Arriving here two decades on, it still boasts its famous golf course, and the elegant ‘20s interior could not be better suited as a backdrop for a timeless Belgian detective.
And yet, this is also one of the world’s foremost outdoor playgrounds, where the young-at-heart are very much favoured. Let’s start with gundog training, which I try on my first morning. The Labradors are impeccably trained and lovable but this is no passive pursuit. As pack and prey animals, they need to see leadership mettle before they will accept my commands. “Walk with purpose,” calls out Deanne, one of the experienced instructors; “be confident.” Soon we’re on the obstacle course – a lane of jumps resembling those found in the wild – and I can only marvel at my dog’s eager explosions of energy as he clears each jump easily.
Archery similarly exercises mind as well as body. I grew up near Sherwood Forest so assume I have an advantage at the range beside the shooting lodge, but to hold the bow flexed, trained on the target – with the arrow steady so that it doesn’t spiral or ‘fishtail’ – can only make me appreciate how easy Robin Hood made it look. There is no greater satisfaction than witnessing the arrow thump home into a centre ring of the target. Falconry equally favours the alert. The falconry school lets you take a Harris hawk on the glove. These are unusual for birds of prey since they are sociable, but it pays to have your wits about you in the presence of such a predator. First the male and then the larger female perch on my raised fist.