Spa wars!

The infinity pool at Aqua Sana, Centre Parcs

It’s no secret that I love spas. And it’s no secret that one of my life goals is to visit as many spas as I can as much as I can.

I’ve had lots of different spa experiences, some just for the day, others have included an overnight stay, some with treatments, some just lounging by a pool and a dip in the jacuzzi and I’ve experienced pretty much every type of sauna and stream room going, thanks to Aqua Sana at Centre Parcs in Woburn! I’ve even tried flotation tank therapy and a roller message machine, but not sure if they count.

At this point in time, my two favourites have been whittled down to Whittlebury Hall near Towcester and Champneys Henlow Grange. In fact me, my mum and sister spent the weekend before Christmas at Champneys and are currently debating whether to go back there this year or experience what Whittlebury Hall has to offer over the festive season.

Having already been to Whittlebury Hall twice – the first time for a hen weekend and the second time with my friend Kate – I’ve always thought you get a lot for your money. Both times we paid around £100 each and that includes an overnight stay, use of all spa facilities, the heat and ice experience, a 30-minute treatment, buffet lunch, a three-course dinner and breakfast the following day.

Swing chairs at Whittlebury Hall

Getting to waft around in a soft white dressing gown and slippers is my idea of heaven and I like the fact that there are magazines dotted around so you don’t have to bring your own.

The Quiet Area has those wicker swing chairs, which look divine, but are a bugger to get in and out of in an elegant fashion, whilst wearing a dressing gown! The spa is set apart from the hotel and also has a conference area and a gym, which I’m ashamed to say I didn’t set foot in – my excuse is I can go to the gym any day of the week!

So three things to note about Whittlebury Hall:

  • The food is amazing
  • There are water beds to nap on in the Quiet Area
  • The bedrooms have fridges so you can bring your own wine – bingo!

Moving onto Champneys, I have also been to Henlow Grange twice. The first time was a day spa with the female members of my extended family and the second time, as mentioned above, was an overnight stay with my mum and sister.

It’s a bit more expensive than Whittlebury Hall, but on arrival we were offered a mulled wine, what’s better than that? Oh a full 24 hours of doing nothing but relaxed. Bring it on!

Set in an old manor house, Henlow Grange has lots of lovely gardens and a weir, which our bedrooms overlooked, and there are guided tours throughout the day, provided you bring your wellies.

The pool at Champneys Henlow Grange.

I also had the chance to experience a very rigorous game of water netball. Now playing on-land normal netball, I have never scored a goal, but I discovered I was a whizz at water netball – seven goals! There are also lots of lovely places to relax – a conservatory, a grand sitting room with an open fire and loungers by the pool of course.

Treatments are an added extra but I was lucky enough to have been given a voucher from the boy for my birthday so I was all set.

OK, three important things about Champneys Henlow Grange:

  • There are classes throughout the day that are free to guests
  • You can take advantage of the lovely grounds and garden, weather dependent
  • It has a gift shop!

So many spas and so little time! Is visiting one every weekend really that extravagant?


She who dares…

imageEver heard the phrase ‘life starts at the end of your comfort zone’? Well two years ago I decided that this did actually ring true and made the decision to add some new daredevil activities to my life CV.

So along with my friend Becky, we had a go at segwaying and indoor sky diving, which were both really cool and gave me an appetite to try more.

Then came the ultimate challenge – an abseil down the Northampton Lift Tower to raise  money for a charity called  Canine Partners. At first I said no, but some of my work colleagues said they would like to try it and our big boss also agreed to do it and even offered to pay the fees for us so how could I say no?

When the day arrived, I didn’t think much of it until I was actually stood in front of the 418ft tower. I could barely see the top with all the mist of the clouds surrounding it. OK, perhaps that was a slight exaggeration but it was definitely a damn sight taller than I anticipated. Unfortunately as there was a group of us taking part, there was a lot of waiting around. I didn’t want to be the first or indeed the last one down. So I went second from last.

Once I was harnessed up and at the top with yet more waiting, I had more of an idea of what I had to do. No one told me you have to climb onto a ledge and then lean back. That was truly terrifying and of course that’s the time where they decide to take your souvenir photo. Somehow, I look quite relaxed in mine, despite being 418ft above my comfort zone. So the descent began. For the first few minutes I kept my eyes closed and just focused on feeding the rope through as fast as I could, which is bloody hard work! At one point I felt reeally isolated as I was too far down to hear the coaches at the top and not close enough to the ground to hear my friends and family. So I kept going until I saw the windows and knew it was almost over. Then I heard the whoops and cheers and finally my feet touched the ground. And then I almost fell on my bum. What a dignified landing! But what a great feeling! I couldn’t believe I’d had the guts to do it and I was apparently one of the fastest down too. No wonder my arms hurt!

Since then I have tried my hand at the Aerial Extreme high rope course, taken part in  an outdoor learning centre challenge, which involved a leap of faith, a smaller abseil and a swamp challenge, managed to get all the way round the Grand Canyon Sky Walk, zip-wired across the Welsh valleys, had a wake-boarding lesson and given white water rafting a go. Next up is the infamous 02 Climb.

Not bad for someone who isn’t keen on heights or hates to be under water!