I was not originally intending to visit Champney’s Forest Mere alone. After booking the overnight package with five friends I realized I was entered in a half marathon the morning of the second day. If sometimes the heavens align for a reason they can be quite mean about it.
Anyway, the seeds of spa promise had been sown and simply cancelling didn’t feel right. I cut forward to seeing the robed group selfie of my friends and decided that I too would have some robe action albeit truly “self-ie” just the night before.
It remained an attractive proposition. Anyone who has small children will understand that the chance of a night alone where you are to be fed without having to feed several others first followed by uninterrupted sleep is more than a little bit alluring. That’s before you even get to the pampering bit. I also had a vision of me sat facing open countryside tapping beautiful tortured prose into my laptop with the sounds of nature to inspire me. And so off I went with a bag packed just for me for one night only, with 2 treatments and all meals included plus full use of spa facilities.
There was an initial blip en route concerning my dogged obedience to an out of date satnav, which was confidently telling me to navigate off road. This resulted in a face off between my VW Golf and an actual Golf Buggy on something that very definitely was nothing like a road, it was indeed a golf course. Top tip for satnav users: If your satnav tells you to navigate off road en route to a well-known spa, be inclined not to do so.
Finally by heading to the town of Liss and picking up signs I was back on track, (road!). The first visual delight was a twinkling lake. Then there was a beautiful expansive building. The backdrop was lush green space as far as they eye could see.
Check in was a serene experience. I was a bit self-conscious of being alone so probably over did the explanations as to why, thus making things worse. Then, after a little tour and briefing I was in my room. Here I felt a bit like I was checking into posh rehab especially on reading the alcohol policy (you’re not supposed to have any). I decided to run with it as a scenario. And after a bit of writing in tortured soul mode it was time for dinner.
“Table for 1?” The waiter enquired with a possibly imagined intonation of incredulity.
“Yes, my friends are coming tomorrow, I’m doing a run see… etc.”
And there I was at my table for one with my magazine/friend substitute and a forced look of comfort with my own company. Fortunately I was placed next to a table of 6 women who were in full flow of slagging off their absent colleagues which was great borrowed entertainment. The food was, from start to finish, amazing. As a vegetarian usually among no others, eating out is rarely interesting for me. Here it was my culinary wish list in 3 courses with 3 different types of bread and dips running alongside. The dessert of stewed plums that really did melt in the mouth have joined my top 3 best puddings life time hall of fame, truly. I can still taste them now.
After dinner there was little to do but to retire and wait for sleep to come. Before I knew it was time for more amazing food. Breakfast was like the entire first 2 chapters of the Deliciously Ella recipe book.
My treatments started at 9 so I finally put on that robe. Guests are encouraged to put this on as soon as they arrive and consider no other form of dress until departure. I just didn’t feel right robing alone unless necessary.
The treatment, a massage and facial combo special, was of course divine maybe through the chance for human interaction if not the therapeutic properties of the work in hand. After that, a bit more writing from the tortured soul and another go at that amazing food.
By check out, I was fresh-faced, relaxed and nourished with a hard drive of several thousand incremental words, long since discarded and forgotten but that’s not the point. The tortured soul was a role-play only, did I mention about my friends and the run?
In conclusion I will say that Champney’s Forest Mere is a real treat of a spa with food in the higher echelons of my dietary recall. The solitary nature of my visit was certainly meditative and far from tortured but I believe would have been better shared.
You do believe me about the friends right?