Boarding the train at Waterloo Station armed with morning cups of tea in hand, we chatted the whole way through our 50 minute journey to Haslemere, watching the skyline change from forests of steel to boughs of ancient leaves.
We were bound for an afternoon at the Polo, to watch the pinpoint trained ponies and riders duke it out for the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup, a match played to honour one of the riders.
Disclaimer: We were invited guests of Cowdray Estate,
but my swooning prose is very much original and unaffected.
After a quick 20 minute cab ride through the country lanes lined with stone built cottages, many with yellow framed windows* – we dismounted for a tour and lunch at Cowdray Manor House. What used to be the family home of Lord and Lady Cowdray, is now an exclusive residence that can be hired out for special occasions, wellness retreats or for private use.
Handed flutes of Champagne as we walked into the magnificent ancient entryway, from beautiful room to beautiful room we wandered, taking in the elegant building that dates from the 1800s with our sparkle filled glasses in hand.
Buck Hall forms the heart of the house, whether set for cozy champagne afternoons or laid with banqueting tables that King Henry the Eighth would be proud to head of an evening. Threaded throughout the sumptuous furnishings are statues that share the spiritual zeitgest of Lord and Lady Cowdray, who are practitioners of transcendental meditation.
From the peaceful Library room…
…to cozy lounges perfect for snuggling in, until the small hours with good friends…
…to the games room complete with poised snooker table.
Oh the tales these walls could tell.
We then swooned up the carved staircase to peep into the plethora of lavish Cowdray House bedrooms – and they truly are what dreams are made of.
The master Diamond Suite, the feminine Pearl room and the oak panelled Golden Topaz room, with its magnificent four poster bed and views to Cowdray’s Ruined Tudor Mansion…
…all individually designed with guests’ needs in mind, with luxury toiletries, soft
fluffy Cowdray-embossed towels, robes and slippers, most with stunning
views across the gardens. It was all our guide could do to stop us slipping under the inviting covers.
I joked as we walked through that these rooms were worthy of Lady Mary in Downton Abbey, and as we walked through I realised just how true my statement was.
Though not available for individual hire, when the whole house is hired for functions, there is the option to stay overnight. By dusky light, this home would feel even more magical. As it was, we couldn’t pick a single favourite room, though this ladies boudoir caught my eye…
…with a mirrored dressing table simply begging to be sat down at.
Even the individual wall papers were beautiful.
We stopped for champagne and canapes in one of the drawing rooms, before sashaying into the formal dining room for lunch on Cowdray crested tableware.
Over the 16,500 acre Estate, guests at Cowdray can also enjoy swimming (indoors and out), play tennis, learn to play polo at the nearby academy, go indoor bowling, play golf, shooting, fly fishing and other country pursuits.
But, we had a game of Polo awaiting us. Gathered on the Cowdray Polo Club grounds (many of the past owners have been passionate players, including a one-legged Lord) two local teams – Edouard Carmignac’s Talandracas team and Corinne Ricard’s Murus Sanctus team – played a fast and furious two halves of Chukkas for the honour of hoisting the Carlos Gracida Memorial Trophy.
We learned that the the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup ranks alongside the Argentine Open and USA Open in importance – and playing such a match in the home of English Polo made the afternoon more poignant. (If you wanted to watch, the summer season has games until the 23rd June and it is quite an incredible spectacle.)
And of course you should take your glass of champagne out during the mid-point to toe in the divots caused during the high-paced game of thundering hooves and daring riders.
What a way to spend an afternoon. Surrounded by history – something as an expat from a young country, that I will never quite be tired of.
To round out our day, we left the Polo Grounds for a lightening quick visit to Cowdray’s historic ruins. Now the one surviving tower houses artists who use the studio as a creative residence, a year at a time.
We ran out of time (and sunshine) to explore the whole grounds, the holiday cottages or the North Wing, but even in the rain – actually, especially in the rain – they epitomised a sweet staycation in the Midhurst countryside.
* In the village window frames and accenting the branding, the striking yellow is an ode to past Lords who were Liberal MPs.
Now I just need to work out which of my friends who I can convince to get married. Or return for another afternoon of Polo and a cup of tea in the cafe…
Have you been anywhere like it?