What used to be known as the Selsdon Park Hotel, with its 200-acre golf course, is expected to open its doors to guests for the first time in more than a year at the end of March, with cattle and ponies roaming the estate and helping to “rewild” the one-time fairways.
Birch (Selsdon), as it is to be known, is expected to start taking bookings from March 29, with suites available for up to £350 per night.
“We hope to have an exact date of when they can be booked to stay soon,” a spokesperson for Birch told Inside Croydon.
Birch opened their first boutique-style hotel in Cheshunt in 2020. The company acquired the Selsdon hotel in late 2021, and the venue has been undergoing a revamp ever since, at a cost which Birch are unwilling to disclose.
It’s fair to say, with their use of top designers, that their modernisation of what had become a slightly jaded suburban hotel, has given it a stylish, modern look. None of which will have come cheap.
They do say that “Birch (Selsdon) will offer 181 bedrooms, a lido, a wellness space, two restaurants, three bars, a co-working hub, activity studios and several communal spaces”. There’s to be arts studios, an arcade, and even a kids’ club, as well as running and cycling trails in the grounds.
Getting into their stride, Birch say, “It is part hotel, part foodie haven, part members club, part working space, part wellness getaway, part creative hub, and all parts fun.”
The communal spaces, they say, go from “cosy snugs to the light-bathed Orangerie”.
What was a farm with a manor house in the 1500s, the origins of the Selsdon Park Estate date back to medieval times, forming part of the land owned by the Archbishop of Canterbury. According to Croydon’s List of Historic Parks and Gardens, the original farmhouse was extended in 1815, alongside the construction of many of the outbuildings which have remained on the estate.
In 1924, the mansion house was converted into a 23-bedroom hotel, and was enlarged over the coming years, with the Selsdon Park Hotel officially opening in 1926. The 18-hole golf course was first laid out in 1929, and has been altered little since then.
The south of the estate borders Kings Wood, an ancient woodland and one of the four adjacent designated Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation, or SINCs, which make the re-wilding plans quite so exciting – representing a significant investment by Birch and their backers into the natural heritage of this part of south London.
Their new hotel will offer “an unashamed escape from the everyday”, they say.
“Birch (Selsdon) is all about bringing like-minded people together and providing them with the space to reconnect – with themselves and each other. It’s a welcome respite from the noise and intensity of London’s concrete jungle, where members and guests can find headspace, try new things and have some fun.
“Lots of fun.”
And there does seem to be a lot planned to be going on there.
The interiors of the hotel have been remodelled by leading designer and architecture studio A-nrd, led by Alessio Nardi and Lukas Persakovas, and by Sella Concept.
Sebastian Cox, an award-winning furniture designer, maker and environmentalist, who is behind the project, has masterminded the rewilding of the estate’s grounds and designed bespoke furniture for the bedrooms, suites and communal spaces.
It is suggested that Birch (Selsdon) will be London’s biggest rewilding project, an effort to create a “scrubland savannah”.
Initially, the rewilding will involve allowing the grass to grow over the once immaculately-kept greens and fairways, and just allowing the rough to develop between the many breaks of mature trees around what was the golf course, and where there will no longer be any damaging pesticides used.
An environmental survey conducted around the estate last year for its new owners reported, “A combination of existing high-quality habitats on-site primarily within the ancient woodland cover, strong potential for restoration of calcareous grassland and proximity to other nature conservation sites suggest that there is high potential for biodiversity restoration.”
Among the bird species observed on the estate are the spotted flycatcher, which is on the Red List as an endangered species, and the redstart, a bird which is under pressure because of the loss of its woodland habitats.
Birch intend to introduce a small herds of long-horned cattle (just three or four of an ancient breed) and, from later this year, a couple of Exmoor ponies, who will be let loose to graze the land and help make it more attractive for bird, bat and invertebrate species. The owners are hopeful that dormice, nightingales and nightjars could be tempted back to the area.
As well as an escape from city life, Birch clearly hope that membership of this exclusive-looking establishment (from £150 per month) and its bars and restaurants will be as big a draw as at their Cheshunt hotel.
“The menus at Birch (Selsdon) are informed by the estate’s rewilding ethos, it’s kitchen garden, and a farm-to-fork, seasonal approach,” which sounds sound.
“A dedicated family wing will allow kids to run free, while a special kids club, ‘Birchlings’, will take care of the little ones with an enriching programme of activities and plenty of opportunities to learn about biodiversity.”
Birch say that its membership programme “allows people from the surrounding areas to access the whole estate for work, pleasure or both, enjoying everything on offer from co-working to wellness.
“Birch (Selsdon)’s unique Green Co-Working proposition offers sheltered outdoor desk spaces for those who want to immerse themselves in nature while getting on with tasks and to-do lists.”
Benefits of membership of this stylish 21st Century country club include discounts on stays and private room hire at Birch, as well as access to a central London membership club and wellness clubs across the world, plus priority booking for all ticketed events.
“Birch’s ambition is to create a community with common interests, shared values and open minds.”
Rooms at Birch (Selsdon) start from £180 per night. There’s a launch offer for those who book before the opening, with a £20 credit per person to spend on food and drink during their stay.
Confirmation of the opening dates and booking availability can be found on the website www.birchcommunity.com
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A bonus for Selsdon but a pity they have dropped the Lido redevelopment from their planning application, which is still ‘pending decision’
Yet they continue to mention the lido in their publicity materials, Ian.
Our understanding is that the lido is not a new development, but another refurb, and so may not require any planning permission (although the poolside drinks shack might be a different matter!).
It’s grand news that any land used for golf has been returned to normality. Croydon has far too many golf courses. One on Mitcham Common should be enough for the borough’s Jimmy Tarbuck types.
Mitcham Common isn’t in Croydon…
I’m curious to see how it benefits the residents of Selsdon. It doesn’t sound like it’s an open “third space” where people can drop in (not without spending quite a bit of money anyway!).
I’m sadly underwhelmed. I’ll give it a year!
If they allow local people to continue to walk on the golf course, it’s good news.
Let’s hope that it all works out, and that there prove to be enough people who have the money to keep the 181 bedrooms fully occupied, and the lido and all the other facilities in business. A worry is that Hertfordshire is close to prosperous N and W London. Selsdon is close to less prosperous S London.
The thought of ancient long-horn cattle roaming the fairways and roughs sounds good, but I sincerly hope that local dog owners respect the need to keep their dogs on leads. Farming– which includes “rewilding grazing”– is far from easy at the best of times, but is a lot harder in the urban fringe, with all the pressures of dog walkers, litter droppers and vandals. It takes tens of £1000’s a year to maintain an acreage of land like this, in good condition, where ever it is located. Especially if there are poo bins to empty.
Letting locals walk on the golf course sounds fine for the locals, but are they going to pay anything for the privilege?
Will anyone using the grounds only, be asked to join up and pay a yearly fee, e.g. a dog walking membership, a “forest bathing” or a jogging / running membership?
I think they should, an affordable but realistic amount, because the open landscape area has to be properly funded, for it to be kept in good condition, otherwise it will just become littered within a year, scruffy within two or three, and scrubbed over within 15 or so years.
It would be very sad if in a few years time, it is deemed “non viable” as green re-wilded landscape by the owners, and they are forced to look at sweeping alternatives, and we see planning applications for releasing this beautiful area of parkland landscape from the Green Belt, and sold off for building to house today’s versions of “Selsdon Man / Woman”.
Let’s hope that the owners have a fully-costed business plan that is realistic, and will not forget to apply for any government funding there may be left in our self-inflicted semi-skint post-Brexit UK, for habitat management and re-wilding. Would the area, which has not been farmed for maybe a hundred years, still be classified by DEFRA (the current Min. of Ag.) as grant-aidable agricultural land now?
To ensure that is still possible, maybe “Good Lifers” will be able to pay to go and live in a solar powered yurt there, and tend / milk free-ranging yaks. Naturally better insulated than a typical 1930’s suburban house, and more in touch with the land. Yes, I think that would make a nice lifestyle change– and save on the heating bills. My wife would probably prefer a luxury, designer decorated suite indoors, with a nice view over the former golf course.
“Birch say that its membership programme ‘allows people from the surrounding areas to access the whole estate for work, pleasure or both, enjoying everything on offer from co-working to wellness’.”
At £150 a month membership plus, I’m not sure many members of the local community will be enjoying that…
On the positive side, however, it’s really good to see the mix of communal spaces and that it has environmental issues at its heart and at least the site isn’t just going to wrack and ruin.