Travel: Enjoy a taste of the Cotswolds fresh from the hedgerows

Learns to forage for food during a stay at this boutique manor house hotel

The Golden Valley view is stunning (Hazel Thompson / True Image Media)
The Golden Valley view is stunning (Hazel Thompson / True Image Media)

With its own foraging expert on staff, Burleigh Court restaurant and hotel in the Cotswolds can rightly claim its sustainability credentials.

Emmanuelle Paulson, 23, the aforementioned expert, who also tends to the kitchen garden, is passionate about using local and seasonal produce as are the hotel’s owners. Produce is sourced from within a 35-mile radius.

Eating there is a delight for the eyes as well as the tastebuds. Some of the drinks and food dishes served in the impressive wood-paneled dining room have the extra touches of flowers, herbs and ingredients gathered in the fields and hedgerows around the hotel. This attention to detail helped to make dining here feel special.

The distinctive and stylish lounge

The 30 Day Dry Aged Chateaubriand to share is one of the most popular dishes on the menu, but vegetarians are well catered for with dishes such as Wild Garlic Gnocchi (plant-based) served with wild garlic pesto, broad beans, asparagus and tempura oyster mushroom.

And while staying in a 200-year-old, Grade II-listed manor house is special enough, it’s rare that the decor proves so fascinating.

Vintage touches at Burleigh Court blend surprisingly easily with interiors that have a rich and eclectic style, including (very) bold and luxurious wallpaper and fabrics from Italian designer Amanda Ferragamo.

The 18-room boutique hotel, reopened in early 2022, is set in four acres of lovely grounds overlooking the stunning Golden Valley of Stroud in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

The ‘Romantic’ room with its four-poster bed

Our room had a four poster bed and spa bath and a view of the rear garden where we could often see a lone deer wandering happily on the lawn next to the kitchen garden.

There is an Art Deco plunge pool at the hotel, which was not open during our stay, but would be a lovely place to relax in the summer.

I was due to join one of the hotel’s Wild Foodie Foraging Experiences offered by the hotel for an extra charge, but bad weather intervened. Emanuelle explained, however, that, the five-hour experience includes a three-hour Foraging Walk followed by a two-course lunch prepared by Head Chef Shaun Jones. Your foraging foodie delights will include wild herb pate, made from cashews, ground ivy, three cornered leeks, wild marjoram, hedge garlic and thyme. Follow this with wild garlic pesto on gnocchi with garden vegetables. Top it off with a nibble on some nettle cake.

Emmanuelle says: “People say they’ll never look at a hedgerow in the same way again after their foraging experience. It helps them connect to the land and learn how to help make it thrive.”

Enjoy a foraging experience from Burleigh Court Hotel

All sorts of tasty treats are grown in the kitchen garden, including chard, beetroots, carrots, fennel and cucamelons (tiny South American watermelons), a new one on me! Herbs such as lovage and winter savory sound like things Mrs Patmore would use in the Downton Abbey kitchen.

In the orchard are apple, pear, plum and soft fruit trees and a ring of edible wild St George’s mushrooms grows around the base of a cherry tree in the garden.

There are also beehives, the honey from which is served at breakfast and used in the kitchen. In fact, there’s a veritable feast of food ready for harvesting all year round. This more than enough to keep you at the hotel, but the Cotswolds beckons and just minutes away from the hotel are Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons, both National Trust sites. Minchinhampton is archaeologically important, with prehistoric burial mounds and Rodborough attracts visitors for its wild flowers - early purple orchids in May - and butterflies.

A little further away, about 30 minutes, however, is a Cotswolds favourite of mine - Westonbirt, the National Arboretum, which boasts one of the most beautiful and important plant collections in the world.

It has 15,000 specimens and 2,500 species of trees from around the globe.

While it’s probably most famous for its collection of Japanese maples, which give spectacular displays in autumn as the leaves turn, the rhododendron blooms of late spring are also spectacular. We were amazed by the different colours and the size of these plants as we wandered along the pathways of the Old Arboretum.

The collection of Japanese maples is world famous with around 297 different types.

The 600 acre arboretum was first created by the wealthy Victorian entrepreneur Robert Holford in the 1870s, but has since expanded to become a huge visitor attraction.

Although we didn’t have a lot of time to explore, there is so much to do here for all ages. You can learn about the important, continuing work carried out here or just have fun walking along the STIHL Treetop Walkway,

So I’d recommend Burleigh Court as a great Cotswolds base to relax in and immerse yourself in the glory of nature.

The Cotswolds

No matter how many times you visit the Cotswolds, it never loses its charm. There are gorgeous villages with honey-coloured stone cottages such as Laycock, Castle Combe, Bourton-On-The-Water, Burford and Stow-On-The-Wold, as well as palaces, castles and country houses.

It covers almost 800 square miles – and runs through five counties (Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire).

Travel facts

Ruth Brindle was a guest of Burleigh Court, a boutique hideaway hotel with a 2 AA Rosette restaurant in The Cotswolds. Stays are priced from £139 per night room only. Dinner, bed and breakfast packages are available too.

To book a stay at Burleigh Court, call 01453 883 804 or visit www.burleighcourtcotswolds.co.uk

Foraging hints

Dandelions: the whole plant can be used by roasting the root to make dandelion coffee, or you can use the leaves in a salad or make a jelly.

Nettles: must be used before they flower to make nettle pesto with the leaves or steam them as a vegetable.

Violas and nasturtiums: the flowers can be eaten and make beautiful food decorations.