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Ford Abbey
Pudleston, Midlands

by Sarah Shuckburgh

The family who own Ford Abbey describe it as a luxurious B&B rather than a hotel, and it certainly has the feel of a comfortable country house, with framed photographs, silver and pewter ornaments, pictures and books. At breakfast in the 15th century beamed dining room, orders are taken for dinner - which is available for residents only. Five evenings
a week (not Sunday or Monday), the chef prepares a set menu, using the Abbey's own eggs, and meat and other produce from neighbouring Willows Farm, which rears Herefordshire cattle and Gloucester Spot pigs. Before dinner, guests can relax by an open fire and help themselves to drinks from an 'honesty bar' on the polished sideboard in the drawing room.

Over the last six years, the ancient buildings of Ford Abbey have been restored and rebuilt with every mod con. The original stone flags conceal underfloor heating; bedrooms and bathrooms are immaculate; and an outhouse contains a heated swimming pool, small gym and sunbed. A huge medieval barn has been converted into four self-catering lodges (sleeping 2-4, minimum stay two nights), each with high ceilings, open plan kitchens and, upstairs, futuristic bathrooms built into a central lozenge-shaped capsule. Everything is extremely tidy: an electric gate seals the entrance from the lane; tarmac drives connect the abbey, lodges and other buildings, a flagged terrace overlooks a brand new stream; and even the plants in the flower beds are neat.

Monks lived at Ford Abbey until the 16th century, and there are plenty of references to its ecclesiastical history, with privet hedges in the shape of a Benedictine cross, bedrooms with names such as Matins, Vespers and Sanctus. The lodges are called Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. One beamed bedroom (my favourite) is decorated with bees - bees on the blinds, on cushions, on chairs, on the curtains of the four-poster bed - reminders of the bees kept by the monks, for beeswax. The ground floor Abbott suite is kitted out for disabled guests, with remote control curtains, a specially adapted bathroom, alarm cords which alert the hotel office, and wide doors leading to the garden and the terrace.

Surrounding the abbey is lovely countryside (you can borrow wellington boots). This Welsh Border country feels remote and rural, but Hereford and Leominster are within easy reach by car, as are the gardens at Eastnor Castle, Hampton Court, Stockton Bray and Bryn's Ground.

First published by Travel Intelligence Ltd

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