Think of Croydon and you might imagine an urban landscape, bustling traffic and the blue capped chimneys of an IKEA megastore. Little would you think that, just a short drive away from East Croydon station, there’s a stylish hotel set in 200 acres of green space, just waiting to welcome you into its cool, effortlessly chilled embrace.
This is Birch Selsdon, the new sister hotel to Birch Cheshunt in North London. The Birch group describe their hotels as an ‘unashamed escape from the everyday’. It’s all about ‘bringing like-minded people together and providing them with the space to reconnect – with themselves and each other’. Offering membership to local Londoners and stays for guests from further afield, the idea is that you might spend an afternoon in the co-working space, leave the children in the kids club, enjoy a yoga class, sample a pottery workshop, have a swim in the lido and spend the evening in one of the two restaurants.
Early in September I took myself off to Birch Selsdon to enjoy a solo child-free staycation. And let me tell you it was heaven! Even though it was just an hour from my own home in south London, it felt like I had escaped to a restorative country hotel. I found peace from the views of the rolling hills, I read nearly a whole book from a swinging hammock, I woke up in a giant bed with crisp white bedding, I drank rosé by the pool and I really didn’t want to leave.
[Ad – my one night press stay was complimentary]
I think by now Birch is known for being a little unpolished. It’s not perfect by any means, it’s certainly not like the other big members club… But I think that’s part of it’s charm – it’s unpretentious and a little bit playful. There’s no judgement here. Birch is attracting a fairly young, cultured crowd of 30 and 40 year olds who want a bit more from a weekend away than just a nice, fancy room. You don’t feel you have to look a certain way or dress a certain way, which means you can start to relax straightaway.
Birch Selsdon is set in a 19th century, gothic-style red-brick mansion that was previously a tired hotel and golf course. It is said that Henry VIII stayed here while courting Anne Boleyn. Around 500 years later and the grounds have been returned to their roots. Furniture designer and environmentalist Sebastian Cox helped spearhead the rewilding of the estate’s vast grounds, as well as designing bespoke furniture for the bedrooms of the hotel. Now the old golf course is one of the largest rewilding sites within the M25, where you can find free-roaming livestock, deer and over 80 plant species.
The interiors of the hotel were re-modelled by interior design and architecture studio A-nrd, led by Alessio Nardi and Lukas Persakovas, and Sella Concept. The vibe is warm with a little bit of drama. There’s 181 bedrooms and I stayed in a large room, which was more than generous in size, with a big bay window and tall, lofty ceilings. The rooms are earthy, natural and contemporary in style, with tactile cork floors, Bauwerk-style walls and sculptural, trend-led furniture. In each room there’s a tea and coffee station hidden away in the Sebastian Cox-designed vanity unit. He also created the bedside tables using wood from the grounds, while the sculptures that hang in the reception area were crafted by Olly Fathers using birchwood off-cuts from the estate.
Conscious of minimising waste and consumption, Birch also enlisted the help of Dodds & Shute, a design-led procurement company dedicated to sourcing the most sustainable furniture and lighting, to track the carbon footprint of every item across the estate.
In the rooms you won’t find a TV in sight, which is actually quite a relief if you want to truly relax. If I was being picky I would have liked a more powerful shower and a little coffee machine to make a decent cup first thing in the morning. But really, you’re likely to be spending most of your time outside of the bedroom, enjoying everything else Birch Selsdon has to offer.
Elsewhere at Birch Selsdon there’s a co-working space, two restaurants and three bars, a wellness space with a gym, studios and treatment rooms, a pottery studio and screen-printing workshop, as well as Birchlings, a dedicated kids club that will take care of your little ones while you relax and unwind. There are places you can escape for a moment of quiet, for example the hammocks in the trees, but there’s also an energetic vibe if you fancy a cocktail or a more social escape with friends.
It’s somewhere where you can go to feel calm and nourished, but also inspired and uplifted too. It’s also dog friendly so I think there truly is something for everyone, whether you want a quiet escape for a one, a romantic getaway for two or a family break for everyone. I’ll definitely be back again.
Birch Selsdon is a 10 minute drive from East Croydon train station and rooms start from £180 per night.
Find out more www.birchcommunity.com