We arrived at Slades Farm to the warmest and dreamiest of welcomes;
a string of immaculately turned out polo ponies all tacked up
and waiting patiently to be mounted.
Coffee was served on arrival at the club house overlooking a clear running brook and well-maintained tennis court; simply divine. Slades Farm Equestrian sits deep in the heart of the Surrey Hills and is part of the 1000-acre estate owned by the Hutley family. Lulu and Edward Hutley are beautiful people inside and out and ooze an air of eccentricity mixed with lashings of fun. The couple decided to open up their beautiful estate after their children flew the nest. “We wanted to share with others what we are so fortunate to have here”, said Lulu.
“People can come here, they can stay, they can walk, they can hack or just chill and enjoy delicious food.
Our aim is that everyone that comes here leaves feeling rejuvenated.”
Indeed, Slades Farm is the ultimate rural retreat and hosts luxury accommodation including an 18th century converted barn and a converted grain store. There is no denying that the accommodation is out of this world and is splendidly furnished with antique treasures, books, real art, roll top baths and even a piano can be found in the Garden Barn. The stable yard is immaculate and is maintained by wonder groom Sarah Hendy who is kept busy all year round with the families trekking string of polo ponies and their hunters. We were soon partnered up with incredibly well-behaved ponies that stood at the mounting block as still as statues, which was much appreciated, as I always give myself a cheeky high five every time I surprise myself getting up and on!
I was accompanied by GBRider Director Helen Gross and her ten-year-old daughter Mia so we presented a good offering to test the temperaments of the Slades Farm hirelings. My pony Poppy was an absolute delight, she was forward and willing but I felt safe and relaxed. Helen also felt immediately chilled and safe and relished being in the saddle again after months in the office and Mia, like all horse mad young girls put us all to shame with her awesome seat and fearless demeanour!
Lulu lead the string alongside Slades Farm’s Director of Operations, Emma Dallyn and we were soon hacking up the beautiful grass lathered Surrey Hills. Slades Farm Equestrian has just opened a brand-new X Country schooling course that consists of over 70 fences designed by Eric Winter. “When people come here to school over the X country fences they can also take advantage of using these hills as fitness training”, explained Lulu. “Up the top here are the grass gallops that are also available to hire.” The gallops looked like a carpet of green and as the ground is on sand I could feel Poppy’s hooves absorbing the perfect terrain. “After you have schooled over the X Country or used the gallops, guests are welcomed back to the club house for coffee and to discuss where they went wrong and where hopefully they went right!” laughed Lulu. “The area is all secure so there’s no loose horses and there is hard standing to park your lorry.”
We were now at the top of the hills looking down onto rolling woodlands; truly breath taking.
“We have a good mix of religion in the family from Evangelicals to Catholics”, explained Lulu when I asked about an impressive crucifix erected in the distance. “We hold religious plays here in the summer and various services, the vicar is a horseman and has even blessed all the animals!” There is no denying the strong religious presence throughout the trek and even though I am not particularly religious myself, I could still appreciate its existence as it was displayed in an artistic, spiritual and enhancing way. If galloping towards hand crafted, religious sculptures of crowns of thorns and hacking around tombs of wonder through bluebell woods was not awe inspiring enough, the estate is home to six, impressive bronze horse head sculptures by world acclaimed Nic Fiddian-Green that rise like gods from the landscape. We rode through fields of grazing sheep and spring lambs and I had to constantly remind myself that I was on a polo pony because the estate was adorned
with natural and inviting hunt fences that were begging to be jumped!
The Hutley family, being uber cool and Tatler trendy, host charity rock concerts by their lake, hidden in the depths of a secret wood where the likes of Jeff Beck and members of
the Rolling Stones have all played.
It really was quite a magical setting.
“When people come trekking here we are more than happy to lay on a picnic by the lake or anywhere they fancy”, said Lulu.
“The ponies being polo ponies will quite happily stand whilst guests enjoy good food and refreshments.”
As our awe inspiring and breath-taking hack came to an end the one thing I noticed was how GBRider Director Helen, looked transformed. “I needed that”, said Helen.
“Sharing this experience with my daughter has been very special, life and work can take over and there’s nothing quite like being in the saddle to refresh and recharge.”
Slades Farm is an equestrian centre offering cross-country riding
and horse trekking in the stunning Surrey Hills near Guildford.
Guests can also stay in their luxury accommodation,
relax, enjoy and escape in true country style.
By Charley Snowdon
Editor, GB Rider Magazine