Home > Blog

June 2015

Posts on June 2015

Luxury stay amongst roses

Sam Bertram

26 June 2015

Buckerfields Barn in Ogbourne St George near Marlborough is a delightful self-catering holiday spot set in Sonia Wright’s plant nursery with views to the downs behind. Sonia Wright’s plants have been going since 1992 and has a special interest in unusual plants. Buckerfields Barn with its four apartments has been open just 15 months to rave reviews and no less than 5 stars - one visitor even gave them 6 out of 5. People comment on the warm friendly welcome, quiet, lovely views, privacy, spaciousness, beautiful furnishings and comfortable beds and so close to great things to do – in fact exceeding expectations with many stating intent to return. The welcome pack with fresh farm eggs, crusty bread, flowers and the all-important bottle of wine gets the visit off on the right footing! Your friendly hosts are Sonia and Tel Wright. Sonia grew up in Surrey although spent the first few years of her life in the West Indies where her father had grown up on a sugar plantation. Tel is a Man of Kent or Kentish Man (depending which side of the Medway you hail). He almost became a carrot farmer – a career offered to him at the age of 16 by his relative with good fertile land in the fens. Being only 16, carrots didn’t sound that tempting, so he became a trainee surveyor instead!  Like so many they met at a party while living & working in London. Tel had actually arrived with a Swedish girlfriend who had to make an early exit when he spotted Sonia. After marrying in 1965 and a week’s honeymoon in Cornwall they found themselves homeless, so Tel went out one lunch hour and quickly took a rental on a flat in Brixton. They lived there briefly before moving to East Grinstead – finally moving to Wiltshire in 1967. It was Fawlty Towers, or Sonia’s parents’ version of it, that brought them to Wiltshire. Her parents were running a not dissimilar hotel in Savernake and were in need of help so Tel and Sonia came to the rescue. Sonia would cook on the coal fired Aga and assumed the role of chamber maid. Meanwhile Tel would be surveyor by day in Swindon and barman by night at the hotel. It was a busy time – they had two sons Toby and Justin and Tel was doing a correspondence course to try to qualify as a chartered surveyor.   They’ve now lived in Aldbourne since 1971 and have had the plot where Sonia Wright’s Plants and Buckerfields Barn reside since 2002. A lucrative landscaping contract in the Highlands presented the opportunity to buy more land, along with the perk of mates’ rates at a whisky distillery.  Sadly for Tel the mates’ rates have now expired! Tel left surveying shortly after a major life change of quitting smoking and has had his own businesses since. He now has The Black and Wright Building Company – mainly working on old and listed buildings. He doesn’t like commuting so most of his jobs are 250 yards from home! Sonia has always loved gardening and the plant nursery and rose garden provide a tranquil environment for those staying at Buckerfields Barn. She’d be happy propagating plants all day especially the more unusual plants such as old fashioned French roses. Her favourites are Roses and Irises – she just loves the wonderful luxury of them and she sources seeds for all her plants from all over the world. You can visit the nursery any day of the week except Sunday and Sonia is a regular stallholder at the Wednesday and Saturday market on Marlborough High Street. So if you’re looking for an escape with lots of options of things to do Buckerfields Barn has to be it. Not far from the motorway it’s close to Avebury, Lacock, Stonehenge and film locations for Poldark, Wolf Hall and Downton Abbey. Marlborough with its fabulous shops and cafes is just up the road as well as a lovely farm shop from which to buy produce. The pub is in walking distance and they’re on the Ridgeway so there are fabulous walks all around.  One regular customer keeps a bike there for his cycling adventures when he’s staying.  There’s nowhere better to relax in the day than in their rose garden or in one of the apartment’s conservatories. Just look up at the peaceful big skies and you’ll feel like you’ve got away from it all… www.buckerfieldsbarn.co.uk  

Continue reading...

Beautiful stay or wedding day

Sam Bertram

4 June 2015

Rushall Manor Bed & Breakfast is in a stunning location at the edge of Rushall with sweeping views towards the plain behind. The manicured lawn to the front, with the attractive 1837 manor house as a backdrop, is perfect for weddings. Caroline Larken’s parents in law were the previous owners and avid gardeners, planting many magnificent trees such as Acers, Poplar, Beech and a Handkerchief tree. Caroline works hard to keep the garden to the same high standard – if a tree comes down it’s always replaced and all of Caroline’s family, grandchildren included, have a special tree. In 2000 Caroline and her husband Jasper were living in London and spending weekends in Oxfordshire when his mother passed away. They started to spend weekends at the manor, but it was only in 2008 when Jasper was diagnosed with a terminal disease that they moved completely. They spent the last two years of Jasper’s life creating wonderful memories at Rushall Manor and as a result of his care from Prospect Hospice Caroline is an ardent supporter of the charity. In the year following his death she worked to raise £26,000 for the hospice as a nod to the 26 days Jasper spent there.  A year later in 2011 Caroline was at a charity event when she bid for a life coaching session in the auction. Her wonderful life coach Biddy told Caroline she could do anything she wanted but she needed to establish what was important. Caroline knew it was her family, friends and house so she decided to start a Bed & Breakfast to share it with others. Biddy was her first customer, taking over the manor for her mother’s 90th birthday, and Caroline has never looked back. She now has lots of new and returning customers. There are those discovering the beautiful Wiltshire countryside – walkers, bikers and those who just want to get away.  Some are there on business, mostly military visiting the nearby Trenchard Lines. Caroline has even had wonderful wedding weekends with the bridegroom’s family all staying, and she’s provided lunches and meals and the house has been filled with laughter. Caroline also lets the manor to groups who want to take over the whole house – it can sleep up to 11. And her front lawn is a stunning venue for weddings. With a marquee on the lawn, lovely views, the use of the house as if it’s their own, it’s perfect for creating memories.   For those on holiday Rushall Manor has an excellent location. There are plenty of walks on Salisbury Plain, The Kennet and Avon Canal and Avebury, Stonehenge, Salisbury and Bath are all nearby. There are lots of local pubs for a meal and Rushall has a Norman Church that’s worth a visit. Caroline is born and bred in New York City and attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts with classmate Danny DeVito. She always thought she’d be in New York but love tends to find you in places you never thought you’d be. Before she met Jasper she starred in a soap opera ‘As the World Turns’ and did theatre touring with the Summer Stocks. However, once married she left the acting world behind, she’d seen too many unhappy marriages in theatre to take that risk. 6 months after their wedding they re-located to London which Caroline hated at first as she found it hard to be accepted. That was until one charity tea party where she told the girls how unfriendly they were. Whether they realised she was a gutsy sort or the error of their ways she soon made some wonderful friends. As Caroline says ‘An English friend is a friend forever’. Caroline definitely feels at home in Rushall - she plays golf, bridge and loves to read and walk and go to the theatre. Her daughter Melissa lives close by in Hampshire with her 3 grandsons and her son Jonathan is in Connecticut with his family.   It’s a beautiful home in a fabulous location and when you meet Caroline she is instantly warm and welcoming which sets the precedent for the stay ahead. You won’t regret it. www.rushallmanor.com  

Continue reading...

Posh Picnics

Gastro Nicks

3 June 2015

Winter is now firmly behind us. Open the windows, turn the central heating off and dig out your favourite flip flops. The long summer days play host to many wonderful music festivals, sporting events and fun filled occasions with family or friends. This can only mean one thing - the picnic season is upon us.  Relaxing whilst grazing over a mini feast for the whole day is a great way to spend some precious free time. Whether you are lazing by a quiet stream reading a novel or playing rounders with 16 children in a meadow, there is no arguing that food always tastes so much better when eaten outdoors. In true Great British style, I have heard some say that to be sure of a successful picnic, you need the weather. Not so. I have attended many amazing picnics where we held onto our hats or sheltered from the rain under the open boot of a 4x4. Obviously good weather is appreciated, as is good company but the single most important thing about a good picnic is having great food and drink. Whether you are planning a romantic picnic for you and your significant other or a fabulous feast for friends, choose your ingredients carefully. A romantic picnic with champagne, strawberries and dipping chocolate is fantastically indulgent. Your fizz should be cold and served in glass flutes always. A sparkling wine never tastes the same from a plastic beaker! The strawberries should be sumptuously sweet and the chocolate sauce for dipping, as if made especially for picnicking comes packaged in re-sealable jars. Perfect. Alternatively, preparing a Mediterranean feast for friends can be just as luxurious. Choose Italian flat breads and ciabattas. Forget butter, thinly spread fresh pesto or tapenade before layering slices of salami and cheese. Rather than wrapping in cling film, take some extra time with your presentation. Using a piece of grease proof paper to wrap around your bread, secure with string. I promise you, it is like opening up a little gift. If you prefer, everyone can make their own at the picnic. Have a platter of various cold meats and cheeses accompanied with chutneys and jellies. Crudités should be prepared for dipping in hummus, succulent olives stuffed with garlic or lemon are another great addition to the picnic. To satisfy your sweet tooth, prepare some pineapple, strawberry, kiwi and grapes. Again, bring along the secret weapon of dipping chocolate. You can always have some marshmallows tucked away too. All this can be served with a light cordial. My personal favourite is blackcurrant and basil. It's light and refreshing and can be mixed with still or sparking water. You can even add a dash to some prosecco. Summertime in a glass. Now preparing these fabulous picnics is all well and good however you cannot start planning without one key item. A plastic backed picnic rug. These are undoubtedly the single best 'picnic' invention. Doubling up as a barrier against damp ground and a cosy blanket to wrap up chilly children when the cool wind picks up, no picnic would be the same without one. Tupperware is another picnic must have. I am not talking about the ugly Tupperware you use to store leftover bolognese in your fridge (although this does the job too). I have discovered a whole new concept of picnic ready Tupperware. Coloured bowls with airtight tops available in every size, perfect for transporting and serving mouth-watering salads, dips and dishes. They look good on your picnic rug, prevent your fruit salad from ending up in the foot well of your car enroute to the picnic and act as the perfect deterrent for those pesky wasps. Hmmmm, all this said, I must dash. I am off to plan a picnic! Gastro Nicks is a high quality delicatessen based in Collingbourne Ducis near Marlborough - all their artisan produce is available from their shop and online www.gastronicks.co.uk      

Continue reading...