Last fall, an intimate group of PRIOR members traveled to Heckfield Place for our inaugural Nomadic Clubhouse. It was the first in our ongoing series of events in which we bring together lauded chefs, renowned artisans and true experts in their field with our community of travelers for one-off celebrations that draw out the best of a particular region.
We’ll soon be announcing a new calendar of Nomadic Clubhouses and Club Journeys in Mexico’s Oaxaca, Japan, Uruguay and high in the Himalayas, alongside our expedition through Chile to PRIOR’s purpose-built desert camp to observe the 2020 eclipse.
At Heckfield, we arranged a weekend that encapsulated the essence of a true English countryside weekend, with outdoor expeditions, crafts and extraordinary meals prepared exclusively by two great talents, chefs Skye Gyngell (of Spring at Somerset House) and James Henry (formerly of Paris’ Bones), collaborating for the first time.
The weekend was the first-ever take-over of what is the most ambitious countryside retreat to open outside of London in decades, and the recent winner of the Sunday Times Hotel of the Year award. Its impeccably appointed rooms were designed by Ilse Crawford protege Ben Thompson, each following a different color palette and furnished with a pitch-perfect mix of antiques and bespoke pieces.
Our members were collected from central London and greeted by the PRIOR team at the entrance of the grand Georgian manor house in the Hampshire woodlands. Guests included designers Luke Edward Hall and Duncan Campbell, Milanese style maven and La Double J owner JJ Martin, food writer Skye McAlpine, writer Fiona Golfar, design and fashion retailer Alex Eagle, model and British Vogue contributing editor Laura Bailey, and jewelry-maker Solange Azagury-Partridge.
Awaiting guests in each room were baskets woven by master maker Hilary Burns, bearing a marbled travel journal, natural botanical cosmetics by Wildsmith, and the newly minted PRIOR Membership Guide. Gathering for drinks and canapes in the drawing room, we were greeted by Skye Gyngell and her team, who prepared a full supper; the chef taking time out to sit and chat on the long dining table throughout the evening.
The next morning, after watching the mist rise from the lake during breakfast, we donned our Hunter Wellington boots for a walk with Heckfield’s arborist Sam Crosse, who led us through the remarkable grounds of the estate, which encompasses 400 acres of woodlands, gardens and lakes, to forage for chestnuts and learn about some of England’s most majestic trees.
The weekend culminated with Skye and James collaborating on an extraordinary meal, cooking from a burning hearth in the open kitchen. The dishes responded to the season, making the most of produce from Heckfield’s own well-established biodynamic farm. Plates included langoustine, oysters with horseradish cream, wild duck mala, pumpkin topped with honeycomb and paprika, mallard with cabbage farci and, for the finale, a quince and walnut tart.
The PRIOR editorial team, overseen by David Prior, works together to write and produce stories that inspire curiosity about, and the desire to connect to, places and people across the world.