Meet The Hotelier Behind Thyme In Gloucestershire
As the UK lockdown lifts, we catch up with Caryn Hibbert, the force behind Thyme Hotel in Gloucestershire
84Rooms: Tell us a little bit about your story and how Thyme came to be?
Caryn Hibbert: I grew up in the Staffordshire countryside but my career as an obstetrician and gynaecologist took me to London. Practising at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital as well as raising our three young children, my heart never wavered from my countryside upbringing. When Jerry and I moved to Southrop Manor in 2001, the house was surrounded by dilapidated farm buildings. My father and I took on the project to breathe new life into these old working buildings, reconnecting them with the land. We began as a destination Cookery School, but have since evolved to encompass bedrooms, the Ox Barn restaurant, spa, shop and village pub, and are now known as ‘a village within a village’.
84Rooms: What is your favourite room or place in the hotel?
Caryn Hibbert: Choosing a favourite room is hard, each one is so different and there isn’t a single one that I don’t love! The Ox Barn, however, is a very special space that embodies our 'Love of the Land' ethos and everything that Thyme is about: it’s agricultural, beautiful; a truly magnificent building. My truly favourite place, however, is down in the Water Meadows. I love sitting on the bridge over the river to enjoy the stillness and watch the wildlife that call the meadows their home: otters, kingfishers, water vole, egrets and more. At night, bats can be seen feeding and we have recorded, amazingly, four difference species of owl. Barn owls, little owls, tawny and long eared can all be heard with their distinctive calls as they hunt at night.
84Rooms: Thyme is a family business, are all your children involved?
Caryn Hibbert: Thyme has always been a family business, I started the restoration projects with my father, Michael Bertioli — a physicist and engineer — who implemented the green technology and engineering that we installed at inception. Now, my son, Charlie Hibbert, is the Head Chef at our restaurant, the Ox Barn, and my daughter Camilla Hibbert looks after the Retail Development and Marketing across Thyme.
84Rooms: What are your plans with Thyme in the future ?
Caryn Hibbert: We are now on the cusp of being a complete destination, with the elements that make up Thyme balanced and symbiotic. The final addition will see a new spa space launch this year - a concept space that involves both the inside and the garden outside - stay tuned!
Looking further forward, my aspiration has forever been to build a lifestyle brand and we are now doing this through Bertioli by Thyme, our daughter brand. We have launched our ‘Patterns of Nature’ collection which includes table linens printed with my botanical illustrations inspired by the land and plants in and around Thyme. This year, will see our founding silkwear collection too!
84Rooms: Have you ever thought about opening another estate?
Caryn Hibbert: Thyme is an extension of our home and has evolved over time, so I feel it would be difficult or impossible to recreate with integrity. There are certainly no plans in the pipeline at the moment!
84Rooms: Where do you travel to and do you have a favourite hotel you always go to?
Caryn Hibbert: Africa has captured my heart. The expansive skies and wide horizons, the people and the wildlife. My ambition is for Thyme to become a conservation destination that contributes to on the ground projects protecting wild spaces and species. One of my favourite places I have ever been to is Sirikoi and its sister camp, Richard’s camp - they are very special places, ran by amazing people and Sirikoi has a wonderful vegetable garden too.
84Rooms: Who was your most interesting guest ?
Caryn Hibbert: I have had the pleasure of meeting so many interesting and inspirational people at Thyme, its one of Thyme's greatest joys for me! From conservationists and entrepreneurs to actors and artists - I wouldn’t want to divulge!
84Rooms: What are your Christmas traditions? We noticed you are closed on Christmas Day..
Caryn Hibbert: Christmas is all about the family and food and most importantly spending time together. There are wonderful recipes passed down the generations: my mother would always make both the Christmas pudding and a glorious Christmas Cake, and Jerry’s mother brings the brandy butter, a well guarded Hibbert recipe that includes ground almonds, it is delicious and distinctly boozy.
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