Birch is the latest ‘concept’ hotel to chase the Instagram generation, but haphazard design and pricey wellness and creative activities leave little room for relaxation
Arriving at Birch, you would be forgiven for thinking you were headed to a service station. Close enough to the M25 that the constant thrum of cars provides a blanket backdrop of noise, the imposing Georgian mansion at the end of a dirt track turn-off comes as a surprise. There are no fruit machines or KFC here.
A longstanding hotel and conference centre near Cheshunt, the imposing 22-hectare, Grade II-listed property has been the subject of a radical makeover by Chris Penn, former managing director of US brand Ace Hotels. The Birch ethos, Penn told me, is to “give a shit”, to be “accessible,” to be “a festival at a hotel” or perhaps not even be a hotel at all. Rather, a space for “escape artists” – those wishing to get away from the relentless pace of London, a 30-minute train ride away to the south.