Michelin-starred chef to use foraged ingredients in Birch Selsdon’s two restaurants, as fences go up to keep local residents from walking their pooches across the former golf course
The new owners of the luxury hotel that used to be known as the Selsdon Park have declared the 200 acres of parkland that surrounds the building a no-go zone for local residents, ramblers and dog walkers.
Birch Selsdon, as it is to be known, is expected to start welcoming guests to its £220-per-night suites and its Michelin-starred chef’s restaurants within the next few weeks, after the building and grounds have undergone an extensive overhaul lasting 15 months.
What was once an 18-hole public golf course is being allowed to “re-wild”, with cattle, ponies and even pigs wandering around to snuffle through the undergrowth.
But the woodland paths around the edge of the golf course will no longer be available to Croydon residents who fancy a refreshing walk in clean(ish) air while enjoying impressive views over the Surrey hills or, to the north, to the smog and skyscrapers of London. Well, not unless they cough up the £2,100 it will cost over the course of the first year in Birch’s joining fees and membership subs. And even then, they will need to survive the hotel’s vetting procedure, which appears intended to keep the riff-raff out.
Given it is private land, with no public rights of way (at least, not as far as we have been able to discover from council records), the management at Birch is entirely entitled to issue such decrees, even if they use slightly less colourful language than Viz comic’s Farmer Giles.
The gist is the same, however.
Elsewhere, Birch make much of their very worthy-seeming eco-credentials.
“Birch (Selsdon) is the great escape. Get the space to go slow, go wild, and go forward. Our intention? Revival. Yours. Ours. The land’s,” they smooze.
“What was once a golf course is now one of London’s largest rewilding projects. This will give a big boost to biodiversity and nature, and we hope will be a catalyst for community conversations and action.”
It’s just that they are putting up fences to keep the local community out.
When the Sanderstead Residents’ Association wrote the Birch Selsdon’s management recently to seek clarification over whether dog owners would still be able to walk their pets in the grounds, as had previously been allowed, they got this frosty reply:
“Thank you for contacting our reservations department regarding dog walking on the estate.
“We hope you’ve enjoyed walking on our land while we’ve not been using it.
“Soon, we will begin to enclose the space as we transition the golf course into a wildland with free-roaming cattle, pigs and horses, and an abundance of natural habitats.
“Keeping our animals and the public safe is our priority, so access is now no longer permitted, and once the fence has been erected, it must not be crossed. This is a privately owned estate with no public right of way.
“Should you still wish to continue to enjoy access to the estate, we will soon be publishing details of how to join Birch Selsdon.”
Elsewhere on the hotel’s website, they smarm: “We create open spaces… where interesting people can enjoy interesting moments. Stay, work, and play in nature.”
But only provided you pay the £150 per month membership fee for what they call “a 21st century country club”, or book one of their high-end suites.
Selsdon Park and the golf course closed their doors for a final time in December 2021. There is some suggestion that the planned opening for Birch has slipped back by another month, with its posh restaurants not due to open now until the end of next month.
“Every one of our 200 acres is used to grow our own food and sustain livestock for our kitchen,” Birch says.
One of Birch’s two restaurants is also for members and hotel guests only.
Running the kitchen will be Michelin-starred chef, Lee Westcott, who has appeared on Masterchef, Great British Menu and Saturday Kitchen and previously worked at Pensons and Typing Room.
Birch Selsdon’s 100-cover restaurant Elodie is expected to open on April 27, offering a five-course tasting menu “showcasing seasonal British produce”.
Foraged ingredients, sourced from the old golf course, and vegetables grown in the hotel’s kitchen garden will be included in Westcott’s dishes.
Read more: New owners plan re-opening of Selsdon hotel for late March
Read more: Lots of reservations after Selsdon hotel and golf course close
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Would have been a wonderful place to enjoy on our doorstep. It’ll go under within a year or two anyway.
What about the loss of Queen’s Garden space to the massive redevelopment of Taberner House? And that is right in the centre of the LB of Culture [joke].
What about it, Brian?
Or is that just a bit of whataboutery?
The right development in the wrong place ?
The combination of eco-speak, re-wilding and exclusivity don’t sit well together.
It all sounds a bit Cheshire or Herts- for Footballer’s WAGS with eco-concerns as well as lots of money.
Are there enough people with that kind of money out there–or here– or anywhere?
Looking back at the readers’ comments in your previous artucles (acessed via the links you give above) it seems that a lot of sound local wisdom lies therein. I wonder if Birch hotels ever read the comments?.
I do hope that the management find some way of introducing ways in which the local residents who would like to walk their dogs, who would like to swim in a nice pool, or stroll across the ex fairways, or go to a gym or restaurant in this beautiful setting, could do so for a reasonable fee per year.
If the people of the area don’t embrace it, or aren’t allowed to, it would be very sad.
If they’re foraging for fresh ingredients on their land it makes sense to have them free from dog shit.
Good luck to them – Coulsdon Common, Happy Valley and Kenley Aerodrome are covered in the stuff.