It’s all very, very English here in the UK’s best village, as voted by The Times, close by the beaches at Chichester and the Witterings, polo at Cowdray and racing at Goodwood. Where some of the National Trust’s finest properties such as Hinton Ampner and Uppark House pop their heads proudly above the verdant Hampshire parapet.
This is a world of gentle English reverie, where South Downs Farm and The Old Dairy sit immersed in tranquillity and dressed with fine fabrics and artefacts. A place to laze around the heated pool amid butterflies, birds, wild orchids and orchards. To gaze for miles across the Meon Valley. And for late-night chats around the fire bowl.
Up to 14 friends and family can refresh and renew here, celebrate and recalibrate, amid some of England’s finest greenery. Find your own corner of the farm, play cricket on the lawns, challenge family members to a game of croquet match, dine al-fresco by the pool, catch a film, devour a book in perfect peace. Open another bottle of wine, gaze at the gardens. There’s no rush.
The gardens at south Downs seem like an extension of the wider environment. The Times tells us West Meon is the UK’s finest village, home to English thatch, leather and willow on the green, and the Thomas Lord, the real-ale pub named after the man who gave his name to the crucible of English cricket.
Life flourishes here amid the verdure. Butterflies, bird species and rare wild orchids thrive among the 50 acres of organic farming, dotted by sheep and cows. Trees have seen centuries of summers. Settle down with a drink on the teak sofa by the outside, built in fireplace. Light the firepit in the two-acre orchard, as you watch your children roast marshmallows, gaze over the unending valley and get the barbie going as you admire the views of the paddocks.
Hiding behind the yew hedge is the pool. Heated to 29 degrees, it’s yours between May and September. Emerge to towel off between dips and refresh with a Pimm’s on the table and chairs or a steak and salad out on the terrace, just within sight of the kids’ trampoline. Perfect.
This is a restful house where you can step back in time and indulge in numerous gentle pastimes – such as croquet, cards and conversation. Our guests say they leave South Downs Farm and Dairy renewed and replenished.
The stylish interiors are straight from an interior magazine, yet nothing here feels staged. Everything about the house is comfortable, calm and harmonious. It’s a happy home, where books abound and logburners warm the evening air.
But we agree South Downs is an English country classic. Modern art is plentiful, new furniture is specially commissioned, and rugs and textiles sit atop toasty-toed underfloor heating downstairs. Castrad radiators warm the upstairs. Robert Kime, Lewis and Wood, and Veere Grenney supply the fabrics and wallpapers.
South Downs is quietly well thought out, rather than curated. It may look professionally designed, but the sofas are still squishy, the spaces cosy and the ambience welcoming and modern. Head to the main living room or snug for DVDs, dock your iPod and tap into the wifi.
Staying here is like diving into the pages of an interiors magazine. You’ll love the sense of style, the old beams and bookcases married with the modern conveniences. Yet you’ll feel right at home with a cup of coffee, a book and your feet up on a footstool.
There’s plenty room for the whole gang to get together, break bread and sip wine. You’ll get a dozen around the dining table very comfortably, or fourteen with two at each end. Two dishwashers making cleaning up a whole lot easier too. In The Old Dairy, there is a properly equipped kitchen and a cosy table for six. Make it a masterchef masterpiece on the Aga and multifunction oven, grill and microwave.
If you prefer to cook al fresco, the gas barbie with its paddock views stands ready, and the outdoor lounge with fireplace will seat up to 14. If you’d prefer not to cook at all, call up our chefs, put your feet up and pop open a Prosecco. We can handle a one-off celebration or a fully catered break.
Eat out in West Meon, the country’s finest village, among the rolling hills of the Meon Valley, at the Thomas Lord, named after the founder of the home of cricket. Tuck into Upham ale-battered hake, calves’ liver or dry-aged beef burger, with truffle and Parmesan fries on the side.
Head to the CAMRA-ready Hawkley Inn for braised rabbit, chicken and Stilton or pan-fried wing of skate. Cleanse your body at the Natural Apothecary, packed with superfoods, smoothies, granola and gluten-free puddings. Or try stylish and simple food served by Michelin-starred chef Jake Saul Watkins at JSW.
Drift away on top of deep, pocket-sprung mattresses enveloped in crisp white linen. Inch open the window and listen to the sound of silence. Wake to birdsong and coffee on the terrace.
There are five bedrooms in the farmhouse. Tamarind offers a superking or two three-foot singles, care of zip-and-link. There’s a luxury en-suite with bath. Honeysuckle sleeps two in a kingsize with en-suite shower. And Saffron is a kingsize, sleeping two.
Blue Rose is a double, while Juniper is also a double that can be swapped for two two-foot-six singles.
In the dairy, the main bedroom is a superking that converts to two three-foot singles through zip-and-link and the second bedroom is home to two three-foot twin beds.