-Shop the Look-
Britain is home to some of the most charming, heart-melting villages in the world. With quaint pubs, idyllic stone cottages, and fantastic country walks, these evoke the romance of a time gone by, providing the perfect backdrop for a relaxing rural escape.
But there is one village I have not heard of before… In this small rural town, undulating cobbled streets are lined with chocolate-box houses draped in more wisteria than Hyacinth Bucket could dream of! A maze of higgledy-piggledy little streets, pretty country churches fronted by the most well-loved lavender you will ever encounter and there are more antique stores per square foot than there are currently football fans in Moscow. Petworth is a picturesque market town nestled in the heart of the South Downs National Park, just over an hour’s drive from London and only 30 minutes from the south coast. The town has many treasures to discover, making it a day out to remember.
While driving a brand-new Bentley Continental GT through country lanes with all the autumn leaves overhanging the bendy roads, this could not get any dreamier. The weekend will have a jam-packed itinerary for the next few days at this idyllic village, with a bunch of London friends to explore what Petworth has to offer. The name ‘town’ seems far too large to describe the small jumble of streets, and the community has much more of a village vibe to it – while everyone knows everyone else (and their business), you’ll never feel unwelcome as a weekender from the big smoke. I say to myself, almost on a monthly basis, that I should escape to the country more often. I’ve developed a yearning for country living, especially when I feel the urge to get away from the crowd.
I will be sharing three day’s worth of itinerary with you on what to do, where to stay, eat, and shop, although you can always spend a little longer if you wish to explore in more depth. The town still celebrates its cultural past with an annual Fete in the Park and the nationally renowned Petworth Festival, a music and arts extravaganza that attracts thousands of visitors every summer from around the world.
Where To stay?
I love the essence of old-school charm with finely detailed facades, a gorgeous entrance and plenty of rooms to roam about. I’m staying at Ryde House, which is so well disguised (by a simple gate hidden in a wall) that one quick blink and you could easily miss it!
Imagine walking into Narnia and suddenly finding yourself in an enchanted hidden garden and, once, inside the private courtyard, there’s no escaping the splendour of the Grade II-listed Georgian House. It’s three bedrooms are understatedly yet luxuriously kitted out with huge beds and plush furnishings alongside antique objects and with a stunning array of flowers from the Spriggs Florist, only five minutes away. Ryde House is a newly refurbished three-bedroomed house situated in the heart of Petworth, available for self-catering short breaks and holidays. The welcoming, airy rooms are decorated with antique furnishings and offer a home from home feeling. Tranquil bedrooms, well-appointed bathrooms, a well-equipped kitchen and dining room are complimented with modern touches such as Wi-Fi throughout, flat screen TV, washing machine, tumble dryer and dishwasher. The courtyard garden offers a restful place to relax on sunny days and, just a short walk from all of the towns amenities, Ryde House is perfect for family holidays, wedding parties and short breaks.
Something for the Guests
While everyone unpacks and heads downstairs for some Laurent-Perrier Rosé champagne in front of the fire, I sneak upstairs to their bedrooms and layout on the bed some little “Welcome” gifts such as Glam Glow, Charbonnel et Walker, Roja Parfums and Peggy Porschen for them to enjoy throughout the weekend, now the fun begins!
Exquisite Scent for the Room
A gracious sized drawing room offers a wood-burning stove and dimmed lamps to create a cosy ambience and when I light the new scented candle by Roja Parfums, the room is filled with the scent of a million gorgeous roses. Rose De Mai takes centre stage in this creation, its coolness supported by rose-like Geranium, where Bergamot and other Citrus Notes add a touch of freshness, underscored by Cinnamon and Wood Notes and it brings a very reassuring feel on a cold day.
Roja Parfums Candles
If the house sounds rather too grand for your liking, there’s a sweet neighbour where you can also stay – The Angel Inn, just 300 yards from Golden Square in the centre of Petworth.
The inn, which has medieval origins, has recently undergone a complete refurbishment. The unspoilt bar boasts ships beams, wooden and slate floors, stone walls and three fireplaces, one of which is used to spit roast joints of meat. It has an array of cosy bedrooms, low beamed ceilings, artistic wallpapers and comfy looking beds, all so affordable for any couple looking for a romantic weekend away.
What To Do?
Visitors wishing to indulge in a little retail therapy will be spoilt for choice. Petworth has a well-established reputation as a unique retail haven away from the bustle of the traditional High Street. It is a real treasure trove of independent boutiques, cafes, restaurants and accommodation. The town offers a wide range of products and services from flowers, fine foods, books, natural luxury skincare, ladies’ designer fashions, and traditional gentlemen’s clothing, not to mention the world-famous antiques and arts establishments – some 37 of them, all within a half-mile radius.
It’s hard not to stay central in Petworth as everything is so close by- within five minutes’ walk. While I get down to scribbling a list of things to do, let’s see what tickles your fancy. As you wander around Petworth (pick up a town map or download a copy here), be prepared for a plethora of antique stores – they are on almost every corner and down every snicket. There’s a whole antique market, in fact – a small warren of treasures including mirrors at Christopher Walker, copper and ironmongery at Claire Wilson, and jewellery at Bill Barr Fine Art. If you’ve parked in Petworth’s main town car park, you can be at the door of one of the town’s top furniture and antique stores in less than 20 paces. Augustus Brandt is where the residents of Mayfair head to kit out their lavish homes and there’s something for every sense of style, from 18th-century Dutch marquetry press cupboards to mid-century Scandinavian lounge chairs by Otto Schultz and Illum Wikkelso. This seemingly never-ending store has a (more) affordable gift shop and also houses exhibitions.
Petworth’s passion for arts and crafts runs through the village like water and makes it a favourite spot for treasure hunters, thanks to its large number of antique shops. Discover the Augustus Brandt showroom, situated in a spacious Georgian townhouse and adjacent coach house in Petworth, West Sussex, the heart of the South Downs. They have transformed 7,500 square feet to create an enticing retail destination for home interiors and more – open six days a week with several different exhibitions to enjoy throughout the year.
Sometimes a particular object tempts me to take it back home to London or to the house that I imagine moving into one day. The difficult dilemma here! While I’m wavering between these two thoughts in my mind, I see that there is a current exhibition showing inside the shop. Designed by international sculptor Philip Jackson, he has brought his spectacular ‘Behind the Mask’ exhibition, which runs till Thursday 3rd January 2019. It might be a surprise to some that he has chosen Petworth as the location for his largest exhibition to date, with more than fifty works in the show, however, Jackson lives and works locally in West Sussex, dividing his time between public commissions and gallery sculpture. As a regular visitor to Augustus Brandt, he was immediately receptive to the idea of showing his works in this unique environment, saying: “I have known and admired for many years the charming Georgian house that is now the home of Augustus Brandt, so I am particularly thrilled to be exhibiting my sculptures within its elegant, well-appointed and interesting interiors”.
The work, inspired by a long-held fascination for post-Renaissance Venice and love of music, theatre, painting and history, his oeuvre comprises a cast of imposing, elegant, theatrical and sometimes enigmatic figures, from Don Giovanni’s masked Don Ottavio to a hauntingly powerful rendering of Greek mythology’s Icarus, and the graceful, mesmerising Saraband. Although diverse in subject matter, this cast of figures undoubtedly shares the same DNA, with their meticulously precise posturing and powerful presence. Jackson’s gallery work has been exhibited across the globe and is now more in demand than ever. I may not be able to afford even one or two grand objects to take home, but I treat myself to some glass Christmas tree baubles from their more modern sister shop in the centre of town.
You can’t wend your way through the streets for long without coming across a sign for Petworth House. A short walk through the park to one of the country’s most famous stately homes, the first thing you’ll discover about the 17th-century building is that it is surrounded by a vast wall, which, if you believe the locals, was constructed to keep the servants in rather than the vagabonds out.
Built in 1682 when heiress Elizabeth Percy, daughter to the 11th Earl of Northumberland, married Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset, the house has everything you’d expect from an old British mansion. The staterooms house an impressive collection of art and sculpture, including works by van Dyck, Turner, Flaxman and Blake, while the Servants’ Quarters offer a glimpse of life below stairs.
Far more than an art gallery, you’ll be hard-pushed to find anywhere in the National Trust that combines a staggering collection of world-class art with the magnificent interiors of the Carved Room and Grand Staircase, rooms that are more befitting of a palace. The magnificence of Petworth House is powerfully linked with the vast Capability Brown landscaped Deer Park and made famous by Turner in early 1800. Turner was a frequent visitor to the house, where he often set up a studio, painting the grounds with an accuracy that matched my own view of the house and the lake. There are over 700 acres of rolling hills to explore, with giant ponds that offer moments of peace and serenity with still reflections. As it begins to rain, I am lucky to have brought with me a Fulton Commissioner black umbrella, that comes in a classic gent’s walker style with luxury Elmwood handle. Time to browse around the park and enjoy the fresh air.
Maybe you are looking for something slightly more energetic, such as a gentle hike, taking in the spectacular views of the rolling hills throughout West Sussex?
Green rolling pastures, wide open spaces, ancient woodlands, river valleys and dramatic coastline truly encompass the National Park’s ethos of being one of ‘Britain’s Breathing Spaces’. With over 3,300km of rights of way, the South Downs National Park offers a landscape as diverse as it is breath-taking. This is truly a place with something for everyone, all easily accessible. Why not relax, enjoy the journey and leave the car behind. The South Downs has great rail and bus links and you can be here in only 60–90 minutes from London.
When I hear about the variety of antique markets out there, I get pretty excited. Petworth Antique Market hosts an abundance of antique talent all under one roof, displayed over 275 square metres.
In January 2015, the market was refurbished and after 5 months and a lot of patience and anticipation, it reopened its freshly painted doors to the public. Now housing 41 dealers in antiques and decorative arts, many of whom are very experienced and well versed in their specialist field, all of whom are passionate with someone always on hand to give advice or put you in touch with another dealer who specialises. From fine silver and decorative furniture to vintage and retro goods, the market offers a plethora of unique treasures. Take a visit on your next trip to Petworth to find that special something or for that research trip on a cold and rainy day.
Where To Eat?
New Street Bar & Grill is a fresh and modern approach to dining situated in the heart of Petworth. The smell of a burning wood fire in the centre of the restaurant brings a homely vibe and with its chicest choice of the interior.
The focus is on great ingredients cooked simply to a high standard, with an emphasis on grilled dishes including locally sourced meat and game, as well as seafood and fish. Sunday lunches are a relaxed affair and you can preorder (3 days’ notice required) a sharing dish such as a whole spit roast chicken, 8-hour slow cooked leg of lamb or rack of lamb. The modern bar offers fantastic selections of wines by the glass or bottle as well as cocktails, a wide or array of spirits and a selection of small plates ideal for sharing informally.
A dinner brings a mix between freshness yet the hearty choice of food such as fresh tuna steaks and clam linguine with numerous wine to choose from. The upstairs dining areas and lounge can be booked for private events and parties including small wedding receptions, birthday celebrations and corporate events.
This is an old charm country pub, The Angel Inn which has so many stories behind its wall and it looks like it never ages. A perfect place for a Sunday roast with family and close friends with a wide range of dishes to choose from, bar snacks, soft and alcoholic drinks on offer.
They also have two menus, one is seasonal which changes quarterly and they have their specials, which also change regularly. To accompany meals or if you’re popping in for drinks, they also offer an extensive wine list, local ales and premium quality spirits to enjoy as you chat away for a couple of hours after a walk at South Downs National Park and potentially with friendly pooches who are also very welcome to join in.
After hearing about the best brownies in the world, we all immediately head down and check it out. The Hungry Guest Café, named by The Times as one of the 30 best places to brunch in the UK, is on Lombard Street, one of the most photographed streets in the town thanks to its cobbles and flower-covered cottages.
The Hungry Guest shop’s passion for food is evident from the moment you step inside their Petworth Food Shop. With its clean-cut layout and the diverse range of products available, the store successfully entices and inspires each visitor that enters. They have won countless awards in the past years, the latest in its cabinet being Best Independent Food Retailer in London and South East in the Great Britain Food Awards.
This is where we dig deep into our large shopping list to fill our basket with wonderful goodness, such as organic fruit and veg, a selection of cheeses from their vast cheese room. We also pick a selection of different pieces of bread, freshly baked in the bakery, all with unique tastes a far cry away from every day, in preparation for a dinner party at Ryde House. If you are looking for a local butcher, there’s another sister shop close by – The Hungry Guest Butchers. They stock locally sourced meat and poultry of the highest quality, and they even supply the best beef for the Beef Wellington, which is on the dinner menu. Last but not least, we take out a large order of brownies to take home with us. But you will not be surprised to learn that we just couldn’t wait until we got back, so all you could hear were our muffled “Oooooh’s” and “Mmmmm’s” with full, full mouths. Gosh, these were the best brownies we all had ever had! Honestly, if you ever go to Petworth, be sure to try them out.
Dinner Party at Ryde House
I think I have written down all of the most important itineraries for you to enjoy over a day or two. It’s time to head back on our second night here at Petworth, while Thomas lights the fire at the drawing room, Robert cooks the dinner with all the ingredients we bought from The Hungry Guest Shop, Diana sets the table, Julian pops the cork and I light the candle. A warm inviting dining room, a centrepiece from Spriggs Florist and an excellent variety of wines to enjoy, completes an intimate social dinner, making the most of this last night.
Breakfast is always a good idea!
The next morning, we all wake up to glorious sunshine streaming through the large sash windows, and me, wearing a comfy new pyjama by New & Lingwood. It’s time to cook again, so a big thanks to Robert for his expertise in the kitchen, as he prepares and serves us American style pancakes and hearty Eggs Benedict. Yes, it is a pure delight to enjoy this luxurious dream of a breakfast and to savour our last moment before we head back to city life.
Bentley Continental GT
It’s time to say “Hello” again to the Bentley Continental GT, giving everyone a good look at what could easily be the sleekest car in town! With a completely new 6.0 litre, twin-turbocharged W12 engine, a step-change in technology and a truly stunning design language, the new Continental GT is unmatched in its class. This Bentley GT coupé is the quintessential grand tourer – phenomenally powerful, beautifully designed and exquisitely crafted.
The new Continental GT features clean, super formed lines and a wide, low body, evoking a sense of speed and presence. On unlocking the car, a pre-programmed sequence of exterior lighting welcomes you. To complement the car’s striking interior design, the interior mood lighting (fitted as standard) can be configured to your preference. With lighting strips created to accentuate the car’s key design lines, you can choose vibrant or muted settings in seven colours, as well as backlighting the tread plates in your chosen colour.
The seats are minimalist in style, with a streamlined design that ensures they are as comfortable as they are elegant. Smooth centre panels maximise the effectiveness of heating, cooling, ventilation and massage functions, while handcrafted quilting adds detail to the bolsters and upper areas – those parts of the seats that can be seen from outside the car. The seat memory selectors are located in the door pads, allowing you to select your preferred seating position with a flick of a switch before you even sit down. A satin chrome handle is used to tilt each rear seat forward and access the rear of the cabin, with an alternative ‘express’ switch, which moves the seat electrically instead. While I pack away the Continental Weekender leather bag in Dark Sapphire on the side seat, it’s time to head back to reality. We say our goodbyes and thank each other for the dreamiest weekend away.
Bentley may give us a quicker ride back home, which is usually just over an hour’s drive from London. As the town itself seems only just around the corner, it’s definitely the type of town to move in to – one day, who knows!
Ryde House, a luxury self-catering house located in Petworth, West Sussex, and around one hour from London, rates from £475.00 and minimum for two nights. The Angel Inn also located centre of Petworth, rates from £80.00 for a double room on a B&B basis.
Photos by Diana Martin Photography