SenSpa: Return to the New Forest


It’s been almost three years since I first visited SenSpa at Carey’s Manor Hotel in the New Forest.

I HAVE returned to the area twice since, each time more enchanted by the forest’s captivating charm. Now, autumn’s season of change not only brings with it rich landscapes and golden light – perfect for majestic walks in this imperial woodland – but a chance to refocus and restore the body and mind. So I seize the opportunity to rekindle my relationship with this special place and return to SenSpa, which has just been voted ‘Best Spa in the South 2012’ in the Good Spa Guide Readers Regional Awards.

Carey’s Manor Hotel is idyllic in every way. Just two hours’ drive from London – located on the edge of Brockenhurst, one of the forest’s main villages – it is as picturesque as I remember it: regally perched atop a winding tree-lined drive, set amidst manicured lawns. Inside an open fire roars by a hallway leading to the Manor Restaurant; where we dine tonight.

The restaurant is as sophisticated as ever; ornate fittings, a pianist and candlelight provide a romantic setting. The Manor prides itself on its dedication to free-range, local produce, including the Lymington Grey Mullet and pan seared scallop with saffron mash, which is as succulent as seafood gets.

Ideal for a weekend escape, the New Forest has a unique magic that provides the perfect antidote to city living. The surrounding rural landscape offers an untamed and unspoilt, earthy yet luxurious beauty. That night we turn in to a spacious double room with crisp linen and enough cushions to make you feel like you’ve sunk into some kind of heaven.

The following morning – after a substantial buffet breakfast – we wind our way through the hotel’s labyrinth of corridors to SenSpa where I am greeted by Nuch: my therapist, dressed in a smart oriental-inspired suit. She leads me through numerous citrus scented, Thai-themed rooms, to a dimly-lit den where I’ll receive a Ying Yang body wrap.

After stripping down to a pair of paper knickers (provided), Nuch exfoliates my entire body with a dry brush to remove dead skin cells and stimulate circulation. She then bastes me in hot rosehip oil, before wrapping me like a turkey in foil, where I proceed to cook for 20 minutes. The warmth of the foil opens my pores so the oil is better absorbed into the skin. ‘The oils have ingredients that help you relax and stimulate your body,” Nuch says. “We use SenSpa’s signature essential oil blend. Rosehip is really good for you because it’s a rich moisturiser. It’s good for dry skin.’

I shower to rinse off the oil, then she treats me to a full body massage with jojoba oil and cream, finishing off with some refreshing SenSpa organic face mist to refresh and revive. The whole treatment is one hour of sheer indulgence, and leaves me feeling completely relaxed and refreshed; my skin soft and smooth.

I float to the spa for an afternoon in the softly-lit hydrotherapy pool – with its giant taps that gush like a burbling stream. A sauna, steam room and cooling room – a curious cave that lights up like a disco whenever the various cold shower taps and buckets are released – surround the pool, and in the next room there’s a large swimming pool and hot tub. The whole weekend ends too soon; but magnificent memories of magical beauty and wonder (both inside and out of the hotel’s four-star doors) will stay with me until my next visit to this paradise of peace and tranquility.

First published on The London Word, October 2012.
© Abbey Stirling