I’ve had a long love affair with Gloucestershire. I first came here because I worked for the fashion stylist and editor Isabella Blow who had a beautiful place near Painswick – the deepest, darkest part of the county. She rented a cottage on her estate to our family. We eventually bought and renovated a derelict farmhouse close to the village of Bisley, which is where I am today. It is the most poetic part of Gloucestershire, with its valleys, woodlands and hills. At first, people thought we were mad because it’s so remote, but I spent an idyllic childhood on my grandmother’s farm in Kent, and after living in both London and New York, I wanted to be back on the farm because that’s where I felt at home.

Plum Sykes at home in Gloucestershire
Plum Sykes at home in Gloucestershire © Chris Hoare

The area here is rural and quite old-school; people move in, and move out when they die, so there’s a real community. My new book, a satire, is the first one I’ve set in the Cotswolds. The region has become so fashionable, it’s been remoulded into a sort of fantasy version of the English countryside. Who wouldn’t be inspired by this bucolic paradise? But writing is solitary, and doing hours of it is wearying, so I try to go riding every day. I have an Irish Sport Horse called Buster, and both my children have horses so we go out together. I like to hack around the bridleways of the Cotswold Hills where it’s very high. If you can ride, give Dave Guilding of the DG Equine in Berkeley a call; he’ll show up with his twinkly blue eyes and take you on a glorious hack. Speaking of riding, there’s a cash-only shop in Cirencester called Sydney Free Saddlery that has a vintage room with some really good stuff – I’ve bought 1930s jodhpurs there for £20 and a tweed jacket. In that same town is G Horton pharmacy, which is old-fashioned with mahogany cabinets. It sells my favourite bath essence, Olverum: you only need one drop and it literally smells like the mountains.

Churchill Manor, a 19th-century Georgian house that sleeps 18
Churchill Manor, a 19th-century Georgian house that sleeps 18 © Miles Willis
Foliage and flowers ready for floral design at Saltbox & Co
Foliage and flowers ready for floral design at Saltbox & Co © Carmel King
A display at Cutter Brooks in Stow-on-the-Wold
A display at Cutter Brooks in Stow-on-the-Wold © Mike Garlick

If I have guests who like to shop, I take them to Cutter Brooks in Stow-on-the-Wold for china and clothes. It’s owned by Amanda Brooks, whose sister-in-law, Annabel Brooks, has an incredible house, Churchill Manor, just over the border from Gloucestershire that you can rent. It’s on a 600-acre estate with a swimming pool, tennis courts and its own gallops. Annabel’s daughter got married in the gardens there. There is nowhere more beautiful in the world than the English countryside on a glorious summer’s day, with radiant sunshine and wisteria in bloom – a wedding in that setting is just perfect.

The conservatory at Badminton House
The conservatory at Badminton House © Casper Farrell

Badminton House in the south of Gloucestershire is a stately home owned by the Duke of Beaufort; it’s also available for weddings. One of the houses on the estate, Swangrove, is in the middle of the woods and would make a romantic honeymoon spot. It was originally done up by Robert Kime and is like a mini grand house with stone steps and four-poster beds. If you want a modern country house, I’d suggest The Find, designed by my architect friend Richard Found. At the centre of the building is an 18th-century gamekeeper’s cottage, but the interiors of the wings are polished concrete – it’s amazing. Nearby, in Painswick, is one of the most beautiful churches in Gloucestershire, St Mary’s; the churchyard has 99 ancient yew trees carved like lollipops.

The Woolpack Inn in Slad
The Woolpack Inn in Slad © Chris Hoare
Sykes at The Woolpack Inn
Sykes at The Woolpack Inn © Chris Hoare

There’s another lovely church in Slad, Holy Trinity, which has seating for about 20 people – Laurie Lee is buried in the churchyard. Close by is the little pub where he drank, The Woolpack Inn, now owned by the artist Daniel Chadwick: the food is exquisite and the views are incredible. It’s quite groovy; you’ll see people in there like Damien Hirst and Lily Allen but also drystone wallers.

Jolly Nice Farmshop is a good lunch spot that has delicious ice-cream flavours such as gooseberry and wild elderflower and fresh mint stracciatella. When it comes to cakes I’d recommend local chef Genevieve Frosch, who covers them in things like geranium and rose petals; they’re to die for. She can also make any wedding cake you want. For flowers, there is a seasonal grower called Saltbox & Co run by a mother and daughter. They’ve done exquisite flowers for parties I’ve thrown, and the arrangements are very romantic; they’ll go out to the hedgerows and pick a load of tree ivy to put in. For roses that go on forever, you must visit Kiftsgate Court Gardens, created by three generations of female gardeners. It’s like a secret garden, full of wildflowers surrounding an incredible Georgian house. Once you’ve walked around, all the plants you’ve seen are laid out on trestle tables to buy.

Sykes with her dogs
Sykes with her dogs © Chris Hoare
The Georgian portico and terrace at Kiftsgate Court Gardens, Mickletone
The Georgian portico and terrace at Kiftsgate Court Gardens, Mickleton © Chris Hoare

Looking out of my study window where I write, the views of the valley are gorgeous. It’s hard not to be inspired by the hedgerows full of cow parsley in spring, cascades of roses in June, and the sight of horses and cows grazing as though they are in a painting.

Wives Like Us by Plum Sykes is published by Harper at $28; published in the UK on 14 May at £18.99

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