Where: Champneys Spa, Henlow, Bedfordshire
Who went: Kimberley Smith and partner
Treatments: Two-day weekend break with the Beautiful Bump treatment
In a nutshell: Well-oiled luxury from Spa experts Champneys in a historic building with beautiful views and an early Spring snowdrop walk
Best for: A relaxed spa experience with few treats if you don’t want to be too good!
Watch out for: Not everything is included in your package and being required to pay for eggs at breakfast if you fancy soldiers rather than museli is irritating
“Champneys are a fairly well-known Spa chain with venues in the UK and one in Marbella, so you can expect a thoroughly well-rehearsed outfit on arrival. Just an hour north of London, our SatNav took us across what I now believe was an animal track, so we felt thoroughly countrified before we even stepped onto the drive. The old brick building looks delightful, and in the grounds is a river and humming weir, built by monks who used to live in the building.
“Our room is in the old building, individually decorated in a traditional style. We are shown round the spa, which sprawls into an extension that houses a large modern swimming pool and an upstairs restaurant which overlooks the swimming and grounds. The conversion has made modern buildings out of the old stables and its great to see the brick arches and imagine the history of the place.
“I had the Beautiful Bump treatment, which is a massage that lasts for 55 minutes. The treatment is designed for mums-to-be and is a relaxing gentle massage to work away any problem areas, aches and pains, de-stress you and promote soft, stretch-mark free skin as you are cocooned in moisturising products.
“My feet are given a gentle wash before I am helped up onto the bed. Because lying on your back or front isn’t recommended in pregnancy – or very comfortable – I sit up on the bed, with my legs hanging off the side for the back massage section. The moisturising massage oil my masseuse uses is only very gently scented, which is great if you’re still suffering from morning sickness. She unknotted my back, which was apparently very tense, and advised I try out some yoga or Pilates to encourage stretching my shoulders and back. After the back massage, I lie back on the bed which can be reclined as far back or as straight up as you’re comfortable with.
“She then moves onto my feet and legs. This really helps sore calves and my therapist recommends it for swollen feet or if you have water retention as it can alleviate the pressure.
“She offered stretch mark treatment for the breasts but I didn’t really fancy that, so we moved onto arms and hands. This is wonderful for working mums-to-be to ease out any repetitive strain injury from too much computer usage! Finishing with a head massage, my body feels lose and relaxed as I leave and I’m advised to leave the creams on as long as possible and re-apply regularly to prevent stretch marks.
“Beyond the maze of treatment rooms are the general facilities Champneys offers. As well as the standard spa area including a relaxation and steam room, there is also a Laconium, which is far less hot and sticky than the sauna (though still not allowed for mums-to-be!) and a nice alternative that achieves a similar effect . Men and women’s facilities are separated at this point but you get together again in the pool area. This is a large pool that often has aqua classes and has an ajoining Jacuzzi. There is also a hydrapool, which you may visit with a therapist to deal with particular water or flotation-based therapies. On the way to the pool you will pass a pedicure station that uses fish called Garra Rufa. They are teeny and tickle your feet as they eat away the dead and hard skin leaving your toes young and fresh.
“The hotel also has beautifully decorated quiet rooms and a conservatory that leads to the grounds. Tranquil and full to the rafters of plants, it makes for the perfect place to settle with a book. Outdoors are tennis courts and plenty of places to walk, including signs for a snowdrop walk in early spring.
“Food works on a buffet system for breakfast and lunch and table service in the evening. Based around a healthy menu with plenty of vegetables, salad and fruit options, there are also healthy-ish treats available if you fancy some indulgence.
“But don’t eat too much or you’ll never fancy hitting the gym afterwards. It’s fairly small but has modern machines and TV screens to keep your mind off pain. If you’re pregnant or don’t feel like a work out, there are more relaxing classes including yoga and Pilates.
“Like many spas, the evening quiets down as most guests head to bed, but the pool and gym are open late and you can attend evening entertainment such as ball dancing classes (where you can go alone or drag your partner along). Otherwise there are DVDs to rent at a charge and the rooms are equipped with Sky TV. Plus, you’ll need to get up early for that bracing dawn walk!
Price: Two-day weekend breaks from £249.99 with two treatments included, food and access to all facilities
Treatments highlights: The Beautiful Bump massage treatment, £55 for 55 minutes