Willow and I have been fortunate enough to visit both Champneys Forest Mere and Champneys Springs in the past, and every time we have arrived at a Champneys spa, we have been struck by the beautiful country houses that stand before us. On a brisk Thursday morning, Willow and I set off to Champneys Henlow, and after a smooth journey up to Bedfordshire, we followed the ‘Champneys Spa’ signs to the entrance. There has been a recurring convenience of well-placed signs at every location we have been to so far, which helpfully direct guests to the spas. We followed the driveway through the forestry, and as we drove into the carpark, we could see a grand building through the orange-tinged trees.
Champneys Henlow is a picturesque, Georgian manor house set in 150 acres of parkland in Bedfordshire. After refurbishments in 2017, Henlow Grange has, in their own words, blended traditions of the old with innovations of the new. Eager to get inside, we walked past the large water fountain and up the steps. A union jack flag blew in the wind, symbolising Henlow’s reputation as a true British country escape. Due to us visiting in November, we were able to see the festive Christmas decorations placed around the building. The reception itself had a large Christmas tree and a roaring fire, making us feel welcome. During the checking-in process we were given a welcome booklet, a treatment guide, our waterproof locker wristbands and - most importantly - our Champneys robes and flipflops! The smiley receptionist escorted us to a delightful dining area, where the welcome breakfast was laid out. This included salmon, cream cheese and cucumber on rye bread, fresh vanilla yogurt with apricot, and orange and apple juice in quirky glasses. We enjoyed tucking into the buffet while we admired the tranquil surroundings.
Feeling energised, we made our way downstairs to the spa. A Champneys staff member showed us how to use our lockers, and once we had changed, they guided us to the treatment waiting room. There was a velvet circular seating area, and a Clarins and Elemis boutique to look around, so we happily waited for our names to be called while we browsed. Willow had booked the 25 minute ‘Head in the Clouds’ scalp, neck and shoulder massage, and with a choice of oils and massage cream, she left feeling relaxed and as weightless as a cloud. I decided upon the ‘Pick Me Up’ facial. Soothing music played as a selection of hydrating creams were massaged into my face. The therapist gave me an amazing head massage as the creams soaked in, and I left the calming treatment room with my skin feeling youthful, soft and revitalised!
Flip flopping through the large corridors, we made our way to the 25-metre swimming pool. Modern day beds took prime position under the high arched windows. Half faced the Champneys landscaped gardens, and the other half faced the serene swimming pool. With a jacuzzi, sauna and a steam room, there are plenty of leisure facilities to keep you entertained, not forgetting the gym and fitness studios. Furthermore, for those of you who would love some fresh air before lunch, you can partake in a game of tennis or badminton, or go on a bike ride around the gardens.
By the time the clock struck one, we were feeling peckish and ready for lunch! Following a sign that read ‘Restaurant and poolside bar’, we walked up some festive stairs to see a lady behind a podium waiting to greet guests. Having decided we would prefer still water to sparkling, we were guided to our booked table. It wasn’t long before our curiosity got the better of us and we went to explore the food options! With this being a Champneys spa, there was an incredible selection of hot and cold food. I especially loved the seafood, which was delicately displayed in seashells. There were lovely mini chicken wraps and different pasta and salad dishes, including a delicious apricot salad. It wasn’t until Willow and I had filled up our plates that we noticed the hot food, and a chef busy cooking. We just had to go back and get some gnocchi and the most amazing cod I have ever tasted - I still need to email Henlow for the recipe! We finished off our lunch with mini apple crumbles and chocolate mousses, which were delicious.
Feeling full, we walked downstairs and decided to look for the relaxation rooms. We came across the cosiest room with an open fire and lots of comfortable seating. As we were about to sit, we caught a glimpse of the garden coming from the neighbouring room. This was the orangery. There were stunning views of the landscaped garden from every daybed. As well as the beautiful plants outside, within the orangery was a range of plants including pink rose bushes. We could have stayed there all day, but the time soon arrived for us to travel back to Brighton.
Thank you to Matthea and the amazing team at Henlow for making our experience so wonderful. Willow and I were very impressed by how smoothly everything ran, from the front desk, to the treatments, to the lunch service. If you’re looking for a special gift, Champneys spas really are the epitome of luxury.