November 24, 2013
If you are looking to stay in a romantic and historic English manor house hotel not just dream about what it might be like to live the life as depicted on Downton Abbey, then look no further. Soulton Hall in Shropshire, England, is a 500 acre working farm and country manor that has been in the Ashton family for 16 generations. Every season here offers a rich taste of the beauty and bounty of the English countryside.
Located 60 miles south of Manchester and approximately 180 miles from London, there’s a relaxed atmosphere at Soulton Hall where guests are looked after but have opportunity for privacy and are well fed from the gardens and farm and food producers around the local area. Guests at this English manor house hotel can walk from the front door along several miles of footpath and they recently introduced 2.7 miles of permissive bridle way to the north of Soulton Hall, which a popular dog walk for the locals and Soulton guests (yes dogs are welcome in two of the cottages on this dog-friendly property). In winter you’ll find a roaring fire after a day of exploring to sit by and relax with a glass of wine.
Here, Tim Ashton, talks with Eco News Network about what makes Soulton Hall so special for his family and their guests.
Eco News Network: What is your role at Soulton Hall and what brought you there?
Tim: Soulton Hall and farm are has been looked after 16 by generations my family, and my Mum and Dad (Ann and John) currently have that role. I have returned to my family farm after a brief period working in studying in the UK and then working for a law firm in LA.
Eco News Network: Tell Eco News Network readers a little about the history of Soulton Hall and how it became so focused on sustainability?
Tim: Soulton is an ancient manor, going back to Saxon days: the first known owner was Brithric and King Cnut murdered him on Christmas Day, 1017. After the Norman Conquest (1066), William I had a small castle here, along with lots of others on the Welsh boarder that turned into a manor house. In 1556 that manor house was replaced by the current hall built by Sir Rowland Hill, who was the first Protestant Lord Mayor of London. Our family has been here since his time.
We became heavily focused on suitability in 2009, because it follows naturally with looking after a place like this. We are farmers, so we monitor weather closely and are hyper-aware of how dependent humans are on a benign climate, how many resources are limited, and the need to be use them respectfully. The long history of this place makes it easier (and more vital) to take the long view.
Tim: Ultimately, that’s a question for people who come and visit us, and you can see our guest book comments. I think though, it is fair to say that Soulton genuinely lives its farming, is immersed in its history because of the continuity of this family’s care of the place, and because we are making serious efforts to be better for the environment. This honesty of engagement with these themes contrasts with what is often quite a superficial/hollow ‘greenwash’ from businesses.
Spring: Bluebells in Soulton Wood
Summer: The harvest
Autumn: The turning of the leaves and the tidiness of the new-sown crops over the farm
Winter: Frosty mornings, Christmas in its time, crackling log fires
Tim: This area of England is on the usual tourist route of London, Oxford, and Edinburgh. It is a more authentic experience of England and it is also convenient for much of the country, and for Wales. Next year there will be a focus on WWI and Wilfred Owen (one of the leading poets of WWI and a soldier) is local to us. There is a popular flower show at Shrewsbury.
Eco News Network: How has the popularity of Downton Abbey and other shows that feature English manor houses impacted your business? (Sorry but I had to ask!)
Tim: We have noticed an impact certainly. In particular, we have noticed an increase in American visitors!
To learn more visit the Soulton Hall website.
Click here for more details on green initiatives at Soulton.
See you in front of the roaring fire!
Photos courtesy of Soulton Hall