William Blake famously proclaimed ‘nature is imagination;’ botanically led, luxury English countryside getaway, Thyme in the Cotswolds, ‘a village within a village,’ resembles a poetic ‘Blake-ian’ vista. Founded by Carolyn Hibbert and her family, Thyme started from their manor house, a traditional Cotswoldian stone brick home, in the picture-pretty village of Southrop in 2002, before she organically began to execute her vision to redevelop and restore their own and the neighbouring lodges into an idyllic country house hotel, spa and lifestyle haven.
Just over an hour by train from London, my driver en route to this epicurean retreat comments ‘as soon as any buildings become available in the village, Thyme has bought them up,’ although neighbours must be reassured that all renovations aim to respect the original design or use: for instance, the 19th Century, Ox Barn, the chic, open plan dining space at Thyme, was originally home to the oxen that ploughed the local fields, and still pays homage with the original beams, herringbone ceiling and soaring arches preserved, as well as the stone rubble walls, so distinct to the Cotswold area. Details are always meticulous but never fussy, including the Meadow Spa, a leaf green painted haven of calm and tranquillity, which offers bespoke treatments that aim to connect mind and body through the healing power of ‘thyme’, scent and breath.
The cluster of stone brick buildings (former lodges, barns, cottages, rectory and pub) – the adjacent St.Peter’s Church (where local homeowner Kate Moss got married) isn’t actually part of the compound – now houses 31 bedrooms, each botanically inspired with different designs, colourways and antique furniture. My sweeping ground floor ‘English Rose’ room with coated pink walls and paisley fabrics was elegant but not saccharine, punctuated with two fireplaces, crystal chandeliers and an old bathtub, where you can soak with a glass of homemade bourbon whiskey, whilst taking in the stretching views. (through french doors that lead onto the lawn.)
Curated storytelling is at the heart of Thyme with family generations focusing on different categories that all connect ‘land, food and entertaining with local heritage, beauty and conservation:’ so whilst Carolyn Hibbert is responsible for all the interiors (including a soon to launch Thyme collection of patterned upholstery fabrics and wallpaper), son Charlie oversees all menus and the chefs who select and grow their own organic produce in the grounds, and daughter, Millie runs the Thyme boutique, buying from a range of independent, artisan driven, luxury clothing brands. Both Millie and Carolyn together have extended into creating their own Bertioli womenswear label, luxury separates and day to evening wear, based on local floral prints from their own hand drawn illustrations that can work for women of all ages. They also have both formulated the sustainably made Bertioli beauty range: sumptuous botanical extracts of english apple blossom, thyme, water mint are picked from the local verdant fields – the range is used across all the hotel rooms, spa and available to buy.
With the glorious Orchard House, another refined renovation with a roof covered in orchids, overlooking the Thyme spring water swimming pool, due to open in Spring, with its own cinema screening space, Thyme continues to give the historic buildings an elegant 21st century retelling and their ‘play on words’ ethos: to give visitors ‘time’ to slow down and reconnect with nature.