Suddenly we are well into summertime and I find myself dreaming of escaping the chaos of London for a slower pace of life. I crave peace and isolation. Country walks and long afternoons lazing in the grass. Clean bed linen and the smell of lavender wafting through windows. I want long, hot showers and fluffy towels. The sight of wood smoke curling from chimneys at dusk and faint strains of jazz music colouring the air as fairylights sway in the breeze.
Such a place sounds idyllic, the stuff of storybooks and fantasy but alas, it can be found just a couple of hours outside London, deep in the Suffolk countryside. I’m talking about The Grove Cottages. A collection of characterful boltholes forming a tiny rural paradise.
The husband and I have been regular visitors at The Grove for over ten years. It’s our go-to escape from every day life. An opportunity to recharge our batteries and reconnect in relaxing and beautiful surroundings. There’s a wide selection of cottages available across Suffolk and Essex via The Grove Cottages website but we always visit the ones on the The Grove Farm itself; six unique retreats huddled together with open fields on one side and a sprawling orchard on the other.
Inside, the cottages ooze old fashioned charm. Think open fires, belfast sinks and original ‘Suffolk White’ brick flooring. Candles litter the windowsills and mantlepieces, squishy sofas invite hours of idleness, and fresh flowers offer a taste of the surrounding countryside. The beds are huge and comfortable, swathed in crisp linen and piled with vintage blankets and throws. Some of the cottages even have access to a tiny herb garden which is perfect for al-fresco dining. There are also deckchairs available for lounging in the orchard.
Over the years we’ve stayed in all the cottages and each has something different to offer. Dons Barn is without a doubt the most stylish, with a gigantic bedroom and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the orchard. This vast exposure to the outside world means the entire cottage is often bathed in golden light at sunset. I have very fond memories of whiling away the hours on the sofa with a novel and a glass of wine as the sun slipped slowly beneath the fields beyond.
Another favourite of ours is The Bakery, also known as the honeymooners cottage due to its tucked away position at the edge of the gardens. This little nook is crammed full of character, with its open fire sitting snugly inside the old baking oven (which dates back to the 1700s) and an eclectic selection of antique furniture. The bedroom has a huge vaulted ceiling, a big brass bed, and a charming ensuite. Downstairs there’s a beautiful handmade kitchen and a little table that’s perfect for a romantic dinner for two.
Rose Cottage also deserves a mention. With its original wooden floors, direct access to the herb garden and comfy leather chair by the fire, this cosy hideaway effortlessly provides all you could want for a relaxing country escape.
An average day at The Grove finds us waking to feast on freshly laid eggs, bacon from the local butchers and bread from a nearby village bakery. This forms part of the welcome pack which greets us on arrival. Arriving at The Grove is always my favourite part of the holiday; I just love walking into the cottage to be met by the lingering smell of coal burning on the fire, the sounds of jazz music playing quietly on the radio and the sight of candles burning. This is particularly lovely in the winter after driving through the inky black darkness that saturates the surrounding countryside. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of pulling the heavy curtain across the doorway and opening a bottle of wine to make you feel like you’re shutting the world away and escaping into a secluded haven.
After breakfast we usually head out on the bikes stored in the coal shed. Whizzing along the country lanes with only the sound of the wind rushing by and the whir of the wheels on the road, the stresses and strains of City life drop away. My lungs are filled with air honeyed by the rapeseed rampaging across nearby fields and I feel myself start to relax.
We explore local villages such as Boxford, Kersey and Lavenham, stopping for tea and cake or a spot of lunch and a wander around the pretty cottages. Long Melford is also a must if you fancy rummaging for antiques; Melford Antiques sprawls across four floors and is a treasure trove of interesting finds.
Back at the cottages we might take a walk across the fields to The White Horse, a CAMRA (Campaign For Real Ale) pub that serves delicious meals and is popular with locals and guests at The Grove alike. Otherwise, we’ll stay in and cook, play a game of Monopoly, perhaps, then wander outside to marvel at the thousands of stars that pierce the night sky.
A holiday at The Grove Cottages offers a true escape from the everyday. Being there is almost like slipping back in time; there’s something untouched about it that I’ve never encountered elsewhere. So if you’re searching for a break this summer that delivers on style, seclusion and relaxation look no further than The Grove Cottages. I promise you won’t regret it.
Many thanks to The Grove Cottages for their permission to use the images featured in this post.