The rain spat viciously against the window, streaming down in jagged rivers when the bell rang: it was the Count, and the summons Igor had been dreading. Silhouetted against the dark night he gave an involuntary twitch as he headed off for the cellars to fetch “the contraption”; It was a primitive thing of scarred wood and heavy leather straps that never failed to strike fear into him, and allied to the Count’s unhealthy interest in electricity derived from forked lightning had sent many nearby villagers to an unhappy end. Shuddering, Igor pondered what had happened to his original job application for work at a medieval hotel near the dunes. That one eyed fool of a postman must have realised that Climping was nowhere near Transylvania, and how had he convinced himself that going for a job interview in Eastern Europe could be exciting instead of just plain scary? His letters home had never received a reply, he had no money, and now he was at his wits end.
Many miles away at Bailiffscourt, young Jack was much happier. His application to assist in the running of one of the most interesting blends of ancient and modern hotels in the country was going rather well, and he was a mine of information to new guests. Bailiffscourt might derive its name from Norman times, but was only completed less than 100 years ago. Walter Guinness, the 1st Baron Moyne, was a very successful businessman and politician as well as inheriting quite a few bob from the beer brewing empire. When he discovered plans to build a huge housing development around his holiday home by the sea he fought back, buying up 750 acres of the threatened land. ‘Oh goody!’ thought Lady Moyne, ‘Now we have space to put together something decent to invite a few friends over’.
A chance meeting with the son of the owner of an antiques shop in Hertfordshire got the ball rolling. Lady Moyne was fascinated with Medievalism in bricks and mortar, and Amyas Phillips had read architecture at Christ Church College Oxford. Lord Moyne liked what he saw, and after commissioning Amyas to refurbish his London home, he let him and the Mrs get to work at Climping. Whole buildings were bought and moved, ancient gates and lintels were sought out, and the sport of architectural salvage was born.
Unconsciously dipping my head, I stepped over the ancient oak beam into our room. Facing me was a four poster illuminated with decidedly modern spotlights. The floor creaked, the door to the deluxe en-suite did too. I dumped the bags, hung up a few things and then piled onto the bed. Deep, blissful, and like being suspended somewhere around **(about?) 3 or 4 feet off the floor in a giant supportive marshmallow. The game show on Channel 4 was a bit jarring, so I was tempted to summon a serf for something or other, or perhaps a tumbler or strolling minstrel? I glanced at the clock; it would have to wait for another time. In a few minutes I was due down at the Spa for one of their luxury treatments.
Leaving the current Lady H to her own devices for an hour (oh dear, it might have been me that forgot her swimming cossie, but I`m denying it for all I`m worth) I wandered into one of the more modern parts of the operation. A quick questionnaire first: am I diabetic, emetic, energetic, receiving treatment, suffering this, that or the other or a bit of a weak specimen in any way? No, good, then what would I like to get out of this session? Do I need de-stressing, energising or invigorating? I didn`t see a box for “losing a couple of stone”, so settled for a bit of de-stressing with Laura. I opted for light massage knowing how enthusiastic some of this deep tissue treatment can get. I`m here to mellow out, not experience getting mugged without the need of a police report afterwards. I left after being oiled, lightly pummelled and indeed invigorated.
Back in my Baronial residence, and still without a serf in sight, I slip into a decidedly modern version of a 1930s opulent bathroom. The shower does its stuff, and the aroma of essential oils is tempered by a quick squirt of “Mr Marvellous”. I`m still not sure if she was being very ironic when Lady H purchased that, but apparently it does suit me. I dress in robes of golden thread, and head off to the dining room. Oaken wood beams, plaster that curves in a myriad of overlapping planes, a barrel vaulted roof of gentle elevation and some mildly distressed looking chairs complete the look. There are a couple of menus, but they are pretty flexible here, so it`s easy to mix and match and pay a supplement if you can`t commit. On the Sussex Menu there is the unmissable Climping Beach. Aside from its sheer localness, it’s the most fabulous blend of crab mayo, Selsey lobster, brown shrimp & hot butter glazed oyster in the shell topped with a blue cheese gratin that you are ever likely to get. Lady H is most satisfied with her Ballotine of Quail, praising the excellent texture and flavour, and being very stingy with the sharing.
Threading my way over to the Climping Menu I`m seduced by the Pork. There`s glazed tenderloin, spiced slow-cooked shoulder, baby turnips, Jerusalem artichoke and some apple balls which provide a lovely acidic counterpoint. It feels as if it’s over in a flash, and despite the beauty of presentation, I`m like little Oliver Twist wanting just a touch more, which can be an occupational hazard with near perfection. Meanwhile, back on the Sussex Menu her ladyship is searching for the thread that unites the Turbot with its tempura squid, charred fennel, baby spinach, new potatoes and sun dried tomato. A very Mediterranean inspired number, the potatoes are a bit “al dente” and the sauce it a bit too pervasive for her to give it wholehearted love, and she does prefer a “tranche” of turbot to a wing edge.
As the last of the wine slips down its decision time; sweet or cheese? Of course we have one of each. Rude not to, and all that. Banana parfait and a selection of cheeses, coffee and brandy, roll me back to my room and tuck me up. Marvellous! One lazy attempt at reading my book, then it’s lights out and float away. I thought about a bath in the morning, but knew I`d end up lingering too long and missing what turned out to be an excellent breakfast. You need a touch more time than we had to get properly into the swing of Bailiffscourt, but this was a wonderful introduction, and walking the beach (just a couple of hundred yards away) after we checked out was a great departing gift. Igor would love it, but even if the Count does let him go, it might be some time before he can afford it.
Bailiffscourt Court Hotel & Spa, Climping, West Sussex 01903 723511