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Archive for February, 2015

Gravetye Manor: Hotel, Restaurant and World Renowned Garden

Gravetye Manor is a small Elizabethan country house set in 1000 acres of the Sussex Downs. Built by Richard Infield for his bride Katherine in 1598 it is a beautifully proportioned house, with 17 bedrooms individually decorated in contemporary furnishings, but with large windows, wood panelled walls, and some with fireplaces and four-poster beds. There are several cosy sitting rooms, private dining rooms for families/larger parties all complete with roaring fires and abundant simple but beautiful floral arrangements.

Gravetye Manor is a delight for those interested in architecture, food or traditional English Gardens and is a member of Relais et Chateaux and Pride of Britain. It is rapidly gaining a fast reputation for the standard of food offered on the menu, prepared by Head Chef George Blogg and his team. Produce is supplied by local suppliers (mainly from Sussex) or in the case of most of the required fruit or vegetables, from their own kitchen garden or glass houses.

The 35 acres of garden really developed in 1884 when William Robinson redesigned the gardens, incorporating a more informal ‘English Garden’ look, than the previously traditional, formal Victorian garden. The garden is looked after by Head Gardener Tom Coward and his team of five full-time gardeners. It includes one of the oldest semi-circular walled kitchen in Europe (1.5 acres), glasshouses, lake and various different ‘gardens’ including a wild meadow. Great banks of flowers include snowdrops (and of course, the Gravetye species), daffodils, tulips, roses, clematis, rhododendrums, bluebells etc. feature throughout the 35 acres.

The Manor holds events throughout the year such as champagne/wine tasting, floral arrangements, and guided walks/talks around the gardens. It is within close proximity to East Grinstead or Gatwick airport and thus makes it highly convenient to visit from London, either for the day or a weekend. Guests who wish to visit Glyndbourne whilst staying at Gravetye are guaranteed tickets – usually highly sought after and difficult to obtain.

Gravetye looks beautiful throughout the year, but the gardens are particularly magnificent in April/May when the spring bulbs show through. When we visited we were lucky enough to wake up to snow – completely magical.

We would highly recommend this beautiful, small and personal country house hotel. A true escape from London and yet within a short space of time, you can be in a completely different world. A world where courtesy, charm, tranquility and professionalism are all taken as a matter of course.

Lucy & Stephen were guests of Gravetye Manor

www.gravetyemanor.co.uk

www.thekensingtonmagazine.com

Images and copyright:  Lucy Elliott www.lucyelliottphotography.com

HRH Duchess of Cornwall visits Holland Park School and meets winner of Creative Writing Competition by First Story

HRH Duchess of Cornwall delighted staff and students last week by visiting Holland Park School in Kensington. Shown around the futuristic looking new school by Head Teacher Coliin Hall, she clearly enjoyed seeing the building and popping in to join in various classes. Admitting that neither Latin nor Science were her particular favourite, it was clear she was more comfortable in the English classes. In addition she visited three classrooms holding ‘creative writing’ classes with schools from across the country, participating in the charity, First Story of which the Duchess is Patron. She was clearly at ease and didn’t just speak with children at the front of the class but ventured to the very back, ensuring every child could claim to have met the Duchess, in years to come. Those who were invited to speak to read out their work, were in the main, rather nervous, but with her encouragement and genuine enthusiasm, nerves were soon dispelled and children from disadvantaged background proved that with the right type of care and nurturing, anything is possible.

The Duchess then attended a synopsis of the Staff production of Much Ado About Nothing, at the end of which she announced and met the winner of the creative writing competition 2014-15. In turn she was presented with a bouquet of flowers and a professionally produced anthology of work by the pupils of First Story. Finally she gave a speech in which she surmised that due to the high standard she had seen that morning, it could well be that one of these pupils may be a famous writer in the future. Inspiration indeed!

www.thekensingtonmagazine.com
www.hollandparkschool.co.uk

www.firststory.org.uk

All images and copyright: Lucy Elliott
www.lucyelliottphotography.com

Classic but contemporary: The Oyster Box Hotel, Durban, South Africa

The Oyster Box Hotel on the ocean coast of Umhlanga (exotically pronounced Umshlanga) is a colonial but modern, beautiful hotel just outside Durban. Conveniently located for the airport, it is clearly making a name for itself, both as a hotel for visitors, and a destination for locals. The famed ‘Lighthouse Bar’ was packed the evening we visited – overlooking the Lighthouse, with the waves crashing on a summers balmy evening it seemed a far cry from our very cold and chilly London.

Equally busy was lunchtime on the Terrace, overlooking the pool and the ocean. Staff wearing colonial type uniform, beaming away, carrying plates of huge salads, skewers of fish or curries (for which the hotel is famous). Afternoon tea is provided inside and comprises a huge table filled high with cakes, biscuits, scones and sandwiches. So much so this was providing the backdrop for many couples having a romantic and traditional English Tea.

We visited The Oyster Box some 15 years ago – it was a rather sad hotel clearly lacking love or attention. Taken over by Red Carnation Hotel in 2009 it now has both and doesn’t need the beacon of the lighthouse to make it stand out from the crowd. With only 86 rooms and some 600 staff, customer service is top notch, professional and well executed.

There is a separate building for the Spa, individual ‘villa or loft type’ rooms and a Presidential Suite – secluded and offering all the privacy the celebrities or VIPs who stay, need. Weddings are very popular here and the hotel has a special outside area to host these prior to sitting down in splendour in one of the huge dining rooms.

Children are well catered for and made very welcome, with children’s clubs and films, held in the hotel’s very own Cinema Room, complete with popcorn.

If you ever only go to one hotel in Durban, make it the Oyster Box – classic, classy, contemporary and convivial.

www.oysterboxhotel.com

Images and copyright:  www.lucyelliottphotography.com

www.thekensingtonmagazine.com

Life in the Bush: Molori Safari Lodge in Madikwe Game Reserve South Africa

We recently had the honour of reviewing Molori Safari Lodge in the Madikwe Game Reserve for our March Travel edition ‘Out of Kensington’.  Madikwe is a malarial-free area, some 400 km from Johannesburg and is home to the Big Five and some 350 different species of birds. Here is an excerpt from our diary:

We are having such an amazing experience and really feel we have arrived!  Molori Safari Game lodge is wonderful – very small, very understated smart, serious customer service, lovely people and no bling in sight.  We were given a two bedroom exec ‘suite’ – more like a lovely house with its own pool over looking a watering hole – the first lunchtime about 20 elephants paraded to it – along with a couple of babies – a wonderful sight.  We were v lucky as we never saw this again, and they didn’t stay long.

Game drives are typically about 4 – 6 hours long (in a session) which go surprisingly fast.  We have an excellent guide who has not been to uni, but is the most intelligent person I’ve ever met.  He is paying to send his children to private school, which I suspect is a first for an African guide.   He is extremely passionate and enthusiastic.  Highlights were coming across two lions who had just killed a wildebeest and had eaten so much they were hyperventilating; having dinner in the bush – table cloths, candles etc with the owners of the lodge and their family who happened to be on holiday at the same time as us (here think the South African equivalent of Richard Branson).  Very friendly and welcoming as were his kids (early 20s) and wife.  There was a tea-candlelit path to the loo which I expected to be a hole in the ground but no, behind a little wooden fence sat a rather splendid porcelain white loo – facing onto the bush with the stars above.

The next day we went for a night safari and came across a leopard, apparently snoozing, but a minute later was up chasing a poor baby rhino who was stuck in the mud in a watering hole.  With fierce defence and defiance from its mother the leopard backed off. The guide then cooked us a stew in the bush, this time more informal, just with some camping chairs etc. but with a very full large freezer box, akin to a full bar – plenty of whiskey.  After a lesson in astronomy we packed up at about 10.30 pm. went to see how the lions were getting on with their feasting, had a good look and then realised the jeep had a puncture.  Now this was scary stuff.  One lion a good distance off, the other about 6 – 10 feet (depending upon who you spoke to) – I reckon probably about 7 ft. However, close enough.  We managed to get the jeep a few feet further away, turned it around, and then the guide changed it – Stephen with a large spotlight to track the nearer lion, and me with a smaller torch to shine on the wheel, guide and jeep.  He managed it in about 10 minutes and then we were off.  I was rather frightened but the other lady with us was genuinely terrified.

Next day I went out on my own with the guide, for a walking safari – I thought I was very brave and that we’d been out for an hour and walked miles, but it turned out we had only gone about 500 metres!  Really interesting and learnt more about nature, biology, science and animals/birds than had done in a lifetime.  We then came across a cheetah lying under a tree.  The guide turned the jeep round (being a fellow photographer), so we had the best angle – I lay on the floor of the jeep (being the only one in it, I had plenty of room) and then played eyeball with the cheetah.  At first it was fun/an experience, but the longer it went on the more unnerved I became, so I then demanded that we move.  The most incredible sight and when we returned and the guide was beaming saying that was magnificent/amazing, for someone who goes into the bush every day, was really something.  This is an amazing trip.  They do rhino conservation too but we haven’t been able to see that in action as we hadn’t got the right passes.  All in all this is a trip of a lifetime and far surpasses the other three I’ve been on in the past.

With thanks to Jonathan Peach of JPS Luxury Safari’s for arranging this trip:  www.jpsluxurysafaris.com

Lucy & Stephen were guests of Molori Safari Lodge, and flew with Trailfinders.

Copyright and images:  www.lucyelliottphotography.com