Hounds, Horses and Horsepower

Hand-written in an ancient hunting log that’s framed and hanging in the lower bathroom:
“A first class gallop and the best scent we have had in a long time.”

By Keith Edwards

As I arrive at Goodwood, I’m embraced by an improbable blend of aristocratic heritage and a modern, 12,000-acre working country estate. Today, the estate employs 600 people and is presided over by Lord March, heir to the current Duke of Richmond.

At Hound Lodge, the secluded 10-bedroom house on the grounds, an assistant whisks away my luggage while James Boyle, the butler, ushers us into the living room for refreshments. Not surprisingly, the décor is all “dog”—dog statues, dog prints, dog photos, dog books. There are even dog bowls and beds for a guest’s own hounds. (Pity, I left Rufus at home.)

A modern re-creation by designer Cindy Leveson, using restored original pieces, gives the house that effortlessly comfortable lived-in elegance of an English gentleman’s country manor. Another whisky from the honour bar, perhaps? The Duke’s connections to the Glenfiddich Lodge in Scotland show here—as they do in the bedroom, where a discreet decanter and glasses are ready to furnish yet another nightcap. Although a good night’s sleep already seems assured, with specially made mattresses that are stuffed with wool from the estate’s sheep.

Anything and everything
As the current Lord March himself suggests, “The intention here at the Lodge is to create the experience of staying at a rich friend’s house, complete with necessary staff and activities.” This includes a private butler, chef, butcher, farmer and groundskeeper, who, it seems, can arrange virtually anything.

Breakfast in bed, followed by clay pigeon shooting? No problem. You want to go flying in, or alongside, a Spitfire at the estate’s airfield? Consider it done. Or maybe you’re ready to channel your inner Sterling Moss or Jackie Stewart with a performance-driving lesson on the world-famous Goodwood Motor Circuit? If, after all that, you still have the time and inclination then the estate even has its own golf course and horseracing track.

Guests can also join spectators dressed in period costume as part of the nostalgic Goodwood Revival. A glamorous annual event, the Revival pits drivers in rare and, in some cases, priceless ’50s and ’60s era cars in a series of motor races on the historic track. (This year’s event is on September 8–10, 2017.)

Farmer, Butcher, Chef
If you’re keen to see the estate, as I was, guests can ask for a ride in one of the property’s Land Rovers. As it happened, I was there a few days before the opening of the estate’s newest venture, the Farmer, Butcher, Chef restaurant at the adjoining Goodwood Hotel. The restaurant’s boast is that “You will have travelled more than your food.” Intended to showcase sustainable agriculture, the chef will use only livestock that has been raised on the estate.

The farmer in this combination is Tim Hassell, general manager of “Home Farm” who, for eight years, has raised 250-kg Old Spot pigs, prize-winning Southdown sheep and Sussex Cross Shorthorn cattle. The quality of their meat, he tells me, comes from their slow and natural maturing process. For good measure, he also grows barley for the estate’s own brands of beer and lager.

John Hearn, the butcher, is a gentle giant of man who is almost reverential about the farm’s animals. Curious, I ask him what he thinks the most underrated cut of meat might be? He hauls out a pork butt—one of my favourites, but a cut that’s hard to find in Canada.

Darron Bunn, Executive Chef of the new restaurant, makes up the trio. I begin to understand the connection between the three. The butcher is looking to the farmer for consistency in supply, quality and balance; and the chef then has to master the art of using all of the animal, not just the prime cuts.

With long, slow cooking, judicial initial seasoning and a final pan-frying, usually overcooked or under-utilized cuts of meat take a bow. Pork skins, steamed, dehydrated and cooked for 12 hours, become a light, crispy delicacy that’s set off by tarragon mayonnaise. Rich lamb belly croquettes with gentlemen’s relish are tasty morsels. And who could pass up a rich duck egg with wild mushrooms and air-dried pork?

A stay at Goodwood is a way to take a step back into the aristocratic lifestyle of days gone by. For me, it’s not only a pleasurable experience but an opportunity to celebrate the ingenuity of an estate that, in our modern world, remains both viable and truly guest-worthy.