What is it? The Grove Hotel

Where? Chandlers Cross, Hertfordshire. Forty minutes from London and 30 minutes from Heathrow, just off the M25.

Description: [exploring_the_formal_gardens.jpg] She’s eight months’ pregnant, has a small toddler and co-runs her own website business. Heather Arthur has little time for relaxation, so a two-day break at The Grove Hotel in Hertfordshire was just what the doctor ordered!

A chance to indulge in some serious me time in the most beautiful setting, while The Grove staff takes care of entertaining the kids in the best possible way.

Use of the warm indoor pool with parental supervision only; use of Anouska’s Kids Club; exploration of the 300-acre grounds, nature trails, bike rides, jogging and walking tracks. In the summer there’s an outdoor 25m swimming pool, croquet lawn, tennis courts, herb garden and café, all in the Walled Garden. For adults, the award-winning Spa facilities are open year-round.

The Spa and restaurants allow you to reflect on the day; babysitting is provided at L5 per hour.

The Ofsted-approved Anouska’s Kids Club open from 9a.m. – 5p.m. will take care of children aged 3 months to 10 years. Book in advance so staff can cater for numbers.

The award-winning state-of-the-art Sequoia Spa is not to be missed. It has 13 treatment rooms, a VIP suite for couples, therapeutic saline water vitality pool, a 22m indoor swimming pool, fitness studio, aerobic studio, jacuzzi, male and female sauna and steam rooms, colour showers and relaxation rooms.

Local activities: If you really want to leave the beauty of the Hotel, there is a lot to do. Take advantage of the country air and visit Whipsnade Wild Animal Park or Odds Farm Park in High Wycombe, voted the best family attraction in Bucks by the Good Britain Guide. Golfing and pony trekking are nearby, and both Legoland and Thorpe Park are just a drive away.

Wish we had known: … it was going to be so good. We would have checked in much earlier.

Our top tip: Try and plan your activities during stay in advance, so that you don’t miss out on anything!

Kids say: Callum, 2 loved….the model farms lovated within perspex tables along the hotel hallways, as well as close-up pictures of donkeys and ducks.

Getting There: Visit www.thegrovehotel.co.uk, call 01923 807807 or email info@thegrove.co.uk. Guestroom prices start at L240 for a Superior Room, going up to L900 for a Suite. Special offers are often available, such as stay three nights, fourth night for free.

About our stay: We entered the gates to the 300-acre grounds of this beautiful hotel, and all our worries about rain, traffic and work melted away. Ah, the service! Our bags were whisked away to our room, our car was parked for us, and immediately we began to relax. The Grove, a five-star luxury country hotel in Chandlers Cross, Herts, does an excellent job of entertaining the kids so the adults can chill out and play. And when you are with your children, the staff and facilities do all they can to make things as enjoyable as possible. The first evening we ate in the Stables Restaurant, ideal for family meals. The extensive children’s menu included complimentary baby food, and the staff were very attentive to Callum, our two-year-old son, chatting with him and providing him with drawing materials and toys. We later learned that all the 300 hotel staff members are trained in how to communicate with children by the on-site Anouska’s Kids Club. That really paid off, as virtually all the hotel staff chatted to him on his level for the whole stay. Next morning we decided to check out Kids Club ourselves, courtesy of one of the hotels chauffeur-driven buggies. It accepts children from three months to 10 years, but the prospect of leaving Callum there was a bit daunting as we’d never left him with strangers before. Luckily, our fears were quickly put to rest. [Inside_anouskas.jpg] This well-equipped, brand new Ofsted-approved facility is clean and colourful, and the capable NNEB/NVQ trained staff inspired us with confidence. Callum loved the cars, books, and drawing, in the warmer months there’s a sandpit and outdoor adventure playground, and we were told that the hotel’s extensive grounds are used for treasure hunts and to explore nature. There’s even a children’s library, and activities such as biscuit-making and arts and crafts are extremely well organised. With Callum chatting happily to the staff, we felt able to slip away for an hour or so and take in the beauty of the house and grounds. Opened only in August 2003, The Grove was awarded AA hotel of the year in 2004-5. Its design (by Martin Hulbert of Fox Linton Associates) is urban, informal luxury, using modern colours, artworks and furniture to enhance the house’s original features. Guestrooms are located in the original 18th -century mansion, the former home of the Earl of Clarendon, or in the West Wing, all overlooking the formal gardens landscaped by Michael Balston, Chelsea Gold Medallist. The design features don’t always account for small children – the pond is not guarded, and some rooms have loose glass table tops which could be a hazard. But the hotel is not designed to be a children’s holiday centre, rather one for adults where the children are looked after very well so the adults can enjoy themselves. When we returned to Anouska’s we were relieved to find that Callum was having so much fun he hadn’t missed us at all. So the three of us went for a buffet lunch at the Glasshouse Restaurant – a light and airy space where tables are set on the terrace during the summer months. That afternoon we were lucky to have exclusive use of the childrens’ indoor pool – swim nappies provided – which was beautifully warm. The mini-pool is half a metre deep with steps at one corner, while the main small pool is at an ideal depth of 1.2m. The long windows let in lots of light and views of the grounds, and Callum paddled away happily. [the_swimming_pool.jpg] The next morning we took Callum to Anouska’s again – he immediately ran off to play – and I headed for the Sequoia Spa, voted by Conde Naste Traveller Readers as UK Spa Retreat of the Year 2005. My husband Mark chose to send and receive emails on the broadband-enabled plasma screen in our room – couldn’t even tempt him with a massage! The Spa was out of this world – the best feature for me being the darkened Relaxation Room, where after about 10 minutes I was met by my personal therapist and enjoyed a fantastic facial. Bliss. We left at noon that day, but this two-day mini-break made us feel so relaxed we might as well have been at The Grove for a week. At these prices the experience better be worth it – and it is. (Heather Arthur, 43, is a former BA executive whose work took her around the world. She and husband Mark now run their own website promotion company)

Created: 2006-03-14 15:30:58.340

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