Chequers has offered recuperation to prime ministers for 100 years | Politics

Boris Johnson is beginning his journey of recovery at Chequers, where he is not working or receiving official papers in his red boxes, and has not had any telephone calls with the Queen.

Instead, the prime minister is understood to be enjoying walking in the 600-hectare (1,500-acre) grounds of the 16th-century manor house in Buckinghamshire, wrapped up against a cool spring wind, and with his pregnant fiancee, Carrie Symonds, and jack russell-cross terrier, Dilyn, at his side.

He is expected to remain at Chequers, the official retreat of serving prime ministers since 1921, until his medical advisers believe he is well enough to return to Downing Street.

It is believed doctors from St Thomas’ hospital will keep in touch over the phone on a daily basis.

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For Johnson, Chequers offers a peaceful environment in which to recuperate following 10 days of self-isolation in his flat at 11 Downing Street after testing positive for coronavirus, and a week in St Thomas’ including three nights in intensive care during which, he has said, “things could have gone either way”.

Having tested negative for Covid-19 on his hospital release on Easter Sunday, hewas reunited with Symonds, who also suffered symptoms of the virus.

It is not yet known how involved he will be in day-to-day decision making. A Downing Street spokesman said on Monday the prime minister had spoken to the foreign secretary and first secretary of state, Dominic Raab, who is currently deputising for Johnson, over the weekend. “The prime minister is focusing on his recovery and he is not currently carrying out government work,” the spokesman said.

For the moment, it seems, Johnson is heeding the advice of medics, family, friends and cabinet colleagues and concentrating on getting well. And Chequers, set at the foot of the Chiltern Hills, and 40 miles (65km) away from the hustle and bustle of the government base in Whitehall, is the perfect place to do so, with its views of fields of cattle and sheep. To aid his recuperation, he can swim gentle lengths in the heated indoor swimming pool housed in the orangery.

While in Downing Street, the prime minster was confined in his sealed-off flat with his meals left at the door between Nos 10 and 11. Chequers has its own kitchens, led by a head chef well used to providing formal dinners for a rich variety of VIPs including the Queen, world leaders such as the US president, Donald Trump, and the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, and celebrities including Sir Elton John, Bryan Adams and David Bowie.

Carol Thatcher once likened Chequers to a “boutique hotel, albeit with top-level security” and the “perfect weekend retreat” in complete contrast to the Downing Street terrace. Her father, Denis, used to enjoy practising his chipping and putting on the vast lawn, while her mother, Margaret, did her prime ministerial work in the study.

David Cameron once told the former French president François Hollande that it was “a good place for thinking – away from London”.

Chequers was given to the nation in 1917 by Sir Arthur Lee, a Conservative minister and a director-general of food production during the first world war, and in Lloyd George became its first prime ministerial occupant in 1921. As set out in the Chequers Estate Act 1917, it was hoped to draw the sitting PM to “spend two days a week in the high and pure air of the Chiltern Hills and woods”.

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