Located in Liphook, a leafy Hampshire village, Champneys Forest Mere is a secluded lakeside resort in the heart of the South Downs. Showcasing Champneys’ tradition for cutting edge wellbeing, its ethos is also remarkably accessible. It’s designed to enhance any wellbeing practices you’ve started at home, as well as to develop them further in an enjoyable environment. Senior Product Manager Sarah Hill visited with a group of mum friends and this is what she had to say about it…
Champneys has a reputation for being the best of health spas. However, they’re also very much on the cutting edge of the spa industry and Forest Mere is the perfect example of that. Like other Champneys spas, its extensive facilities encompass traditional and cutting edge spa experiences, as well showing that wellness is about more than fitness. There’s a piano room, a beautiful courtyard, water beds by the pool, lots of spaces to sit with a good book, grounds brimming with wildlife and treatments such as reiki, graphology and palmistry.
That said, the adult only spa stays ahead of the curve on wellness and fitness facilities as well. There’s two fitness studios, a fully equipped gym and all of the accompanying spa facilities including a 25 metre indoor swimming pool, a 15 metre outdoor pool (open seasonally), an outdoor hydropool and relaxation area, a snow room, rainforest showers, a whirlpool and Jacuzzi, a unisex sauna, male and female saunas and steam rooms, a thalassotherapy pool, a rasul mud chamber, flotation beds, a hair salon and a mani and pedi station. There are also tennis courts within the grounds, bikes available to hire, resort walks and beautiful relaxation spaces throughout.
Importantly, as it’s very much a destination spa, rather than a hotel that happens to have a spa, everyone who’s there is visiting for the spa experience. As a result, it’s an all-robe affair – by which we mean, you can stay in your robe all day and the only time you need to get dressed properly is for dinner. You can have lunch in your robe and wander around happily in it.
Treatments at the spa continue the fusion of traditional and holistic wellbeing as well as the latest in beauty and health. The spa has its own premium product line, 43 treatment rooms and an Alternative Health Clinic. I had an hour-long bamboo massage, which, as any parent will know, is the kind of me-time that’s a real treat.
It’s a unique spa treatment using silky bamboo canes for a divinely deep massage. It releases muscle tightness and improves circulation and lymphatic flow. The result is an overall improvement in flexibility, balance and inner wellbeing. As an added bonus, skin also feels silky smooth at the end.
Food is a big part of Champneys’ approach to wellbeing. Very little alcohol is available, and meals are nutritious gourmet cuisine, beautifully presented and using fresh locally sourced ingredients, often grown in their own vegetable gardens.
Lunch for me is the best thing – people rave about it. It’s a beautifully done buffet with lots of different salads and guidance of how much of each food type to have. It’s healthy, and I loved that it was a chance to spend time with friends, but without feeling like I was destroying my Slimming World diet. I was able to stay on plan but still enjoy deserts. For example, they had a crumble in a neat little ramekin served with creme fraiche instead of custard. There’s no sense of deprivation or missing out, it’s all feel good factor. It’s a far cry from the health spa stereotype that you’re going to need to stash of chocolate in your room to gorge on afterwards. I really feel like it’s for real people.
You have the option to stay in the main manor house, where all ground floor rooms have their own patio, and if you upgrade to a suite it includes fresh flowers, fruit and Champneys gifts. Or, there are four exquisite brand new Shepherd’s Huts in the hotel grounds. They’re designed for two people for extra privacy and total down time. I had a deluxe room with a patio overlooking the gardens which are beautiful. There’s a forest lake, brimming with wildlife – it sets the scene wonderfully for a restful break.
The amount of space and the really up to date facilities combined with Champneys core wellbeing ethos draws people back time and again. They now offer new wellbeing and fitness retreats, which are really popular for a healthy boost and a little direction, or to help people stay on track with a healthy lifestyle. Increasingly, people are choosing to go for two or three night spa breaks rather than just a day because it really does make a difference to how you feel, and it’s knowledge and inspiration you can take home with you. All the while, you still feel as though you’re having a treat as well though and that makes it really special.
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