What is it? Champneys Forest Mere Health Resort

Where? The lakeside spa and hotel was previously a hunting lodge, and is set in 158 acres of gorgeous woodlands and gardens in Liphook in Hampshire.

Description: Looking for a last-minute treat to soothe your aching pregnant body? First-time mum-to-be Alex Tate took a mini break at Champneys health spa in Forest Mere to see if it offered the serious relaxation and indulgent treatments she desperately needed [Front_of_the_house.jpg]

A beautiful hotel and spa complex with everything a health devotee could wish for. It boasts an outdoor pool as well as an impressive 25-metre indoor pool with Jacuzzi, steam room, sauna, plunge pool, thalassotherapy suite and 43 treatment rooms. It was voted spa of the year in 1999 and 2000 and if it’s good enough for celebrity guests Victoria and David Beckham, Tamzin Outhwaite and Jordanm then it must be fairly swish.

Once you arrive you’ll want to take full advantage of the facilities. As well as having free run of the pools, steam room and sauna, you can also join up to 20 different fitness or relaxation classes a day – all inclusive within your package. There’s spinning, yoga, step, body conditioning and aerobics classes to choose from, as well as pool-based activities such as Aqua Class and Swim and Trim. If the weather is good you could go for a walk in the vast grounds or hire bikes and explore – unless you’re heavily pregnant, of course!

The resort’s focus is on rest and relaxation, so after your evening meal in one of the three dining rooms you can enjoy coffee in the drawing room, or in summer sit out on the terrace overlooking the lake. If you take advantage of all the activities on offer you’ll be in need of an early night anyway.

The resort is – blissfully – strictly for over 16s.

Champneys Forest Mere has 43 treatment rooms and the pampering possibilities are almost limitless. Everything from thalassotherapy – which involves being sprayed with jets of sea water but isn’t recommended in pregnancy – to facials, massages, manicures and body wraps can be booked in the spa within the hotel complex. However, to be certain that your treatment will be available on the day you should pre-book them at least 14 days before arrival. I enjoyed a “Beautiful Bump” massage and splashed out on a L25 pedicure which left my toenails a glossy pink and the soles of my feet buffed smooth. My friend opted for eyebrow shaping and a facial which she said was extremely relaxing.

Local activities: We were only at the hotel overnight so didn’t want to leave the resort. However there were several local pubs in nearby Liphook which served food – if you didn’t fancy eating the fat-free fare at the spa. Golf and horse riding can also be arranged close to the resort – just ask at reception for details.

Wish we had known: That most of the free spa facilities such as the Jacuzzi, steam room and sauna are not recommended in pregnancy, so I was limited to swimming in the pool. It’s a nice full-sized pool but a bit chilly and I didn’t fancy spending the entire day in there. To be honest, I almost wished I had waited until after I had sprogged to enjoy the full range of facilities on offer. I also wish I had been told that you have to bring your dressing gown down to reception with you when you check out, otherwise your deposit for it can’t be taken off your bill. I couldn’t face walking up two flights of stairs again for it!

Our top tip: You can arrive at 11am but your room won’t be ready until 2pm, so leave your suitcase at reception and take a sports bag down to the changing rooms where you’ll be able to put your clothes in a locker and change into your swimming costume. Then you can start using the pool straightaway. If you fancy sitting by the indoor pool and reading magazines between leisurely dips or trips to the sauna then get there early as there were only a handful of loungers set out. Also, keep an eye on your drinks bill as drinks are not included – but we didn’t realise this for some time!

Kids say: Happily – there are none!

Getting There: Champneys Forest Mere is in Liphook, Hampshire. Trains run direct from Waterloo station in London to Liphook, where a local taxi will take you the short journey to the resort. The taxi firm is based at the train station. If you’re driving from the north, take the A3 to Hindhead then join the B2131 and follow signs to Liphook. From the south, take the A3 and then take the next exit, signposted Midhurst on the A272. At the roundabout turn left and travel for five miles until you pass the Black Fox pub. Around 400m later turn left into a road leading to Forest Mere. A mid-week stay of one night at Forest Mere, which includes a facial and Champneys massage and unlimited use of facilities, costs L199.95 per person in a twin room. To book call 08703 300 300.

About our stay: There were some great and some less than great elements to our stay in Champneys, but the most fun we had was looking out for celebrity guests. We’d heard everyone from the Beckhams to Westlife and Nicole Appleton had stayed at the resort. What stoked our excitement even further was the small waiting room at the spa where we relaxed on leather sofas waiting for our treatments to begin. The walls were clad with dozens of signed photos from grateful celebrity guests. “Ooh look – there’s Lovejoy!” said my friend Andrea in a stage whisper, pointing at a black and white shot. We also spotted Honor Blackman and Lucy Benjamin among the framed pictures. Luckily we weren’t disappointed in our celebrity quest – just before I went for my pedicure, who should walk in wearing her towelling robe but Dot Cotton (AKA actress June Brown.) Looking far more glamorous than her telly persona, I hasten to add. And she was accompanied by: “That woman off Eldorado. You know – the singer,” whispered Andrea again. We later remembered she was Polly Perkins, who had played Trish Valentine in the soap. Some of the less than great aspects were arriving to find out that despite mentioning I was pregnant when my booking was made and asking for the special mum-to-be treatment, our room was on the second floor and there was no lift. This wouldn’t have been so bad if it had been early in my pregnancy, but I was seven months gone and finding stairs a bit of a chore. Also, I didn’t fit into the medium-sized gown they had lent me and that seemed to cause massive consternation and a lot of phonecalls to get “an extra-large gown”, which made me feel terrible. [By_the_lake.jpg] Then when it came to the treatments there had been a mix up and I was down for a Body Radiance massage. It turned out this wasn’t recommended during pregnancy so I had to be squeezed in for a “Beautiful Bump” massage – L55 for 55 minutes – just before we were due to leave the next day. That treatment was lovely, but I didn’t feel terribly relaxed afterwards as I had to rush off to catch my train home. The treatment involved a back massage while sitting up, so I didn’t put any pressure on my belly by lying down. Then the therapist stroked cooling gel into my swollen hands and feet and rounded off with a gentle massage of my bump with a special Collagen Boost Body Butter. [After_the_pedicure.jpg] The food, which is included in the package, was delicious and a real highlight of our stay. Lunch was buffet-style and offered a massive array of salads, vegetables, lean meat and fish. In the evening I went for lamb with cous cous which was tasty, but a little dry because of the strict low fat content and lack of sauces on the food. But breakfast was lovely again and we tucked into porridge and fresh berries. It was great to know everything you ate was healthy. In general we enjoyed our stay, but we had a nasty shock at the end when they tried to overcharge us by around L100. When I asked for a breakdown of the bill it turned out they had billed me for the Body Radiance treatment that I’d cancelled and charged double for a couple of other treatments. Apparently this was due to computer error and was swiftly sorted out. * Alex Tate is freelance journalist and first-time mum-to-be

Created: 2006-11-08 16:27:47.287

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