Yesterday I had to take my ailing Volvo XC 90 to the local Volvo dealers to get a replacement ignition switch fitted.
The service desk said 90 minutes, so I headed off to the local village, Ticehurst, for a cup of coffee. Finding the café shut, I tried The Bell, a quirky hotel and pub in the heart of the village. Although it was just after 9.00am, this charming hostelry, managed by Cathedral Hotels Ltd, was bustling with guests enjoying breakfast, so I seated myself down in the bar near the log fire and enjoyed a satisfying double espresso.
The atmosphere was great, the coffee excellent and the service superb.
Finally, suitably rested and entertained, I asked for directions to the gents.
Wow! What a great surprise! Neat rows of green metro wall tiles set against contrasting black and white chequerboard floor tiles, with genuine sheet music as a wallpaper above dado level. Good, but nothing that out of the ordinary.
But the urinals! A row of upturned, fully plumbed, flugelhorns. Yes, flugelhorns!
So out came my trusty IPhone to capture the scene for Diary of a Tile Addict.
Back home I trawled the internet to find out more about The Bell and I will share with you this review from no less an authority than The Daily Telegraph’s travel section.
“At the heart of the flourishing East Sussex village of Ticehurst, in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are walking routes and cycling trails on its doorstep, including a picturesque circuit of Bewl Water reservoir, while Rye, Sissinghurst Castle Gardens, Tunbridge Wells and Bodiam Castle are within 30 minutes by car. Trains from London to the nearest stations, Wadhurst and Stonegate, take an hour.
On paper, it’s a pub with rooms (albeit a splendid Tudor one). But behind that brick façade and curious sign (“The Bell Inn – apparently”) lurk all manner of quirky surprises.
The bar/restaurant, all open fires, sloping floors and exposed beams, is packed with the weird and wonderful, from Banksy prints, vintage cash tills and bowler hat light shades to a seven-foot stack of books that appears to be holding up the ceiling.
In the gents, the urinals consist of three flugelhorns (no, really), while in each of the seven upstairs bedrooms you’ll find a large bough from a silver birch.
A pretty patio area at the back (look out for the rhino) leads to a marvellous tiered garden covered head-to-toe in flowers, brass sculptures and makeshift walls of empty wine bottles, and four fabulous wooden lodges.
The most spectacular is The Love Nest, a cylindrical cabin wrapped in woven branches, filled with cuckoo clocks (thankfully deactivated), and with its own roof terrace.
It’s all very informal – don’t expect 24-hour room service or a fawning concierge – but the young team are friendly and eager to help.
There’s a big function room upstairs, and a stunning old stable with a sunken oak table that serves as a private dining room, so the venue has become popular for weddings (there’s at least one every weekend in summer). But it also means a sideline in other events, such as stand-up comedy, live music, and film screenings. In-room spa treatments can be arranged.
Each has its own name (“The Moon Wild”, for example, or “Stranger than the Truth”), and décor is equally individual, with eye-catching antiques, cushions, artwork and light fittings, off-beat literature to peruse, and playful slogans emblazoned on the walls (“I think I’m falling in bed with you” adorns “Between the Lines”; “Will all come out in the wash” is written large on one of the numerous freestanding bathtubs). There are dentist’s chairs and spittoons, mismatched tiles, mini chandeliers, faux pelt rugs and countless other idiosyncratic features, some of which you probably won’t even notice – how many guests inside “Pretty Vacant” will have spotted the old coins embedded in the floorboards? Vitally, they are all spacious, clean and comfy too, with tea- and coffee-making facilities, TVs with freeview, and complimentary Wi-Fi.
The bar, usually busy with both locals and out-of-towners, serves a fair range of ales (sneak off to the adjacent “snug” if you want peace and quiet). The food is seasonal, with local farms and suppliers used where possible. It’s several notches above your standard pub fare, and generally unfussy (burgers, fish and chips and hearty roasts, but with room for ceviche and arancini too). Breakfast, the usual range of cereals, eggs and kippers, was very good.”
So, the next time you are in Sussex, why not programme TN5 7AS into your sat nav. Believe me, The Bell is well worth a visit (apparently).
The Bell Inn
High Street, Ticehurst, East Sussex, TN5 7AS.
A new post by Joe Simpson, Diary of a Tile Addict, February 2017.