Destinations | Perfect Weekend

Amanda Harlech’s Welsh borders

Former muse to John Galliano, Lady Harlech now works closely with Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, dividing her time between the Ritz in Paris and her farmhouse in Shropshire.

August 22 2010
Mark C O’Flaherty

“The first joy of Saturday is walking out of the back door, across the grass, through the dew, opening up the greenhouse and picking something for breakfast; perhaps some strawberries.

I love cooking with fruit: apples, raspberries and a couple of pears. Delicious. I’ll have it with porridge with my son, Jasset, 23, and daughter, Tallulah, 22. Jasset is a very good cook too and likes to make eggs and bacon.

It’s so beautiful here. I have always looked for a view, wherever I have lived. The house sits in the hills that divide England and Wales, with the River Severn at the bottom. If I want a Turneresque romance of sky, mountain and sea I can find it just an hour away, towards the coast.

I like to do a lot in the morning. I light a fire. I do yoga. I might re-read something I’ve written, or play Bach on the piano that Karl [Lagerfeld] gave me. It’s a beautiful Steinway with legs designed by Karl. They connect up in a rectangle, which alters the sound.

There are wonderful shops here. I discovered Ashmans Antiques & Old Lace 20 years ago and was on first-name terms with the owner, Diane, immediately. It’s an Aladdin’s Cave of wonderful clothes. I’ve bought Imperial Russian outfits, 18th-century linen nightshirts and a collection of 1920s wedding dresses. Close by is FE Anderson & Son for the most amazing Irish Georgian antiques. I also like home and garden store Wilstone, which sells traditional Indian Kadai fire bowls – really beautiful hand-beaten metal bowls that you can barbecue on.

Wherever I go I like to visit the local ironmongers. CR Birch & Son has the best doormats, rat traps, floor mops and buckets. If you go to a “fashion” home store, the things are made of plastic and you get silly broom heads. I want things that have evolved over hundreds of years. The perfectly evolved broom is a bit like a Chanel suit. I don’t want a cheap copy.

For food I go to the indoor market in Shrewsbury. You get fantastic fish, amazing rabbit, delicious eggs and ham, local asparagus and samphire. You can sample oysters with Guinness. I buy spelt bread from the Shrewsbury Bakehouse, which is tasty and very good for you, made from ancient Roman wheat.

There is a very good Indian restaurant, Enigma, but I like my own food too much. I like to have friends over for dinner and barbecue some lamb, stabbed with garlic and rosemary and thyme, in a slosh of olive oil and pepper. Then all it needs is some peas from the garden, new potatoes and mint. We sit outside and look at the swallows and swifts and hills.

Karl has never been here but the invitation is always open. I would love him to come. I have all kinds of ideas: I’d put up a great big white marquee and have waitresses in white aprons. I’d get a horse to jump over the table.

Sunday starts with the church bells of St Mary’s ringing. I like hearing the bells in the morning. Then I’ll ride my four-year-old Irish ex-racehorse, Roy, down to the river or up to Rodney’s Pillar – the 18th-century monument to the victory of Admiral Rodney over the French in the West Indies, from which they say on a clear day you can see Ireland.

If it’s a hot day it’s lovely to swim in the Severn, or lie naked in the garden reading. I do a bit of gardening. I get plants from the Dingle Nurseries and go to Derwen Garden Centre for seeds, bulbs and trees. I planted an orchard with quinces from there. They were little whips; if I am lucky I will see them grow a bit taller than me.

On Sunday evening the best thing to do is go to bed with a book at 10pm, so as to make the most of the next day. Of course, sometimes I stay up dancing with friends in the kitchen until two or three, but that doesn’t happen often. Although when it does, it’s great.”

See also

People, Wales