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  • Writer's pictureSarah

Ashdown Park Hotel & Country Club, and wedding venue review

During the first wave of the pandemic NHS staff were offered a free will-writing service, and having lost colleagues and friends to Covid, I seized the chance to update ours. During the consultation we were advised that for inheritance tax planning purposes we'd be wise to get married or enter into a Civil Partnership. After a very acrimonious divorce, my mother had made me promise to never get married again, so my loop-hole was to opt for the Civil Partnership option! Not terribly romantic, but something to look forward to none the less.

Rear of Ashdown Park Hotel looking into the grounds
Rear of the hotel looking into the grounds

This was at the time when so many people had to postpone their celebrations, and with restrictions sometimes at 6 people, sometimes 30 people maximum, we decided against planning anything big. It seemed to us that the bigger the celebration, the more chance of restrictions being imposed. With wedding fairs cancelled and the same for wedding venue open days, the only option was to go on-line to search. We didn't want to go too far from home as the travelling is tiring for my 94 year old father.

Having ruled out several options we took a video tour of Ashdown Park (lockdown was still in force), the Jacob Henniker room looked perfect and so we booked it without seeing it. We had been to the hotel previously for a birthday party, so we knew that the quality of the food would be good. For larger parties there is an absolutely stunning de-consecrated chapel that is used for weddings and civil ceremonies. In different circumstances and times, I'd have been very tempted to book this as our venue.

Ashdown Forest is perhaps best known for being the setting for Winnie the Poo, and is full of pretty villages, country pubs (we recommend the nearby Hatch Inn, dating from 1430), and scenic walks.

Exterior of Ashdown Park deconsecrated chapel for larger celebrations
Ashdown Park deconsecrated chapel for larger celebrations

The hotel itself has extensive grounds, perfect for blowing the cobwebs away. We spotted deer in the grounds several times when we visited, so you do need to take care when driving. It also has it's own golf course and driving range, a croquet lawn, fish ponds, as well as a spa and gym which is free for residents of the hotel. Treatments are at an additional cost. The Fairway suites are dog friendly, so our friends were able to bring their cocker spaniel to enjoy walks in the forest.

Once some of the lockdown restrictions were lifted we were finally able to see the reception room we'd booked, and go for dinner in the Anderida Restaurant to select the dishes and wines for the wedding breakfast. This is a large pretty room with fabulous views across the grounds. With some vegetarian guests and a couple of gluten-free guests, finding the right dishes took a little thinking about. Our co-ordinator had to check with the chef if gluten-free versions could be made; the answer was 'no' for Beef Wellington, but 'yes' to the Tarte au Citron. We also requested a change to the potatoes served with the duck, which was agreed, but didn't happen on the day. That was the only thing that didn't go to plan from the hotel's side. The Registrar service from our local authority was appalling and inept, and too long a saga to go into here.

We decided to stay the night before and the night after our ceremony, so that we didn't have to rush on either day. The cost of the suite for the ceremony night was included in the cost of the wedding package. I'd made the table centrepieces and had all the components for the arrangement for the registrars table, so with 4 of us travelling with our outfits and luggage we needed to take both cars. It was really lovely to find that we had reserved parking right by the front door.

We settled my father and son into their room before finding our suite. I thought that maybe a mistake had been made, as theirs was like a suite, with it's own separate seated area. Our actual suite looked out across the grounds, and was very prettily decorated and set the scene for romance. The bathroom was huge with a large powerful shower and a spa bath. The tiles made it look a little dated, but everything worked perfectly, and the Molton Brown toiletries were a lovely treat.

My friend had treated me to a facial as her celebration gift, so once we'd settled into our room I made my way to the spa. What can I say? It was a lovely relaxing experience and I was left with glowing skin. She'd been for a swim as well. There were 'child free' pool times available for the more serious swimmers.

We met up for pre-dinner drinks, as they'd also decided to make a weekend of it, and started the fun! Dinner was lovely and set the bar for the Wedding Breakfast the following day.

After our breakfast, I set to work on the table decoration, whilst my friends helped with assembling the wedding favours. A quick trip back to the spa to get my nails done and then it got busier! Firstly Beckie came to the suite do my hair, and then Eseme to do my make-up. I felt like a star!

Fastening the button hole in the suite of the Ashdown Park hotel.  Man in black and gold jacket. Woman in gold sequined dress
Fastening the button hole

Then a change into our outfits, and off to meet the registrars (from East Sussex, not our local authority, so these were competent!). The sun had appeared and we had a couple of photos taken on the terrace pre-ceremony before making our joint entrance in the Jacob Henniker Room.

After the ceremony we had sole use of one of the lounges for our champagne reception, as well as spilling out onto the terrace for home-made confetti throwing and a few photos. We returned to the Jacob Henniker for the meal, which everyone seemed to enjoy. Having such a small party meant that we were able to spend time with all our guests, and everyone mingled rather than keeping conversation with the people they knew already.

Two tiered wedding cake, bottom tier is gold, top tier is white. Decorated with peacock feathers.

After speeches, more champagne, cake by Deborah (an old NHS colleague) from Newington Cakes (top tier gluten-free) and a cheese 'cake' from Godminster, we had our first dance to Barry White's 'My First My Last My Everything', and the party started and went on until 1 a.m. I hope that we weren't too noisy!

First dance to Barry White's 'My First My Last My Everything'. Woman in gold sequined dress with hair in a French pleat with gold and blue flowered hair slide.  Man in black shirt, black waistcoat and gold tie.
First dance to Barry White's 'My First My Last My Everything'

All in all, we were more than happy with the hotel, the wedding co-ordination, the quality of the food and the beautiful location. I'd really felt involved in every decision and detail. I think that we'll be booking to go back for our anniversary, or may find some other excuse to go back sooner!

Ashdown Park

Wych Cross, Near Forest Row

East Sussex

RH18 5JR



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