It’s a “Swallows And Amazons” experience at Lakes By Yoo

“We see ourselves as gatekeepers for the future,” says Rebecca Davies, property manager at Lakes by Yoo, a countryside walk that boasts a number of luxury home-from-homes in the Cotswolds. We look out over an eco-pond, which is full of life, with incredible appearance, tall bull rushes and cotton grass surrounding the water. As we speak, an electric blue damselfly flies across the grass and bees buzz gently around the wild flowers growing beside the pond. It’s as if we stepped back in time, to an idyllic, pastoral scene.

It’s clear that sustainability and a love of the environment are at the very heart of Lakes by Yoo – in fact, it’s been an integral part of the property since it launched in 2008 – and the eco-ponds, bodies of water that have been left to grow wild without human intervention interference, is only a small piece of the “green” jigsaw.

The countryside resort, found near Lechlade on the edge of the southern Cotswolds, is set in around 850 acres, made up of lakes, meadows and woodland. Conservation and ecology are par for the course here, with over 500,000 trees planted, a mini farm created, bees raised and millions invested to create an ecologically respectful environment. As a result, it has recently won the coveted Marie Claire award for ‘Best Sustainable Holiday with Children (UK) 2022’.

“We were thrilled, of course,” Rebecca says of the award. “But we don’t do this for awards. Our ethos is just part of what we do – that would be crazy not to be ecologically sound, given the untouched nature we are in.”

Lakes by Yoo was originally founded by property entrepreneur John Hitchcox and designer Philippe Starck some 14 years ago. They had identified a growing need to create a luxurious, private, yet family-friendly escape from city life. Since then, the project has grown from a handful of houses set around a lake to one that has 178 properties, ranging in value from £1.5 million (for a three-bedroom flat) to £8 million (for a five-bedroom house) , tucked away over a series of idyllic lakeside settings. Eschewing a ‘new home’ approach, the homes feature characterful interiors, some designed by star names including Kate Moss, Kelly Hoppen and Jade Jagger.

The latest development, and new for this summer, are nine two-bedroom cottages and 18 three-bedroom apartments, perfect for couples, families and groups of friends to escape for a few days. Available for shorter bookings, guests can choose to stay for two nights, making it an ideal luxury weekend getaway from London.

With lake views and premium interiors by Yoo Studio, the apartments capture an elegant landscape but don’t shy away from a five-star appeal. A rich palette of colors brings sophistication, with beautiful cabinetry throughout, such as the burnt-orange kitchens, mustard yellow cabinets and sage green wardrobes. Natural and local materials, such as Cotswold stone and locally woven willow, are also thoughtfully used, while modern touches include double-height, open-plan living complete with statement wood-burning stoves, a split-level terrace with outdoor furniture and marble bathrooms.

The look is softened with layers of textiles, including woven garments, velvet cushions and soft rugs underfoot. Alongside upholstered headboards and large sofas, you’ll find antique finds and eclectic treasures, such as carved pews, wooden letter shelves and vintage dining chairs. The result is full of interest and wonderfully cosy.

In addition to the beautifully curated interior, there is a strong emphasis on making the most of your stay at Lakes by Yoo. Guests can make use of the dedicated concierge service, which is able to arrange bespoke experiences and events upon request – from cocktail tastings in your apartment to a private chef to prepare a feast.

To further elevate a self-catering stay, you can also pre-order chef-prepared meals (so no cooking required) or request that your fridge be stocked with local produce – fresh juice, organic granola, local smoked salmon – for hearty breakfasts eaten alfresco on the terrace.

Days unfold slowly at Lakes by Yoo. If you want to go for a swim, there’s an indoor pool at the spa (where you can also be pampered with the latest beauty therapies and treatments), as well as a small gym and sauna and steam room. But the joy here is really just about being immersed in nature.

Bikes are available for hire so you can whiz around freely with the wind in your hair. For children, the idea is that the stay at the lakes offers a version of “a”Swallows and Amazonsexperience, says Rebecca. “In the safety of the property, they can truly be free and experience life away from screens, immersed in the wilderness.” The same can be said about adults.

There’s boating on the water to enjoy, zip-lining across the lakes and an adrenaline-pumping experience with high ropes. Kayaking, paddle-boarding and even swimming in the lakes are encouraged: “We’re not in the business of saying no to anything. We just point out the risk and give people the freedom to decide, says Rebecca. In fact, the risk is minimal here, with many experts on hand to help with the climbing wall or lessons in some of the water sports. Even the lake is blue flag standard.

After a morning of activities, take a pit stop at the property’s quirky restaurant, Elsa’s, set in an open-air teepee setting with a wood-burning stove in the center. During the rest of the summer, it will also be home to a number of summer pop-ups with artisan businesses, such as Fuego Dining Co, which specializes in outdoor dining and “social cooking”.

Exploration is key – one minute you’ll be horrified by the rescue animals – pigs, goats, chickens – at the on-site farm; the next you can sit by the bucolic River Colne, which flows through the property. Another point of interest is the modern art that is scattered around and is impressive at gallery level. At the entrance to the spa, for example, is KAWS’s ‘Gone’ sculpture, while Yoshitomo Nara’s ‘Your Dog’ sits by the boat lake – a huge white form cast in aluminium. The idea, Rebecca says, is for the property to grow an “art park” with other pieces — such as artist Sarah Sze’s “Untitled (Fallen Sky Series) 2021” stainless steel sculpture — soon to be installed.

The community is also a priority here, with produce from the farm and vegetable gardens harvested several times a week and placed in wooden crates at the entrance to the property so residents can help themselves – from organic eggs to aromatic herbs; heirloom tomatoes for sweet squash. In fact, all varieties of fruits and vegetables grown at Lakes by Yoo are of the heirloom variety and grown from seed, offering a true farm-to-table experience.

Afternoons can be spent fishing or exploring the arboretum, perhaps visiting the beehives (fresh honey is also available for pick-up). When evening falls, you can sit on the deck and watch herons drift over the water. It is as if time has stood still.

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