Since Kate Moss’s fairy-tale wedding was leaked to the papers in 2011, the beautiful village of Southrop has found itself at the centre of Cotswold’s cool, and Thyme along with it. First launched as an “exclusive use” eight-bedroom, 17th century country house on the sweeping Southrop Manor Estate (owned by the Hibbert family), Thyme has elegantly developed into a hybrid hotel/rental estate/foodie retreat, offering ample accommodation and an excellent cookery school.
Thyme farmhouse can still be rented as a whole, or as individual rooms. Tastefully decorated in a muted palette of creams and browns, with wooden beams and stand-alone baths, the rooms have a distinct homely feel about them and if it were not for the key card, you could quite easily be mistaken into thinking that you were a guest at a distinguished friend’s country manor.
A glass jar of homemade biscuits and a small vial of homemade damson vodka temptingly set on the dresser, retain the epicurean theme that sets Thyme apart. Aside from the farmhouse, there are three cottages available for rental, as well as the larger and more luxurious Tallet cottage, with four bedrooms, a spacious dining area and courtyard.
A gravelled drive lead us to Thyme’s main buildings, running alongside the pretty 12th-century parish church and backing onto the owner’s farm, which we explored in the morning sunshine. Heading past an old, and rather green looking garden swimming pool (though we heard that in summer months, guests can take a refreshing dip here), we were led to the vegetable garden, where the kitchen grows seasonal produce, both for the cookery school and for the hotel’s main dining destination, The Swan pub. At the time, crops looked bare, but we were fortunate enough to have tried the home-grown cavolo nero the night before, cooked simply in garlic and butter – some of the best we’d ever tasted – and it was exciting to see the soil from which it grew.
Chickens pecked nearby – the source of our eggs Benedict – and alongside them, two large pigs, which are used for turning the earth and later, for bacon. Squirm as you might, there’s no arguing it’s not all organic. Meals are, therefore, seasonal. Breakfast was served banquet style at a long communal table in a medieval, but bright converted barn, with an offering of fruits, cereals, fresh juices and eggs, whilst for lunch and dinner we hopped across the road to The Swan. By appearances the pub is your quintessential, cosy hide out for locals, but people travel far for its kitchen’s fresh and homely creations – creamy celeriac soup, hake and buttery parsnips followed by sticky toffee pudding and ice cream.
Thyme’s cookery school is a real draw for foodies, led by the dynamic and passionate head chef, who talked us through the recipes, sharing his tricks of the trade, whilst also leaving us enough room for a little artistic license, which made the whole thing much more relaxed, fun and social. We prepared spiced prawns over an endive, orange and pomegranate salad for lunch, inspired by the flavours of Morocco.
Happily full, we then retired to The Baa, the newly opened space for afternoon tea and late night cocktails, to curl up on the sofas alongside three woolly sheep seats, which somehow, though they probably shouldn’t, work well with the interiors. Like the rest of Thyme, it smoothly bridged the gap between country comfort and city slick.
In a nutshell
Though there are still a few elements lacking before Thyme is hailed the ultimate weekend getaway, plans for an on-site restaurant and spa treatment suite are well underway, and there’s something very appealing about seeing it mature. For now though, Thyme offers a stylish and rustic bolt hole for London’s country crowd.
Rooms from £260. www.thyme.co.uk
Words by Millie Walton
Photography by Thyme / Amy Murrall