CUCKFIELD, WEST SUSSEX
BEST FOR: A SPONTANEOUS SPA BREAK WHICH PROMISES A MIX OF STORYBOOK AND SULTRY ROMANCE
NOT FOR: GUARANTEED SUNSHINE
Situated beyond the curves of a discreet right-hand turn, Ockenden Manor is a destination spa for those times when you realise that you really do need a quick break. Just 45 minutes from London, the escape is a fuss-free journey which doesn’t kill-the-mood or lead you down a country road with no wifi.
Ockenden Manor is a beautiful, self-assured Elizabethan manor complete with crackling fires, exposed brick work, dainty teacups, heavy, polished silverware and nine acres of rich, green grounds. The spa sits just behind the manor, a robust, cubic modern style building created with local honey and burnt-orange coloured stone with humongous glass windows that allow the greens of the land and blue (or greys) of the skies to blend into the airy, high-ceilings of the spa. It’s as if this country-style manor has eloped with an outrageously attractive and cool modern spa designer, resulting in a superb meet-you-in-the middle type affair.
Perhaps opposites really do attract; the spa consultation form for the Elemental Rebalancing Ritual is based upon the philosophy of the five elements – water, fire, air, earth and wood. Ticking your favourite time of year, time of day, mood type, and energy levels feels like a new, deeply-connective way to understand your body’s needs and desires. It’s the type of useful consultation to photocopy for your fridge at home and keep you on track be it nailing your workout at the gym, taking time out for meditation or not grabbing that chocolate biscuit when you run out the door.
The soothing treatment is an all-round MOT for the body and soul; a deep, confident back massage with the sensual use of two hot herbal poultices (which you can take home afterwards to let your bath water run through – elongated satisfaction), a stomach massage performed by the therapist’s intuitive, gentle hands and an arm massage. The clock ticks by but nothing is rushed, the treatment is made complete by a wonderfully balancing facial and invigorating Macadamia and Papaya foot scrub. You awake feeling supple, satisfied, light, calm and positively floating. Glide from the dimly lit room to a relaxation bed post treatment to savour the peace and quiet, some locally-sourced chocolate and pink champagne.
Food hits the spot. Scallops are soft and delicious served with mushroom purée, garlic and forestiere sauce and the White Onion Soup smells and tastes divine. There are plenty of scrumptious choices for main including Sea Bass, Venison and Pheasant. Staff recommend the caramelised Lemon tart for dessert but the Damson Bakewell is special, layered with nostalgic sweetness. Savour the feast and wash down with ice cold Chablis. Get cosy post-feast in the Lounge Room where you can huddle by the fire over a pot of coffee and deliciously sweet and buttery fudge before retreating to your room.
The following morning, whet the appetite by creeping into the spa, just once more, before breakfast. Watch the sun rise from over the green mounds of grass, or through a foggy haze, from the outdoor Jacuzzi or pool. Bliss.
CONTACT: 01444 416111; www.hshotels.co.uk/ockenden-manor
PRICE: From £179 for standard room only basis
NEAREST TRAIN STATION: Haywards Heath
DRIVING DISTANCE FROM LONDON: 42 miles
First-Hand Visit Write-Up By: Nicole Correia