Birch (Selsdon) is a countryside retreat that’s less than an hour away from the city, and is all about work and play. The 19th-century mansion turned hotel and members club is just the thing for city-slickers wanting some respite away from the busy city life.
Hotel guests become honorary members during their stay and have access to all member spaces and perks, including their choice of activity from a packed events calendar that ensures there’s always something to do from pottery classes, yoga sessions and onsite foraging walks.
Located on the outskirts of Greater London, this sprawling estate is an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Although some may argue that Birch is too far on the outskirts to be regarded as a London hotel, the hotel is only a 15-minute train ride away from London Bridge or Victoria followed by a short cab ride or bus trip from East Croydon station. Having a location that edges the countryside decidedly has its perks and is a strength of Birch that it takes full advantage of.
The hotel is surrounded by 200 acres of land, once a golf course but has now been transformed with Birch’s rewilding project that has seen the sprawling green grounds return back to its natural unkempt state. Animals roam free on Birch’s untamed grounds, we were even lucky to see wild cows and pigs on a walk around the estate but I was sadly unlucky enough to tread on some cow dung which I can say was the only low point of the trip. Upcycled seating areas and hammocks dot the wildland along with handy location markers to keep guests on the right path.
Prior to being Birch (Selsdon), the mansion and grounds were De Vere Selsdon Estate Hotel and golf course although its history goes back far beyond that with ties to Tudor royalty. The first recorded settlement at Selsdon Park was in 861 AD under the ownership of the Earl of Surrey and a little way down the road was seized by Henry VIII during the mid-sixteenth century where it was soon after given to one of Henry VIII’s most trusted advisor Sir John Gresham. Henry supposedly stayed at the estate whilst secretly courting Anne Boleyn, whose family home was just a stone’s throw away.
Since then, the estate has been passed through other members of royalty, including Elizabeth I, and prominent affluent families until it first became open to the public as a hotel in 1924.
Birch’s embracing of nature follows through to the bedrooms, with natural textures and a minimalist earthy aesthetic where warm peach hues hug you into the bedroom. Find bedside tables crafted by Sebastian Cox using wood from the estate along with lampshades made from recycled glass and fabrics made from recycled textiles, which is in keeping with Birch’s ethos to reuse and minimise waste wherever possible.
There are five different room types available from ‘Snug’, to ‘Suite’ and even ‘Family’ rooms complete with bunk beds. We found ourselves in a ‘Large’ which is perfect for two and is on the roomier size, equipped with a king-size bed and plenty of space to relax.
There are quite literally endless amounts of things to do at Birch, from screen printing, foraging tours around the grounds, hand-building pottery, ring carving masterclasses, pottery throwdown, and an array of fitness classes hosted daily. We endeavoured to try the hand-building pottery class led by the wonderful Antonio who was very patient and hands-on with two complete beginners in pottery. Birch’s event calendar is chock-full of activities.
An incredibly well-equipped gym is on-site as well as tennis courts and a lido glammed up in an art-deco style lined with cherry red parasols, year-round fire pits and a DJ deck to greet you on arrival. There’ll be some poolside fare too to fuel your water activities with a special food and beverage grab-and-go service that includes a range of sandwiches, salads, and snacks, along with some poolside tipples. The 25-metre pool is heated so guests are able to take an outdoor dip any time of the year.
Both the all-day dining and signature restaurants, Vervain and Elodie, feature freshly foraged ingredients from the estate and seasonal produce from the onsite kitchen garden for an ever-changing field-to-fork menu. Vervain is Birch’s relaxed British brasserie with a menu for any time of day with buffet breakfasts, Sunday roasts, brunch, lunch, and dinners.
Michelin-starred chef Lee Westcott’s Elodie is a space for something a little bit more special. Chef’s field-to-fork and flavour-to-fun ethos is encompassed at Birch’s flagship restaurant, offering a tasting menu that showcases the best of British Isles produce and foraged ingredients which even make their way into the drinks. The summer green bean croustade and hand-dived scallop were standouts from the five-course tasting menu, whilst the lamb was surprisingly more than pleasant for someone who’s not the biggest fan of the meat.
The mansion is well equipped with three bars that each offer a different mood depending on the time of day. Guests can enjoy their tipples on the outdoor terrace whilst lazing about on beanbags overlooking the rolling hills.
All in all, if you’re looking for some sanctuary from city life without travelling far then Birch (Selsdon) will do nicely. The hotel has the charms and quirks of a mansion with plenty of history, think creaky wooden floorboards, stained glass windows, and architecture from a bygone era, whilst injecting modern amenities and perks for a relaxing weekend away to relax and recharge.