The 5th December 2010 was bang on perfect and the same day one year later was going to be hard to beat. Let’s face it, wedding days are pretty special. But our first anniversary was blooming marvelous.
The walls around us were made of wood and we bathed in a copper bath for two before pulling on our Sunday best (or Monday in this case) and trekking across a muddy field, arm in arm, the wind in our hair, torch in hand; our only light against the black of night. As we reached the old country house, a dark shadow appeared and opened the car door with a creak, guiding us in. And away we went, down winding roads, sliding around corners as a frost began to take hold.
As we reached our destination, warm smiles greeted us, the glow of Christmas lights and festive decorations and a very comfortable sofa. We’d just travelled from the treehouse at Harptree Court (which gets a great write up in The Guardian) to The Priory in Bath for dinner. The treehouse was my idea but full credit goes to hubby for planning the meal out – I had no idea until we’d arrived where we were even going and he’s usually rubbish at keeping secrets! I was so hungry a Macdonalds would have done but this had to be the best meal I have ever tasted. We plumped for executive chef Michael Caines’ signature tasting menu… scallops, pate, seabass, beef, cheese, sorbet and fruit salad and a chocolate dessert, followed by anniversary-themed petit fours and a fair bit of wine. Between the eating we sere served by really helpful and attentive staff, not snooty and in your face, just friendly and informative and genuinely interested in which was our favourite course. To be honest, they were all amazing but the pate and beef were probably top. Lush!
The sommelier was fantasticly passionate about his wine and helped us try some new ones, not intimidating with his knowledge and passion and not snooty about my lack of refinement when it comes to fine wine either. His lessons in wine were enjoyable. And the chap who served us our cheese course had a genuine glint of excitement in his eyes when we asked for his recommendations. Masterchef winner Sam Moody is the head chef at The Priory and between him and Michael Caines, they produce some food to be very proud off. There was literally a party in my mouth that night!
After the meal – which lasted over three hours! – we headed back to the treehouse, the perfect tonic to a busy existence. It boasts all mod cons as well as a character copper bath, heated flooring, a much needed hot water bottle , log burner, and a huge helping of Linda’s homemade lemon cake which is to DIE for. The torch was much needed, we’d have been sleeping in a wet field without it, but that added to the experience and isolation of our three-day retreat. Harptree Court is nestled in tranquility between Bath and Bristol, near to Chew Valley Lake, and it’s a pretty drive to the Park and Ride which took us to Bath’s Christmas markets, hugging the town’s Abbey and luring visitors to its core with the smell of mulled wine, cheese and chutneys.
On our second night at the treehouse we braved the dark and wet again and strolled around 200 metres to the local pub, the Waldegrave Arms, where we were met with smiles, cosy Christmas lights and music and a good home-cooked festive menu. And as we wandererd home, our bellies filled with roast turkey and beef stew, we saw the local phone box filled with novels. Locals use the box to house their book swap shcmee – what a lovey idea.
Linda and Charles run Harptree Court and welcome people into their home like old friends. At 10am check out time, Charles was there with the 4×4 to help us take our luggage across the field to the car and we left feeling utterly relaxed and smug. Our first anniversary was everything we’d hoped it to be and more, and we couldn’t have asked for a nicer place to spend it.