His thoughts were no doubt inspired by the outlook and ambiance of this grand manor house, which was built amid “meadows, leazes and pastures” on the Little Shurdington Estate between 1584 and 1616.
The formal gardens and lush, green grounds spill out and merge seamlessly with the unscarred, natural landscape of this patch of the Cotwolds just south of Cheltenham. Spend a few hours here – or better still, book in for a night or two – and you may soon find yourself waxing lyrical like William Lawrence himself, who opined in a letter:
“Content is the Chief Blessing of the soule. It is this that charms all the passions. This is the pole star that is always fix’t to a place, while the whole orbe is in motion.
“By this, the waters of a torrent seem as smothe as a standing lake, no wind can shake your peace, no storme can batter it from its station.”
Ah, I couldn’t put it better myself… As I lay flat on my back at The Greenway’s elegant spa, struggling to return to consciousness after a massage, the exact same thoughts tiptoed across my mind, just in a slightly different way.
That and: “Do I really have to get up now and walk to the poolside beds – again?”
Therapist Lara has just given me a one-hour holistic massage, which is similar to a Swedish massage although the accent is on relax rather than attack. The Comfort Zone Sacred Nature body oil does the trick, too. I think William Lawrence would approve.
It is in the spa where I effectively start my stay at The Greenway. Well, it’s got an indoor pool. You’ve got to go to the pool, haven’t you? I do the steam room and sauna thing and get in a warm tropical storm in one of the “experience” showers. I enjoy it so much I press the button for a repeat, not realising I have hit the “Cool Mist” setting. It’s very cool, as in freezing, but rather than scream like a baby I tough it out, pretending that an icy blast is exactly what I had in mind.
There is an outside hot-tub in the enclosed stone courtyard, which must be a lovely sun-trap on a summer’s day. But as it is drizzling I opt to kickback by the pool. The weather does nothing to dampen the spirits here; rain never stops play, or lounging.
After the Second World War, The Greenway became one of the nation’s first country house hotels and has remained in private ownership ever since. Today, it is part of the Eden Hotel Collection, whose stablemates include Mallory Court near Leamington Spa and The Arden in Stratford-upon-Avon.
The group, owned by Sir Peter Rigby, has continued to expand and flourish during the economic dip while other hotel chains have gone to the wall. As I write this, I see that the parent company of Menzies Hotels has taken a dive into administration.
The Greenway benefits from the successful luxury spec that Eden has rolled out across its new acquisitions. The public areas speak of country house refinement but the atmosphere is relaxed, the staff engaging and warm. You won’t be sneered at for ordering a pint of beer rather than a glass of Champagne for pre-dinner drinks, although obviously I have the fizz.
The bedroom furnishings are bold with bright colours. I stay in Poplar, one of the master rooms, which is large with a comfortable sitting area overlooking the rear grounds. It’s a lovely spot to stop, stare and waste time. The bathroom is a good size too and the bed could accommodate a medium-size family.
The three-course à la carte is £49.95 and offers a choice of five dishes at each course.
Breast of duck is served with confit leg rillette, butternut squash and plums and a fruity dessert brings together caramelised banana, pineapple carpaccio and passion fruit syrup.
And thus I clamber up the grand central staircase to my room, reflecting on William Lawrence’s wise words on the contentment of the soul.
The Greenway Hotel & Spa, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL51 4UG.
Tel: 01242 862 352
*Richard McComb stayed at The Greenway as a guest of the hotel. A master room, including breakfast, is from £219.