We head to the edge of the Sussex Downs for an afternoon of champagne and chukkas
The forecast said rain, but as I admire Cowdray House, surveying its 67sq km estate in the late-morning sun, I’m grateful the Beeb got it wrong. With views towards South Downs National Park, I take in the ruins of the original Tudor mansion, the outdoor pool and the distant polo pitch – our destination for this afternoon.
But before we descend on the polo fields, we gather in the Morning Room for canapés as Cowdray’s CEO, Jonathan Russell, relates the history of the house. Owned by Lord and Lady Cowdray, the manor has become available for exclusive use. Having already eyed up atmospheric Buck Hall (complete with oil portraits and a huge stone fireplace), I’m keen to have a proper nose around.
Each of its 15 bedrooms has roll-top baths, unique decor and views over the grounds: my favourite is the wood-panelled Golden Topaz, with an impressively intricate four-poster bed. An array of event spaces span its book-lined Library through to a wellness spa and dining room, where we sit down to Asian-style salmon paired with local wine.
Having learned the essentials of polo at Coworth Park earlier this year, I’m excited to watch the pros. As we take our seats pitch-side, the eight players don’t disappoint, thundering down the pitch. As our glasses are topped up with more fizz, we honour the time-old tradition of treading down the grass at half time.
And then, as predicted, the heavens open. But it fails to dampen spirits as we duck under a marquee for the trophy presentation. With a goodie bag of produce from the estate in hand (including Cowdray’s own coffee and ale, brewed on-site) we return to the capital a little wet, but with a pleasant clink of bottles and renewed appreciation of the Sussex countryside.
Treat guests to the local delicacies of your destination – they’ll make for conversation-worthy mementos
Cowdray Park, Midhurst, West Sussex, GU29 0AY | cowdray.co.uk
| 01730 812423
Speaking of polo, the activity makes for quite the unusual teambuilding day. Head here to see what happened when we tried it out ourselves.