Catherine Chichester

MEET THE OWNER

How did you come to the hospitality business?

Sort of by accident...I lived in many places before settling down in the Cotswolds, with every home and country adding to my palette. I started creating these homes at a time when my life was very full: a large family with many visitors, we craved generous rural living space and entertained lots. Now the kids are no longer here full time, it makes sense to share these spaces so other families can create precious 'good life' memories.  My interiors are an essential part of my creative voice and I love making beautiful homes as  family life is so enriched by them. 

My homes combine my love for art, culture, attention to detail, beauty and luxury. Many of the features in my properties are my original design and the entire process is deeply nourishing for me. This is something I enjoy sharing and I love how visitors are equally nourished by discovering this space.

Are you a Cotswolds local ?  

Ah, not quite. I am fully Belgian, born near Antwerp and lived the first two decades of my life in continental Europe between Belgium, Germany and France. I moved to the UK in my early twenties - to Glasgow, to be precise - where I did my postgraduate in Decorative Arts at the university. I followed this with a couple of years in the art world, working at Christies', the auction house in London, before moving to Los Angeles, CA. Then, as the ultimate culture shock, I relocated from LA, here to Bledington in the Cotswolds nearly 20 years ago. I have happily lived in the same home all this time, and I hope by now, I might be considered a local!

Your best job?

That's a tough one. I started my working life in a very cool job: working as a gemmologist for a diamond manufacturer in Antwerp. Later, in the art world, I still cannot believe the world class and priceless works of art I held in my hands. And I admit ....I felt pretty lucky vetting the worlds top spa destinations while contributing to Conde Nast Spa Guide!

What are your passions?

I have a rather voracious appetite for learning. My perennial favourites are health/wellness, yoga, ecology and philosophy. Nearly 20 years ago, I trained as a yoga teacher, and I continue my explorations into a wide range of ancient as well as cutting edge healing modalities. I participate in my lovely village through community projects like the village shop and regenerative environmental initiatives. 

How did you transition from your job in health & well-being to hospitality?

I took exceptional care in materials selected (non toxic, natural paints, breathable fabrics etc.) and technologies used (renewable biomass heating, advanced 5 stage water filtration that structures water for optimum health etc.) in all of my designs. I found the creation of interiors profoundly healing, as is subsequently spending time in these spaces: our homes have such potential to be a temple to our health. 

Our farmhouse sits in an abundant garden, in which I apply many organic and biodynamic principles. I encourage visitors to bathe in the natural rhythm of the garden, restoring them to nature.

Things or experience?

Instinctively I would say experience, but I have a total weakness for art and aesthetics. And a life without beauty, love and kindness is absolutely incomplete. 

Favourite food? 

Obviously as a treat Belgium's national dish of skinny fries with homemade mayonnaise!  But in daily life: anything home grown and home cooked.

What are you grateful for?

My precious family. My beautiful home. And I am so grateful for exceptionally loving and generous friends who walk with me in deep connection.

MEET THE PLACE

Village Farm is thought to date back all the way to the early 1600s, when it was simply a row of cottages. At some point, likely in early 19th century, these were combined to form Village Farm House, with the house facing onto the Green and additional farm buildings to the rear. 

 

By 1831 Village Farm was one of the largest farms in Bledington, owned by the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford. The name ‘Village Farm’ was in use by 1929. An 1880 plan appears to show pig pens and almost certainly includes stables, and houses for cattle, whereas the Barn was likely used for fodder.

 

Village Farm has hosting pedigree: it was already receiving guests in 1937, when a notice was placed in the Sheffield Independent. It read: ‘Bledington, Oxon. – Farmhouse receives Guests, home comforts: excel. Food: tms. 6/6 per day - Holdom, Village Farm.’ The name Holdom in the advert referred to Mrs. Mary Maud Holdom. Mrs Holdom continued to take in regular guests during WWII but in April 1941, she fell afoul of the Rationing Order, 1939. She pleaded guilty to eight offences and the press reported that Mrs. Holdom had as many as 36 guests staying at the farm.

 

The current owners bought the farmhouse in 2002 from the previous King’s Head publican. The Barn was unconverted at the time of purchase, and renovated to the standard we see today in 2008. Before becoming a holiday destination, the Barn was used to host award-winning, raw food detox retreats for several years. 

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