It’s always wonderful to arrive in the warm late morning sunshine, with the anticipation of sitting on the patio with the long views over the Chilterns towards Bath, slurping on a great cup of coffee accompanied by one of Chef’s crisp little biscotti and then lunch..... I have arrived at Woolley Grange in Bradford-on Avon, and I already feel at home.
I was brought up in that great British tradition – The Vicarage – and Woolley Grange has that feel of being a well cared-for large rambling family home, with cosy nooks and crannies, eccentric corners and staircases found unexpectedly behind doors by curious visitors - and bedroom suites with delicious bathrooms the size of my old studio flat in The Barbican. Every room I have stayed in at Woolley Grange (5 visits so far) has been furnished in a completely individual style – none of it resembling a hotel but antiques and interesting pieces everywhere.
Sadly, it did rain in the afternoon, being September, but the large sofas in the Oak panelled Lounge welcomed us with open arms and we tried very hard to have our meeting there. Debbie and I were so relaxed we laughed our way through our agenda, and when the sun came out and my other 14 colleagues had arrived we walked the gardens and found the Spa. Tony used the indoor pool for his evening swim and I chickened out from using the outdoor pool.
Our evening meal was punctuated by all the late arrivals and the staff coped with us admirably, such as keeping the trout warm for an hour. And their endless patience at every meal with our specific and detailed requests ‘toast double toasted; poached eggs on buttered toast, not on the side; crispy sausages; freshly made real mint tea; well done lamb (the shocked response of the waiter to that request said it all really but they brought it anyway!)
At breakfast the children whose parents had come for a midweek break were having all their requests catered to, in a way that would never happen at home I think! And the staff seemed to love the children and really care for their needs. Woolley Grange even has a store of wellies of the required style (pink or green) – adult and child sizes available. Very useful for those of us who travel by train and can’t fit wellies into the rucksack or into the children’s Trunkie.
They even have a brown Cocker Spaniel ‘Peanut’, who is secretly the real owner, he just lets us humans stay at his home – on condition that we respect his space and let him do what he wants.
I can’t tell you which bits I enjoyed most at Woolley Grange because it is the whole experience that is wonderfully English. The warm Bath stone house, the extensive and new Spa facilities, the amazing rooms and décor, the charming staff, and really the way they make everyone welcome – famous, infamous, adult, child and animal. Do go and experience it for yourself – and tell them that Jill sent you. That way Chef may give me an extra biscuit when I go to stay again in October.
Jill McLachlan was staying at Woolley Grange, Bradford-on Avon. Wiltshire BA15 1TX Tel: 01225 864705