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Brief Published: 6 Mar 2020

Upskilling Rural Retreat for Stressed Urbanites


Hertfordshire hotel Birch is repositioning the rural retreat as a cathartic escape for stressed-out urbanites at its new countryside estate, hotel and members’ club, located 30 miles outside of London.

The plush 140-bedroom hotel will offer a co-working space complete with pottery studio and interactive bakery. Guests will be able to take part in ceramics workshops, glassblowing lessons and sourdough-making classes, as well as attend cultural events and yoga sessions.

Outside on its 55 acres of grounds, guests can learn about beekeeping, as well as how to compost and forage on its farm, which also supplies the retreat’s two restaurants – The Zebra Riding Club and Valeries. Members will also have access to a heated lido with a roster of summer pool parties, a wellness space, an arcade, a screening room for movie nights, and music and art rooms available to use 24/7. 

Opening in April 2020, the hotel and members’ club is the brainchild of Chris Penn, former managing director of LA-headquartered chain Ace Hotels, and British restaurateur Robin Gill. “Birch is a space for those living in cities to escape to,” said Penn. “Whether you’re with us for a day or night, work or weekend, we want to leave you in a better place than when you found us.”

This is a great example of a new generation of members’ clubs that offer more than just a place to work and dine; they extend that opportunity to learning a host of new skills whilst escaping the stress of urban life. Read New-Wave Members’ Clubs and Club Together: New Clubs For Like-Minded Consumers for more on this gear-change. See also Battling Burnout for more on travel that aims to nurture and balance.