A fire feast in the wilderness with Tom Kerridge
By Fiona Sanderson
Tucked away in a hidden corner of Suffolk in the UK, you’ll find Wilderness Reserve, an 8000-acre private estate, dotted with grazing cows, undulating hills and English nature at its best. Here, you can choose to rent your own exclusive hideaway from a collection of farmhouses, country cottages and majestic manor houses. Each property has been lovingly restored over the last 20 years using local craftsmen, whose invaluable skills have retained their heritage, whilst the interiors are stylish and contemporary.
The properties range from an electricity-free love nest, to your own spa house on a private island with its own rowing boat and sunken hot tub, to a Grade II* listed Georgian country house designed by the celebrated architect Decimus Burton, which can sleep 14. The Orangery, meanwhile, can seat up to 120 and is perfect for weddings or corporate functions. To the Manor Born, or escape from it all, this restored Suffolk estate has everything you could need – a perfect escape from city life.
A fleet of Land Rovers escorted my fellow guests and I to the Reserve, where we were treated to a guided tour around the estate’s bucolic beauty, with the cottages all as unique and as charming as can be. A haven for wildlife, the estate boasts over a hundred species of birds, over two hundred different plants, and countless different insects, including moths, butterflies and dragonflies. The Reserve also has 2,000 nest boxes, 75 of which are for a population of barn owls, and the rest are for bird species such as robins and tits. In spring, I am told that swallows and cuckoos regularly take up residence around the estate. The tranquillity of the Reserve is therefore a big draw for staying here, with views across acres of unspoilt countryside providing a wonderful, and calming, backdrop.
My husband and I stayed in The Grange, a classic Suffolk pink farmhouse with old beams, mohair rugs and a Tom Dixon styled kitchen which opened onto a unique outside area with heated pool, dining area and hot tub. Perfect for a dip, even in the depths of an Autumn chill.
The highlight of our visit, however, was our invitation to Wilderness Reserve’s first Fire Feast, a collaboration which sees a Michelin star chef take over the Reserve for a night to cook up a fireside feast for assembled guests. With plans for several events throughout 2022, we were in attendance to sample fare cooked by Tom Kerridge and his team from Lush By Tom Kerridge.
As evening fell, we were guided along a path lit by fire torches, through ancient woodland to a fire pit where Tom Kerridge was cooking up a storm. A ten foot high cooking cage was suspended over the fire, designed especially for the occasion, and the smell of the cooking meats was incredible. I couldn’t wait to sit down to sample the cage-hung bacon and maple-glazed Sutton Hoo chicken, or the Asador-style wilderness lamb that had been cooked over the fire’s embers. Not forgetting the beef fat sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream for dessert!
We were treated to some fireside entertainment over the course of the evening, with fire eaters and axe throwers showing off their impressive skills. This scene deep in the forest was reminiscent of Game of Thrones – a feast to end all feasts!
With something for everyone, I would thoroughly recommend a stay at Wilderness Reserve. To be ensconced in the heart of nature alongside friends and family, with the chance to dine under the moonlight while a Michelin star chef cooked my dinner just yards away from my table, is truly what a Great British Staycation should be all about!