What A Wonderful World At Lower Mill
Photos: Habitat First Group, Martin Drake, Homestay
“With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?” – Oscar Wilde
Once discovered, never forgotten and six years on from my first stay, Lower Mill didn’t disappoint. Set in a stunning 550 acre gated Cotswold retreat, the managed nature reserve hides an award-winning mix of architecture set around lakes, where wildlife and humans nestle in perfect harmony, within a balanced eco system.
Wildlife includes over-wintering wildfowl, otters, owls, bats, deer and the first European beavers to be introduced into England.
The truly ambitious project was the brainchild of the late Jeremy Paxton, a real visionary, whose ideas live on through his children. An idyllic idle where kids play footie in the street as birds chatter among the hedgerows. It’s truly magical whatever the weather, where each season, as well as morning, noon and night, bring a different atmosphere to enjoy.
“Combining excellence in architecture, interior design, state-of-the-art facilities, security and service, Habitat First Group creates an oasis of space where families can holiday comfortably and responsibly, while safely exploring the great outdoors” – Lower Mill (Habitat First Group)
The ‘Sun House’ style home on Howells Mere is my personal favourite; open plan living with a wood-burner, (where man can make fire – what is that all about? Give them a bbq or woodburner and they go all pyromaniac) and double height glazed windows to take full advantage of the views across the lake towards the twinkling lights of the other ‘Grand Design-esque’ homes. It is dreamy. Booked through the super helpful and efficient Habitat Escapes (hello Kellie and Bridget), it was immaculately clean with a well equipped kitchen, hotel style toiletries and fluffy white towels.
Sip coffee from your bed as you overlook the lake, enjoy wine in front of the woodburner and walk for miles (discovering you have a leaky welly), before a hearty Sunday lunch at Ballihoo, the on-site restaurant. It’s a cosy social hub (that needs to be bigger!) with super friendly staff that can’t do enough to make sure your visit is a delight (hello Laura & Lauryn). The coffee is great, as was the Baileys, salted caramel, espresso martini – naughty, but v nice, and probably v tricky to say after a few. You can also order take out pizza to eat back at your accommodation and a small General Store carries basic supplies and artisan bread.
Unwind in the ArtSpa with sauna, steam room, luxury beauty treatments, newly refurbished dressing rooms, a 20 metre slate clad indoor pool, a heated outdoor pool, as well as an outdoor eco plunge pool. A newly located gym is coming soon....in the meantime there’s plenty of paths and tracks to jog or cycle around.
Beyond Lower Mill – also now open is Silverlake Dorset, where the dream continues at the former Warmwell Quarry. It’s here the Paxton’s hope to realise Orchid House – an architectural egg shaped show-stopper that Jeremy was hugely passionate about. Like Lower Mill, it is already award-winning, picking up two so far this year alone. And next? Outline planning has been granted for Birchwood Lakes, near Barnstaple, North Devon.
Oh, and if you love it, you can buy your own home, noting it is a holiday home and can’t be your only / primary residence. This really is living the dream.
Lower Mill Estate
Good To Know:
Take wellies and a torch for walking around at night!
Do book treatments at the spa and tables at Ballihoo in advance, both of which get busy at the weekend even in low season. Spa towel hire £2 each per session.
Note that from Oct – March the Somerford Lagoon at Lower Mill is reserved for wildlife, so no boating, fishing, or walking on some paths, to allow nature some chill time too.