined lounges and elegant suites.
Although there would have been a property here long before, the mansion house that we see today was built in 1867 for the MP for Durham, Mr Thomas Charles Thompson, who rather curiously left a stipulation in his will that a black suit be given to each of his employees so that they would have something smart to wear at his funeral.
Since then the house has performed various duties: as a convalescent home for Belgian army officers during the First World War; a nunnery (during which time both the west and east wings were added); a university and (briefly) a training centre.
Today the hotel’s grounds cover an enormous 186 acres, which includes 95 acres of landscaped woodland and 40 acres of grazing land, where wild deer roam freely.
If you want to make the most of the grounds then the hotel offers picnic hampers, which you can take with you on a jaunt through the woodland trails or to a secluded spot in a secret garden – you can even take one to the opera at nearby Glyndebourne if that tickles your fancy.
There is an option for an afternoon tea picnic but for us the best setting for this is in one of the opulent lounges where you can really channel your inner English gent or lady, with homemade scones and sandwiches all served to you on fine bone china as you recline in a comfy armchair.
Come dinner time the Anderida dining room is an exquisite setting and definitely worth getting dressed up for. Dishes such as braised ox cheeks and guinea fowl have a traditional British slant (vegetarian options are available too) and the extensive wine list pleasingly offers a good variety of English wines.
In keeping with its forest location, each of the hotel’s rooms is named after a species of tree found in Ashdown Forest and they offer just the right amount of luxury – some even have four-poster beds and whirlpool baths – and most have beautiful views of rolling parkland.
The hotel is just a short drive from Hartfield, where children’s author A A Milne lived with his wife and son, Christopher Robin. Milne made no secret of the fact that Ashdown Forest was the setting for the classic adventures of Pooh and his friends, and the bridge where Poohsticks was invented is just south of the village.