Review Fritton Lake Club House 2022
The word luxury is rather loaded, isn’t it? It’s entirely…subjective. For some, luxury is soft white sand kissed by the ocean, infinity pools, silver service, sunset yacht cruises. For others, it might be something as simple as a small packet of cookies on a hospitality tray. A fluffy bathrobe hanging in the wardrobe.
My own vision is quite boring. Give me a soft bed, good food, and a nice place to curl up with a good book, and I’m the cat with the cream.
Last weekend I found a new kind of luxury on the Suffolk/Norfolk border. Somewhere that blurs the lines. Fritton Lake, a private vacation retreat for members, with guest accommodations for “outsiders” in its clubhouse, pavilions and cabins, is not all about manicured lawns and homogeneity. It has a slice of something for everyone.
A wacky restaurant/bar/lounge/hotel. Wild forests with shaggy edges and fields of tall grass. Swimming in the lake and paddle. A bathing terrace à la San Tropez.
A country retreat that’s wild around the edges. A laid back place mi casa su casa where guests are free (within reason!) to wander around and create their own adventures.
And an adventure that we lived. Beginning with a hilarious (and really very informative) boat safari on the serpentine 2.5 mile Fritton Lake with the big boss of all things outdoors on the 5,000 acre estate – Matthew.
A human encyclopedia of nature and plants, Matthew took us to the farthest reaches of Fritton’s watery heart, revealing that it was dug in medieval times, Fritton’s water is the same drunk by locals of the region and, delightfully, that in Viking times the site was known as Lovingland. This point in itself is incredibly appropriate. Love… the earth. Because that’s exactly what Lord Hugh Somerleyton has dedicated the past 20 years to, donating over 1,000 acres of the estate to his ambitious rewilding programme, which seeks to create a sustainable environment supporting birds, insects, local mammals and plants.
Matthew told us large black pigs, Highland cattle, Exmoor ponies, Welsh black sheep…even water buffaloes, have been brought into the Somerleyton fold as part of the ongoing project. And that the field is absolutely flourishing.
Neither my friend nor I were sure he was just being romantic with his stories of birds and beasts gathering at the water to drink by the lake in what looked like a heavenly dream. But we definitely tasted the harmony and balance of nature at Fritton – the only sound beyond our boat’s outboard motor, the sweet melody of birdsong.
Matthew pointed to Egyptian geese and the latest wave of bluebells in the woods. Egrets fresh out of their nuptial dance. He spoke fervently of Somerleyton’s resident songbirds – nightingales, firecrests, wrens. And projects to create a habitat for doves.
It’s a pity that the boat got stuck in an invisible hidden tree. But, I’m not going to lie, my friend Rach and I thought it was hilarious to need to be rescued. “Things like this always happen to us,” she thought to herself. And she’s not wrong either!
Maybe it was better if the trip was a bit short, because we needed time to explore anyway.
We undertook our own tour, discovering fragrant walled gardens, wild water swimming, fancy pants pool, gym and new boutique. There was lawn and clay tennis. A floating sauna. Volleyball. Two playgrounds for children. A 5 km walk. An artificial beach. Even a bird’s skin nestled among the trees.
Accommodation takes the form of lodges (many are private, with more being added), cottages or rooms in the Clubhouse building itself, formerly The Fritton Arms pub – where we lay down for the night.
Scented with firewood and looking like it’s been plucked from Country Living magazine or the pages of a Designer’s Guild catalog, the Clubhouse is an eclectic series of intertwining informal rooms downstairs. We liked the vibe of the multi-purpose lounging/dining areas and the goofy “den” with its game tables and mounted stuffed fish.
Something that caught both of our ears was the soundtrack of the hotel…the whole site in fact. Music floods almost every space and seems to have been curated for its location. The front lounges are a bit jazzy. It gets livelier in the bar, restaurant, and terrace, which is divided into a series of outdoor “rooms” separated by potted plants. By the pool, the soundtrack of Ibiza chillout meets Sunday brunch. And the organic gym pumps up tracks to get you pumped.
There was even music playing in our room, Billy Ward, when we arrived, adding another layer of texture to the lovely patterned suite, as 80s sounds blared from a Roberts radio.
The room had a cool, chintzy vibe, with floral prints galore, inflatable beds, plump pillows galore, ethical toiletries (and toilets), a TV, a chest of Teapigs, and Paddy and Scott coffee. (get your bottle of milk from the bar) and a spacious shower, big enough to share. Be sure to bring your phone charger plug as there are no USB plugs.
After getting acquainted with our dorms, we had a drink on the terrace, before grabbing towels from the outside rack and heading down to the pool, which is beautiful. Buffered by a red brick wall, the deck manages to avoid most of the wind blowing off the lake, and is truly sunbathing, with padded lounge chairs and wood-burning stoves set up in the changing rooms, for cozy evenings. after swimming. At around 30°C, you won’t get frostbite if you go swimming.
Speaking of frostbite, a must for any visitor to Lake Fritton is a session in the sauna, which floats on its own pontoon above the water. It is free for guests, but must be booked in advance at reception. Hang up your towel and step into the warmth, adding citrus-scented steam from the bucket inside and admiring the view from the huge picture window.
You are invited, if you dare, to dive, at the Wim Hof, into the lake to activate this circulation. My friend Rachel, an integral member of the outdoor swimming brigade, didn’t need to be told twice. She walked straight in and told me it was “refreshing”. I was happy enough, thank you, to dip my toes at the water’s edge.
There was just time afterwards for a bit of reading by one of the pool deck fireplaces, before changing for dinner.
The Clubhouse menu is seasonal and as sustainable as possible, using local ingredients and estate-raised beef. It’s also, I think, reasonably priced.
Highlights of our stay included a fresh spider crab in an intense wild garlic broth with sweet black garlic ketchup and a delicate pigeon and mushroom pie, cooked to order and encased in batter with crumbly butter. Served with braised greens and truffle puree, it was pure culinary bliss.
A Pump Street chocolate and olive oil ganache over cocoa nibs and crushed hazelnuts was sublime and not too sweet. And we both thought the spicy vegan panna cotta, with poached rhubarb, pink pepper and strawberry dust, was surprisingly good. It had the perfect wonky texture, and the heat from the peppercorns was enough to tingle the taste buds, rather than being fierce and overpowering.
We finished with a nightcap of hot chocolate and hit the hay – floating on our pillow top mattresses, with their puffy pillows and cozy duvets. I would even go so far as to say that it is the most comfortable bed I have slept on in quite a while.
While I hit the snooze button, Rachel broke into a run in the park (nothing really stopped her), and we had a quick breakfast before yoga in the gym.
Yoga is Rach’s thing, not mine, I’m a dedicated Pilates girl. But the friendly instructor won me over with her functional class, which focused on grounding our feet in a series of deeply invigorating movements to stretch and tone the whole body. Can I be converted?
Departure is at 10am, but you can still enjoy the facilities for the rest of the day. And enjoy it, ending the weekend with another jump in the lake (for her), a sauna, and lounging by the pool. A wonderfully relaxing break. We both thought some of the younger staff needed more service training and the breakfast menu needed a bit of work, but overall Fritton is really quite lovely.