When I was in the Cotswolds recently I stayed at the Wild Rabbit in the surreally pretty village of Kingham. The Wild Rabbit is a pub with rooms and a restaurant but to describe it simply thus gives no indication of its gem-like qualities.
I am not a pub person but the Wild Rabbit is leagues different to your average hostelry. I arrived late on the evening I checked in, tired after a long drive, so I tumbled straight into a bed swathed in luxurious linen. But when I explored the following day I felt as if I had fallen down a rabbit hole and tumbled into pub wonderland.
The Wild Rabbit is the brain child of Lady Carole Bamford the wife of the lately ennobled Anthony Bamford whose father founded the company of which he is now chairman: JCB. The Bamfords are squillinaires. Lady Bamford is a director of JCB and the creator of the Daylesford organic empire. The Wild Rabbit is the latest addition to the orchestra of organic she conducts.
Carole Bamford is not a Lady come lately to an organic way of life as her Damascene conversion happened decades ago shortly after her eldest child, Alice, was born. At time the Bamfords were living and farming in Staffordshire. In the introduction to A Love for Food, the Daylesford cook book, she describes pushing Alice in a pram to check on some roses she had planted in the garden a few days before. The roses had wilted. The powerful herbicide Roundup was being sprayed on the farm and she believed airborne toxins had affected the roses.
Shortly afterwards concerned about the affect of those toxins on her baby and following an inspiring conversation with a man from the Soil Association she made the decision that from then on the family would farm in a different and sustainable way
The Bamfords now live on the 1000 plus acre Daylesford organic farm which is a few minutes drive from Kingham village. The Daylesford empire started with a farm shop. The business has mushroomed since then and on site at the farm you will now find: a spa, a garden shop, a clothes shop, a cookery school, holiday rental cottages … There are Daylesford outposts in London and one in Tokyo.
So what did Lady Bamford do next? Well she bought a pub dating from the 1750’s. In late 2013 after an extensive refurbishment reportedly costing £1.4 million what was formerly the Tollgate inn reopened as The Wild Rabbit. By all accounts Lady Bamford is hot on detail and it shows. The decor is unassuming luxe and the transformed pub is a temple of tastefulness with the odd cartoonish touches such as the large topiary rabbits on either side of the front door.
The Wild Rabbit is one of the loveliest places I have stayed in. I was delighted that all the food I ate there was organic and I found the staff helpful and friendly and good at dealing with the odd hiccup that arose in this seeming idyll. Hopefully the Hugo Guinness illustration above which hangs on one of the pub’s walls is tongue in check!
Note: rooms at the Wild Rabbit (there are twelve) start at an affordable (given its loveliness) £105