Chesters Estate consists of seven square kilometers of verdant countryside right in the heart of the romantic Scottish Borders. The land was originally bought in 1787 by Thomas Ogilvie on his return from a career in the Indian civil service, shortly after which he had the main manor house built by local architect, William Eliot. The Ogilvie family has lived there virtually uninterrupted since that time until John Henderson (who inherited through his mother – hence the name change) took over the estate on his 30th birthday. He married Ellie, an actress, in 2005 and they were joined just last year by new arrival, Lily. The couple decided to combine their respective skills in advertising and acting to rejuvenate the house and grounds - an ongoing process recently documented by the Channel 4 programme Country House Rescue. They both view their ownership of Chesters as an enormous privilege, and intend to do all they can to make sure the estate not only remains viable but can also be shared with as many people as possible - hence the invitation for you to join them.
The estate itself is full of delightful nooks and crannies, and is home to more than 1,000 sheep, 100 cows, roe deer, pheasants, partridges, buzzards, rooks and myriad rabbits. And of course, a run of salmon, sea and brown trout for which you can purchase a reasonably priced day ticket. But it is the old walled garden that acts as the centerpiece for our encampment, a tranquil hiding place that both time and the modern world have completely passed by.
The Scottish Borders are surprisingly accessible; from north or south, Edinburgh or Newcastle, a mere hour and a half ’s drive should see you at Chesters. The prime attraction of the area is Nature, best seen from two feet or two wheels, but it’s also an area that has known more than its fair share of man-made history. The Borders bore the brunt of the conflicts with England, to which its many ruins bear witness, and you might want to try the Borders Abbey Way, linking the four great ruined abbeys in Kelso, Melrose, Dryburgh and nearby Jedburgh - although we suspect you’ll always be keen to hurry back to your very own secret garden at Chesters.
Country House Rescue
If Chesters looks familiar, that’s probably because you’ve been watching Channel 4’s ‘Country House Rescue’. Ruth Watson, the formidable TV presenter and boutique hotel guru, visited John and Ellie on their estate last year, and the show focused on John’s plans for a microbrewery and Ellie’s desire to breathe life back into the stables. A follow-up episode was aired in Spring 2010, but why not get the inside story by visiting the estate for yourself this year?