Champneys Forest Mere Spa Resort – hotel and spa review

How does the Champneys brand fare off screen? Kim Atkins tests out a spa and fitness break, half an hour from one of Surrey’s biggest commuting towns

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ITV’s recent Champneys documentary opened the doors to one of the country’s oldest health spas, Champneys Tring, revealing how the resort coped while undergoing a refurbishment. Looking to try a bit of “Champnification” we headed down to the Forest Mere resort to experience one of Princess Diana’s favourite brands.

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On arrival, relaxed hotel guests were sauntering about in their Champneys branded robes and flip-flops in the lobby. We enviously gawped at their fluffy state of undress, and could barely wait to slip on our own robes and get down to the hard graft of total relaxation.

Our sumptuous and very spacious double suite was dressed with cool blue and silver décor and came complete with a double balcony overlooking the calming Forest Mere Lake. A separate dressing area was the star feature for me, large enough for a double wardrobe and dressing table, this area gave me the perfect place to beautify myself and mull over outfits for dinner without being distracted. In the living area, the very large TV impressed my partner. He watched the Golf while I drowned myself in the many Champneys lotions and potions, like the zingy Champneys Citrus Blush range with lemon zest and orange peel aroma, which I found in the bathroom (and available in the onsite shop, of course).

The ethos of the Champneys Resorts is on health and wellbeing. The Spa has a holistic approach to pampering, taking into consideration how you feel as well as how you look. Detoxifying is a word that you will become well acquainted with – it’s the a focus of a lot of the treatments and even the dining. 

We chose to try out the on-site bikes (available for guests to hire) and found a nice path around the beautiful lake in the grounds. There are also lots of walks to try out in the National Trust-managed forest that surrounds the resort. The spa and pool were the ideal places to rest our exhausted feet, and we also slipped into the pool lounge for a cheeky nap. If you wanted to partake in more vigorous exercise, there are a number of great fitness classes to try, including yoga, body sculpt and even water polo. Around 20 classes run all day, everyday and, if you can find a gap between them, there is also a fully kitted out gym in which to keep flexing your muscles. Meanwhile, badminton and croquet are the energetic option, and guests are free to use them at their leisure.

The old house plays host to the lounge areas, a place to relax after your evening meal and help yourself to a complimentary tea or coffee. These spaces are very traditional and the furnishings are due an upgrade. This modernisation is in the plans as part of a £10 million refurbishment across all four Champneys resorts, which are taking place ahead of the brand’s 90th anniversary next year. In ITV’s documentary, we saw Tring (Champneys Hertfordshire health club) undergoing its big change, and work will begin in Forest Mere this November. A classic-style orangery will replace the Terrace restaurant and the lounges and bedrooms in the old house will also be revamped.

Dining

The healthy lifestyle ethos flows into the dining. Calorie-controlled meals and a lack of alcohol options (they only serve wine) could put off foodies. However, inventive, carefully created healthy food was excellent, dishes like scallops on cauliflower puree with a pea shoot salad for example, were exquisite. Yet, options are limited; we would have liked to have seen a few more treats on the menu, for those not counting their calories.

Breakfast and lunch are prepared buffet-style and served in an informal setting. The café-style restaurant provided an alternative to the Terrace and we were quite comfortable sitting in our robes to dine, along with the other guests. During breakfast the staff were attentive, providing tea, coffee and a sample of the day’s healthy smoothie (ours was beetroot, apple and broccoli). A variety of cereals, fruits yogurts and breads are served at breakfast, all very well presented and tasty. Hot options are available on the menu, but come at an additional cost. Calorie-controlled buffet meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) are included in most stays. Lunch is a selection of hot and cold options, ranging from smoked salmon and prawns, to chicken and rice. Each meal has plenty of salads and accompaniments (think: fresh poppy seed bread and low fat, but very creamy, dressings). Dinner comes a la carte and includes a wine menu (which was welcome), but beers and spirits are not an option. Despite the lack of naughty treats, we were impressed by the prices – a bottle of house wine will set you back around £20. Dishes include hearty plates like rump of lamb with Mediterranean veg – which my partner devoured – and pearl barley chicken risotto, rich and creamy and tasted very naughty even if it wasn’t.

Spa

The spa is split into two levels, with the pool on the ground floor and the treatment rooms upstairs. Inside the changing rooms, guests will find a steam and sauna, plunge pool and a relaxation room – a warm room with beds for more napping.

We opted for the thalassotherapy treatment first – which takes place in a mineral enriched water pool, with hydrotherapy jets positioned to stimulate and relax your muscles. Supposedly, this treatment has the same benefits as a deep tissue massage; it certainly did the trick on our very sore thighs from the bike ride. £20 for a 25-minute treatment.

A hugely fun treatment to try is the Rasul mud chamber (from £100 for the whole chamber or £35 each to share with other guests). Prepare to get to know your friends very well – you will be naked, aside from a pair of paper pants, and cover your entire body in mud. After application, we slid into a nearby steam room to sit, drip and soak up the benefits of the brown gunk for the next 30 minutes. Afterwards our skin felt silky soft.

Meanwhile, the Champneys signature massage relaxed me into a trance-like state for 55 minutes. This particular treatment supposedly promotes a sense of wellbeing while increasing blood and lymphatic flow. Bliss. I stumbled out, floated back to my room and was completely useless to anyone for an hour afterwards. Prices start from £65 for 55 minutes.

Price: A Spa day package starts from £59. Standard rooms start from £149 per night, and two 25-minute treatments package and stay in a suite starts from £424. For more information please visit the website or call 0843 3162222.

Address: Champneys Forest Mere, Liphook, Hampshire, GU30 7JQ

Radio Times Travel Rating: 8/10  – A truly relaxing health resort, catering for those looking to be pampered or kick start a new diet and exercise plan.  

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