Last updated May 11, 2022
Sitting in the summer water meadows at Thyme you can hear the call of the reed warbler. These minute buff-colored birds are easily missed unless you are looking for them.
“Our feathery friends arrive in England each year from sub-Saharan Africa to raise their families in our water meadows,” explains Thyme’s founder Caryn Hibbert, “but having lived here for years, we had never noticed them in such detail until we became involved with the British Trust for Ornithology’s bird ringing project.”
Along with her father Michael Bertioli, a physicist and engineer, Hibbert bought this 150-acre estate with a warren of agricultural outbuildings and 17th-century cottages at Southrop Manor in the picture-perfect Cotswold’s countryside in 2002.
Their vision of Thyme was for a cookery school with rooms and perhaps a pub attached. Two decades later, this family-run manor has been transformed into a supremely comfortable botanical-inspired hotel with 31 stylish bedrooms spread across the stone manor house and adjacent outbuildings.
Rooted in a passion for the local land, food and entertainment, Thyme continues to be run on sustainable principles by Hibbert, alongside her eldest son Charlie and daughter, Camilla.
Thyme’s on-site organic farm and kitchen gardens provide much of the food for the hotel’s spacious and modern Ox Barn restaurant, which is inspired by the slow food movement and showcases deliciously seasonal menus curated around the farm.
There is plenty to do here too with vast stretches of nature to explore and cookery classes, floristry, painting and various public exhibitions and visits to a proper country pub, the Swan (where Kate Moss is known to be a regular).
The olive-green treatment rooms in the Meadow Spa overlooking the landscaped gardens are the perfect spot to experience rejuvenating probiotic facials and deep-tissue massages curated in collaboration with natural British probiotic skincare range Aurelia London.
Before becoming a hotelier, Hibbert was an obstetrician and gynecologist at London’s Royal Free Hospital.
“As an obstetrician I noticed how powerful breathing techniques could be as part of the toolkit for managing the pain and stress of labour,” she explains.
“Our sense of smell is connected to our autonomic nervous system and is fundamental to well-being, but the past two years [with the pandemic] has challenged this.”
During this time, Hibbert created the recently opened Botanical Bothy, an extension of the spa and a space for stillness and ritual. Comprising a spacious hammam-style wet room, with soft curves and ergonomic heated seating and massage benches, with two outdoor bathtubs and a private herb-infused garden with a fireplace.
This spa-within-a-spa is dedicated to a specific ritual incorporating guided diaphragmatic breathing, botanical poultices and targeted pressure-point massage—all testament to Hibbert’s belief in the power of the breath.
“Through conscious diaphragmatic breathing we can switch on our parasympathetic system and switch off our stress response,” she explains.
“When combined, breath, scent and nature can help harness our body’s innate ability to heal itself, so we have used the scent of the meadows as the thread through the bothy journey.”
Thyme’s organic and sustainable Bertioli homeware and fashion collection and a natural Water Meadow skincare collection featuring cleansing and nourishing body wash and lotion, cleansing shampoo and conditioning bars, bath salts and a potent breathing balm, designed to rub over the chest so the essential oils of wild water mint, thyme, rosemary and apple blossom (sourced along the estate’s riverbanks) can infuse both mind and body.
When used in the home you are immediately carried back to said river edge, a place where simply sitting and being is therapy in itself.
“Our ethos is about connection to land, to nature and the seasons. At Thyme we are creating a story that will hopefully inspire people to slow down and nurture nature a little more,” says Hibbert.
“I have lived here at Thyme for 20 years and until I slowed down myself I had no idea what was going on in the meadows on my doorstep,” she adds.