Tucked away in the rural borderlands of Cheshire and Shropshire in Northwest England lies an environmental gem. Blending centuries of history, acres of breathtaking landscape and beautiful architecture is Combermere Abbey, an estate made of 10 individually designed holiday cottages, perfect for that quiet weekend retreat.
Arriving in the dark of night with only the starlight to guide our way, locating the entrance for our holiday cottage was no mean feat. When we arrived at the entrance and entered our special code to gain entry, we ventured down the driveway until we reached the cottages and the Abbey itself. Unfortunately, what we didn’t realise was that our particular cottage was located on the perimeter of the estate so we headed back up the driveway. Once we’d managed to navigate our way to what would be our new countryside home for the next two days, we were all set to kick off our boots, give the car a rest and indulge in the wonderful peace and quiet to be had in the depths of the countryside.
Stone Lodge was the name of the cottage we were staying in. A 19th century gothic gatehouse sleeping four people, with a beautiful décor incorporating rich tones of deep pink, warming yellow and calming blues. With its gothic style architecture, terrace and garden, and its functional fireplace complete with wood burning stove, it is little wonder that this cottage is apparently very popular with bridal couples.
On entering the newly fitted kitchen, we were welcomed with a hearty breakfast hamper filled with homemade jam from the Abbey, local eggs, local bacon and sausages, local homegrown tomatoes, a fresh loaf of crusty bread, a large bottle of fresh apple juice (made at the Abbey too), locally churned butter, fresh milk and a bottle of merlot to boot!
As I explored the rooms of the cottage I was astonished by the grandeur and sheer luxuriousness surrounding me, and was intrigued to know more about the sustainable and environmental aspects of this cottage. Fortunately, I didn’t have to look far as within each cottage can be found the Combermere’s Green Charter, outlining the numerous steps taken to ensure that a balance is struck in balancing the impact of the holiday cottages with their commitment to reduce their carbon footprint and contribute positively to the wider community.
Some of the steps taken include developing and adopting a policy of ‘green procurement’, using environmentally friendly products where possible, adopting the practice of responsible and efficient energy management, and reducing waste at source whilst also ensuring recycling is carried out.
“Historically, earlier centuries would have seen an estate run on traditional lines, with production of food in the gardens and surrounding farms creating an predominantly self-sustainable operation,” explains Sarah Callander Beckett, Combermere Abbey’s owner. “Today, the land is managed on organic principles, with no chemical fertilisers used, improving the quality of the land, and minimising damage to the lake water quality. Fallen timber is re-used in the holiday cottages and wood burning stoves, and we have introduced traditional insulation products like sheepswool and secondary glazed windows to maintain acceptable levels of comfort for our visitors.”
The Combermere also actively encourage their guests to think sustainably too.
“We encourage guests to spend a ‘stay at home’ day on the estate and enjoy the walks, use the food from the freezers and give the car a rest. Bikes are available for the guests to use at no charge, and we encourage guests to turn off lights and turn down heating thermostats when appropriate.” – Sarah Callander Becket
One of the walks that we ambled on, and would highly recommend, is the Abbey’s Woodland Walk which takes you around the grounds and the 143 acre lake and provides some excellent photo or painting opportunities. And if you really don’t feel up to cooking on your return, the Combermere Arms , which is just five minutes walk away, provides excellent local pub grub – try the pheasant!
It is evident that since inheriting the estate, Sarah Callander Becket has put a great deal of time and energy into restoring it and bringing it back to the Gold Green Tourism Award standard. It is little wonder, then, that the estate was among the winners of Marketing Cheshire’s Annual Awards 2012, having won the category, ‘Self Catering Holiday Provider of the Year’. The cottages will now go straight through to represent Cheshire in the national Visit England Awards for Excellence 2013.
With its natural surroundings, the opportunity to see some of the local wildlife, its stay local, eat local, buy local and see local ethos (I assure you, it’s not League of Gentlemen-ish at all) and its helpful staff (did I mention there were DVDs and board games on hand to borrow at no cost?) we would definitely look to visit again, perhaps in the summer when we can take to the lake for a spot of swimming!
To book your stay at Combermere visit their website.
Special offer: Winter Nano Break: 2 Night break taken before 30th March 2013. Pick any day of the week, either midweek or weekend! Each break start from £260 during the mid-week based on a cottage sleeping 4. Larger cottages also available.
Bookings can be made online or contact Jean McIlroy 01948 662876 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org