Sleeps: up to 4 people
Price: £170 / night for bed & breakfast for a family of 4 in the William Penn Suite
Location: Winchelsea, Sussex
Charles Palmer planted the first vines on this stunning estate in Winchelsea near Rye back in 2006. Since then the vineyard has gone on to produce a selection of award winning English Sparkling Wines served in some of the finest restaurants in the country. The estate also boasts a beautiful 16th century National Trust property, Wickham Manor which Charles and Sally Palmer have opened up as a bed and breakfast. We felt truly privileged to be invited to stay in this historical home where we not only relished experiencing somewhere that brings history to life, but also enjoyed an extremely warm welcome from our hosts.
Approaching the estate along the winding lane the manor sits proudly on top of a tapestry of green fields dotted with sheep. As we arrive it became clear that this is very much a working farm with livestock and machinery bringing the farm to life. We were warmly greeted by Sally who invited us into the main house, Wickham Manor, to settle us into our room.
The manor offers three rooms for bed and breakfast guests. We stayed in the William Penn Suite which is perfect for families with a twin connected to the main bedroom. There are two further doubles available both with four poster beds that are ideally suited to couples.
The William Penn suite has a large window looking out across the sweeping views down towards the coast. The main bedroom offers a comfortable king size bed next to a lounge area looking out to the gardens. There is a well stocked coffee station with hot refreshments and biscuits and small tv on a chest of drawers. The children had their own cosy twin room with a window looking out to the yard where Logan enjoyed spotting the tractors as they prepared for the fields. The bathroom is large and bright with a bath, soft towels and complementary toiletries. We felt we had a lot of space even for four of us and the room catered very well for our needs.
Breakfast is provided in the main dining room where we found the table laid out beautifully with fresh flowers. The children loved choosing from the large selection of mini cereal boxes and we were able to help ourselves to fresh orange juice. Sally took our cooked breakfast orders which included a ‘dippy’ egg for Daisy and sausage, egg and bacon for both Logan and myself. The hot food was all cooked to perfection meaning even my fussy children started the day with happy tummies.
After breakfast I was able to catch up with Charles who told me a bit more about the vineyard and their plans for the future. I was really interested to hear how the vineyard had started thanks to Charles’ daughter’s partner recognising the potential in the soil and landscape on the farm whilst he was studying at Plumpton. The vineyard has grown year after year since their initial dabble in growing back in 2006 which has led to their Sparkling wine being served in some prestigious restaurants including the Black Swan in Oldstead.
Charles also explained how the accommodation on the vineyard offers a rare opportunity for visitors to combine a vineyard tour with an overnight stay eliminating the need for a designated driver or expensive taxi fares. Tours of the vineyard are offered for both guests of Wickham Manor and the general public by appointment between the months of April through to October ranging between £10 – £25 / person.
After our chat I took the children to explore the grounds and vineyards for ourselves. The gardens surrounding the manor house itself are picturesque and timeless….so much so that the property has been used as Sherlock Holmes home in the movie Mr Holmes starring Ian McKellen. The children loved looking at the pond, leaping across the lawns and searching for secret gardens.
As we walked away from the manor, across the farmyard we were greeted with an impressive view of a vast expanse of vines. It was fascinating to watch the farm machinery work it’s way down the track to the neatly plotted vines. It is the combination of this landscape, the soil, the proximity to the coast and the aspect of the slopes that is key to the success of the wine produced here.
Our stay at Wickham House was an incredible experience. The historical manor is classical and charming whilst the gardens are simply stunning. The children loved staying on a working farm and exploring the grounds…although I would say that the manor is ideally suited to children older than preschool age. Charles and Sally were wonderful hosts making us feel well looked after and comfortable in our surroundings. A fantastic opportunity to taste some of the country’s best wine a stones throw from where the grapes were grown in beautiful surroundings. What more could you ask….
If this has whetted your appetite for local wine, do check out Wine Cellar Door who have a great directory and interactive map of visitor-friendly vineyards in England and Wales.