June 6th 2019
A statue of Pan welcomed us to Eckington Manor, which is secreted away in a corner of its namesake village just across the River Avon. The steel figure, by Paul Richardson, is wielding a horn and a cornucopia brimming over with ripe fruits and vegetables. It’s fitting, because Eckington Manor houses a thriving restaurant and cookery school, as well as a 15-room hotel carved out of an old farm estate.
All the wings of Eckington Manor are rescued farm buildings (five of them make up the hotel altogether) including the 17th-century half-timbered Lower End House, which everyone can use for the lounge and bar. A third building, with more guest bedrooms, is the former milking parlour.
We were welcomed by Judy Gardner, Jane (otherwise known as right hand man) and other members of her close team with coffee and delicious biscuits – homemade obviously! Judy gave us a not so brief history of her commercial life starting with taking a stall in Pershore Market where she marketed her pickles and chutneys so successfully that she eventually sold out to Baxters and retired – for a very short time!
What is now Belle House in Bridge Street came on the market and coming out of retirement was bought by Judy who founded Belle House Restaurant. After selling the lease to Steve Waites she retired for the second time buying Eckington Manor for her own use. After purchasing what was Jacksons Farm consisting of 200 acres in 2004 and coming out of retirement for the third time to create Eckington Manor Cookery School, restaurant, pedigree cattle farm and hotel she is still very much involved with the complementary businesses. Mark Stinchcombe her award winning chef has now moved on to be replaced by Mehdi Amiri. The group were then taken on a tour of the complex stopping to admire the Grain Barn which can be used for events, weddings etc and has 2 large rabbits decorating the walls – not dead ones but created from stuffed hessian sacks – change from flying ducks!