Greener Escapes from London: The Fox in Oddington, Gloucestershire

This article is part of one guide to London from FT Globetrotter

It’s a clear autumn evening in Oddington. The narrow road that runs through the Cotswolds village is flanked by honeyed stone cottages, with immaculate front gardens and regulation grey-green windows and doors. It’s a picture-perfect cookie-tin scene — that is, aside from the hose from 4x4s parked on the sidewalk. This is Daylesford country, and word has come that the group’s newest inn, The Fox at Oddington, a chic country pub with rooms opened in July and has been packed ever since. We saunter past the Chelsea tractors to the entrance of the pub, tucked back from the road along a pristine gravelled driveway, its freshly scrubbed exterior glowing in the light of a full harvest moon.

Daylesford, for the uninitiated, is a 2,500 acre organic farm, lifestyle empire and temple to wellness in the Cotswolds, owned by Carole Bamford, who is married to JCB chairman Anthony Bamford. Her empire expands beyond this vast countryside to four London outlets, all selling Bamford’s world of organic products, natural fibers and fabrics, and things you didn’t know you couldn’t do without, like a special knife for picking mushrooms with a brush on the other hand.

The exterior of The Fox at Oddington pub, with an open top car in the foreground

A coaching inn since the 19th century, parts of The Fox date back to the 1600s

Fields with sheep at sunset

The landscape around Oddington

The Daylesford brand has become a beacon of sustainability, so driving my family from London for a night at The Fox felt wrong (and let’s face it, we were also keen to avoid the Saturday traffic on the A40). Instead, we took the 1.5-hour train from Paddington Station to Kingham, a Cotswolds honeypot where Bamford’s other pub, The Wild Rabbit, has been a culinary destination since it opened nearly a decade ago. After a short taxi ride to Oddington, we settled into The Fox for dinner, where the atmosphere in the bar and restaurant was family and relaxed. I was relieved to see several families with young children, and ours immediately got a children’s menu.

The Wild Rabbit, which I had visited a few years ago, is a more luxurious offering; the excellent gourmet restaurant may not have starched tablecloths, but it’s definitely a place for special occasions that requires reservations well in advance. While far from your average village boozer, The Fox caters more to a pubby crowd who might stop by for a pint of Hop Drop Organic Pale Ale, and some Chef Alan Gleeson’s homemade crab sticks or an ‘nduja Scotch egg. From our central table in the dining room, we had an excellent view of the clientele pouring through the front door – an intriguing and affluent mix of locals in long boots with dogs on their heels, Daylesford groupies in felt fedoras and waistcoats, and the odd man -sandwich.

Seating and tables in The Saddle Room, one of the pub's dining areas

The Saddle Room, one of the Fox’s dining areas

Burrata in a bowl on a table at The Fox in Oddington

Half of the ingredients on the menu come from within 15 miles of the pub © Martin Morell (2)

As can be expected these days, The Fox’s menu is constantly evolving according to the season, and the team was proud to tell me that half of the ingredients come within 15 miles of the pub. Most of the meat comes from the Daylesford farm, but Gleeson sources extras from other local suppliers. Fish is caught by line in Brixham, a coastal town in Devon, and the menu is updated based on what’s fished that week.

While tucking into some smoked lardo flatbread with salsa verde, I asked Gleeson if there are any particular dishes or ingredients guests expect that aren’t necessarily local or seasonal. “Sometimes,” he said. “Our seasonal blackberry crop finished early, but guests expect blackberries in August and September, so we had to source some from other UK growers.”

Chairs and tables under a beamed ceiling in The Parlour, one of the dining areas at The Fox at Oddington
During the extensive restoration of the pub, original, sustainable and local materials were used where possible © Martin Morell

The taps behind the bar mainly showcase local brews, with a few exceptions. ‘It’s Bourton-on-the-Water, Cheltenham, Bristol, Stroud. . . As well as Dublin and Barcelona.” An extensive wine list by the glass ranges from whites, reds and rosés from Bamford’s organic Provencal wine estate, Château Léoube, to Nyetimber English sparkling wine, now de rigueur on every posh pub menu.

The Fox hasn’t always been chic. A Grade II listed building with parts dating back to the 17th century, it was an inn since the 19th century and later a proper country pub in need of some love and attention. During the extensive but sensitive restoration project, the Daylesford team used original, sustainable and local materials wherever possible. The walls are insulated with sheep’s wool from the farm’s flock, the floors are reclaimed wood, and the metalwork is all done by local artisans. The leather seats are from the farm hides, treated by a local vegetable tannery. A living roof on the dining room extension is planted with perennial herbs, wildflowers and succulents, all designed to attract pollinators. The entire building is powered by 100 percent renewable energy thanks to a mix of solar, wind, hydropower and biomass.

The Tack Room - another of the pub's dining areas - with its equestrian rosettes dangling from a ceiling beam

The Saddle Room, with its equestrian rosettes dangling from a ceiling beam

Seating at the wooden bar, which reads 'For Fox Sake'

The Fox’s bar, made from recycled wood © Martin Morell (2)

There are playful touches and witticisms – “For Fox Sake” written under the bar, to “Foxy Lady” or “Fantastic Mr Fox” on staff T-shirts – and whiplashes of equestrian charm: one end of the dining room appears to be built from a stable, while another, the tack room, is adorned with brightly colored rosettes, leaves that tickle guests’ heads as they dodge the dim lights. During our visit all three log fires were lit. Sustainability manager Will Dennis said most of the wood burnt comes from felled trees on the Daylesford estate. “It’s better than oil heating, which we have in these parts,” he added.

The master bedroom in the hunting lodge, with freestanding bath

The master bedroom in the hunting lodge, with freestanding bath

The second bedroom in the hunting lodge

The adjoining bedroom in the hunting lodge © Martin Morell (2)

The pub has just six rooms (although there are expansion plans across the road), all decked out in Daylesford’s signature palette of muted creams, beiges and natural materials with splashes of textile colour. The “Den” room downstairs, which I peeked into, has a patio and a beautiful trompe-l’oeil fall leaf design on the floor that made me wonder for a moment if housekeeping had slackened that day. Our two bedroom suite, the Hunting Lodge, is the only one designed for families and has a free standing bath in the master bedroom. Toiletries, of course, all come from Carole Bamford’s eponymous range – which isn’t certified organic, but is natural for 95 cents and packaged in recycled plastic.

Baskets of fruit and vegetables line either side of the farm shop in Daylesford
‘A kind of Disneyland for adults’ — the farm shop in Daylesford © Martin Morrell

The next day we manage a short walk between a leisurely breakfast and lunch, along a bridleway to Daylesford’s farm shop, which looks more like Selfridges’ dining room than a purveyor of muddy greens (although that also sells). Attracting visitors from far and wide, it’s essentially an adult Disneyland of sorts – the kind of place you’ll want to throw out all your old tea towels and start over. The parking lot is already full and queues are forming at the ticket office.

Seeing the consumerist gleam in our children’s eyes brings us back to The Fox, where despite the balmy weather, the fire is lit for the Sunday lunch shift. “We are busy all the time,” says manager Nathan Walker-Unwin. “The demand for places like this is great.”

Rebecca Rose was a guest at The Fox at OddingtonHigh Street, Lower Oddington, Moreton-in-Marsh GL56 0UR. Double, from £225, including breakfast

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