A leaded casement window, a jar of homemade jam and a garden full of hollyhocks will always make the Anglophile happy. But a person can take only so much chintz. What if you don't want to sleep in a Masterpiece Theatre stage set? Luckily, there's a new kind of English country house, which dispenses with the olde charms in favor of a more modern style--in terms of both interior design and food. Roast beef with Yorkshire pudding is fine, but roasted leg of lamb with salsa verde is better. Skip the teatime scones, and save room for rum panna cotta with a gazpacho of berries. These three hotels show off what Britain has become, not what it once was.
Combermere Abbey Cottages
Of the new breed of hotel, Combermere Abbey Cottages, on a 1,050-acre property in the rolling green hills of northern Shropshire, is perhaps the most suitable for the unreconstructed Anglophile. It is the brainchild of Sarah Callander Beckett who, in 1992, inherited her great-grandfather's estate, which was founded in 1133 as a Cistercian monastery. She immediately planted the world's only maze of fruit trees, which will reach its full growth this summer, though, she claims, "people have already got lost in it."
The maze has a complex design based on the shape and idea of the apple, incorporating the apple of one's eye, Eve's apple and the five petals of the apple blossom, and encompassing the four ancient maze symbols: the Labrys (the double-headed Minoan ax from which the word labyrinth is derived), the Tree of Life, the Minotaur's Head and Icarus Falling to the Sea. Making up the maze are 12 varieties of apple tree, five of pear tree, and bushes that produce red and white currants or gooseberries. Much of the fruit ends up in jams and jellies put up by Combermere's owner herself.