Last Updated on October 7, 2021
Getting it together in the East Sussex country at Ashdown Park
There’s very little more exciting than planning a trip to a country house hotel other than actually going. How long will the driveway be? How big will your bedroom be? How many acres is the garden and is there a spa? In the case of the Ashdown Park Hotel the driveway is really long, our bedroom was huge as is the garden and yes, there is a spa! So we felt very lucky to have been asked to review.
Voted the ‘Top Wedding Venue in England’ this year, the land where the Ashdown Park Hotel is situated was originally part of the Ashdown Forest. It was enclosed in 1693 and in 1867 Mr Thomas Charles Thompson, Member of Parliament for Durham, built what is now the central section of the present-day building and had the grounds landscaped. During the First World War, the building became a hospital and convalescent home for Belgian army officers. In 1918 the estate was bought by a colliery and then in 1919 it was converted into a convent and the East and West Wing and the Church of Our Lady and St Richard added. After a brief stint as a university and then a bank training centre, the 186-acre Ashdown Park Hotel and Country Club opened its doors in October 1993.
There are traces of the history all around and the now deconsecrated church with its beautiful stained-glass windows is used as one of the many event spaces on site.
The hotel’s interior is beautifully maintained and furnished with period furniture and lots of nooks and crannies to enjoy.
There are 95 acres of landscaped woodland, the grounds are lovely and perfect for strolling and exploring; it’s filled with follies and there are many beautiful views of the forest.
There’s a Koi carp-filled lake that glistens with the spray from stunning fountains.
And even a secret garden!
For sports lovers, there is an 18-hole par 3 golf course, 2 tennis courts, pitch and putt, a snooker room and croquet.
But for me, it was all about slipping into the jacuzzi and then knocking out a few lengths in the 12 x 6m swimming pool.
In the spa, there is also a full range of treatments available, a well put together gym, a new age style Relaxation Lounge and the Forest Brasserie for a drink or a meal.
We stayed in a wonderful suite with a huge and very comfortable King-size bed. There are fabulous views of the parkland so we felt very indulgent relaxing on the 3-piece suite watching the sun come down.
The room has a TV, fridge, iron, hairdryer and kettle and the en-suite bathroom is well stocked with Molton Brown toiletries, a shower and a luxurious whirlpool bath.
After our swim and walk and having seen people tucking into scrumptious looking afternoon teas in the elegant lounges, we needed a drink and dinner! Fortunately, we were booked into the hotel’s 2 AA Rosette and prize-winning Anderida Restaurant.
We stopped off for a drink at the stylish bar beforehand. There is an exciting looking cocktail list. I chose a Bittersweet Symphony, a refreshing blend of grapefruit juice, elderflower cordial and champagne – a perfect palate cleanser. She has a Girlfriend – a sweet and fragrant mix of Edgerton Pink Gin, Rosé Water, fresh mint leaves, lemonade and fresh cranberry juice.
The Anderida dining room has a classic English country house hotel interior with the walls filled with contemporary artworks featuring the Ashdown Forest. After a zingy, vegetal tomato gazpacho as an amuse-bouche, we moved on to the green apple, buttery notes of a bottle of Chablis. Jean-Marc Brocard 2019.
My Portland crab salad featured a generous portion of fresh white crab meat given a lift by the acidity of a lemon purée and pickled shallots. With the additional crunch of radish, avocado cream and baby herbs it was a perfect late summer’s dish.
Beetroot tartar came with artichokes, the interesting smokiness of charred avocado, and micro herbs.
The main dish of nicely seared cod and chive mash came with a slick of tapenade and sat on a rich bearnaise sauce.
The Woodland Risotto with wild mushrooms, baby spinach, crispy onion and beetroot was full-flavoured and properly al dente.
Desserts were a highlight. A chocolate fondant oozed appropriately when cut and the ganache, milk gel, milk ice cream and cocoa nib crisp added textural and taste contrast; and a nutty, warm sticky toffee apple cake came with a crisp apple sorbet For meat lovers the menu has an exciting-sounding Chateaubriand for Two; it would be worth making a visit just for that!
After a great night’s sleep, nothing beats a classic English breakfast in a country house hotel. There is a full range of drinks, cereals and pastries – the pain au chocolat was particularly good. From the cooked options we chose the Ashdown Park Full English Lifestyle Breakfast – a Quorn sausage, grilled tomato, mushrooms, baked beans, smashed avocado and roast pepper – very healthy!
Great quality smoked salmon came with poached eggs on top – I love to see the yoke run…!
The Ashdown Park Hotel is the perfect venue for a special event or a luxury staycation with plenty to do on-site and in the local area. It’s just over an hour’s drive from West London making it super-accessible via the M25, M23 or A22 and it is situated in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with its many miles of off-road cycling routes, including Forest Way, a 10-mile cycle route on a flat disused railway line (bikes can be hired from Tablehurst Community Farm in Forest Row).
It’s impossible not to mention Winnie the Pooh ( it’s Pooh’s 95th anniversary!) when writing about the Ashdown Forest. Close to the hotel is the village of Hartfield where you can find Pooh Corner – a tea and gift shop with a Winnie the Pooh museum – and from Gills Lap clump in the forest, there are wonderful walks with Pooh destinations celebrated rather charmingly. Of course, you will want to play Pooh Sticks at the original bridge. Sadly the original has been replaced and is being auctioned off. The new one is down rather a long hill and the stream was clogged from over-Pooh-sticking on our visit.
The Ashdown Park Hotel is a wonderful place for a celebration and if you want to add a romantic twist to a wedding proposal or birthday treat, Gotwick Horse Drawn Carriages offer a 75-minute private horse-drawn carriage ride through ancient woodland with a bottle of sparkling wine from nearby Kingscote Estate & Vineyard. Prices from £199 for two people (£50 supplement from Friday-Sunday).
To the west of Ashdown Forest is Plaw Hatch Farm, a 200-acre community-owned biodynamic farm with a 12-acre kitchen garden, a butchery, dairy, farm shop and coffee barn on site. Visitors are welcome – you can watch the cows being milked at 4 pm daily.
We will be returning to the hotel as there is so much more we want to do there. It’s well worth a visit.
Ashdown Park Wych Cross, Nr Forest Row East Sussex RH18 5JR T
+44 (0)1342 824988