Sadie Hayfield entered the competition on behalf of her husband, Matt, who had sadly lost his mother to cancer on Christmas Day last year. She wrote: “In the months before and after, life had lost some sparkle. He works incredibly hard as a firefighter and in-between shifts he does some window cleaning to support our family.” Following their visit, Sadie reports back to give her verdict on Aqua Sana at Woburn Forest.
My husband Matt and I, kids despatched to their grandparents the previous evening, happily set off from Bournemouth at 6am on a warm summer’s morning so that we could get to Woburn Forest for 9am, giving us the entire day to spend. Luckily the traffic wasn’t too bad – even with three motorway stretches – and we arrived just after 9.30.
Entering the new Center Parcs Village after three hours’ travelling was an agreeable sight and we were excited to see this new holiday venue in its forested splendour. Previously we have stayed at Longleat Forest, which of course is long established in its beautiful woodland setting. Woburn is obviously newly constructed but you can already see that it will soon mature into an equally fantastic getaway.
As we made our way through the Village, the brand new hotel looks very impressive. You have to walk through the immaculate building to reach Aqua Sana, and my husband and I both made a mental note that if we come again, we’d definitely book to stay in this gorgeous, luxurious-looking place! A friendly greeting met us from the Aqua Sana staff. In fact, all the staff were genuinely keen to ensure visitors had a great day and were very helpful in answering any questions or requests.
As we had the whole day ahead of us, we decided to spend the morning at the Subtropical Swimming Paradise and return to Aqua Sana for lunch and the rest of the afternoon.
My husband and I rarely have time as just the two of us, so it was incredibly enjoyable having no children and having fun like we used to many years ago! We were like two teenagers around the swimming pool; we chilled out on the lazy river, laughed all the way down the rapids as we were battered and squashed with all the other happy holiday-makers. My husband cajoled me into trying the Tornado ride – this isn’t at Longleat Forest, so was new to us both. You sit on an inflatable raft, for up to four people, which disappears into a huge bowl and waterflume, at speed. To quote our children: “OMG!” Quite a ride, not for the faint-hearted but a brilliant adrenaline rush!
“It was funny to see my husband, usually adorned in old window cleaning shorts and t-shirt attire, stood before me in a cosy looking robe”
Returning to Aqua Sana for an early lunch, we walked from the lovely landscaped pool, alongside the tranquil lake setting, and had a quick nosey at the sports courts inside the Plaza – busy with many energetic souls – before going back to the calm of the Aqua Sana reception and Boutique area.
After a brief few minutes in the peaceful changing rooms, we emerged in our robes of relaxation, ready to explore the two floors of welcoming serenity. It was funny to see my husband, usually adorned in old window cleaning shorts and t-shirt attire, stood before me in a cosy looking robe. Our thoughts were already drawn to the amazing surroundings and preceded up a gorgeous spiral staircase, before finding our way to the first floor.
Well, where do you begin? Overwhelmed by so many choices of rooms and areas, we settled our giddy excitement by heading down to the ground floor and out into the sunshine to spend a very pleasant passage of time in the relaxing outdoor infinity pool. We pondered over which of the six spa zones – Fire and Ice, Mineral and Gemstone, Blossom, Herbal, Sensory and Salt – we’d visit first. Within minutes, months of worry, stress and headaches were quite literally floating away as we submerged ourselves in the infinity pool with its forest views and sun-dappled blue water.
It would have been easy to spend the entire sunny afternoon in the pool or lazing on its sun-soaked terrace with plentiful inviting loungers, but time was ticking and we wanted to explore everything on offer.
Knowing how great the Aqua Sana at Longleat Forest is from a holiday in 2012, I was very excited at the chance to have a spa experience in the company of my husband, who had forfeited his chance previously by kindly looking after our children so I could have a relaxing Twilight Spa session. I knew that Matt would like the hot rooms as he has enjoyed steam rooms and saunas in the past. However, the Aqua Sana experience really does blow the socks off any normal sauna or steam rooms you find in conventional leisure centres or hotels. That is, if you were daft enough to wear them in a spa!
After a pleasant lunch in the Vitalé Café Bar, our afternoon consisted of trying as many of the experience rooms as possible, and finding time to have a second go at the ones we liked the most. Plus we had to fit in an hour’s treatment! Matt loved the invigorating Mineral Steam Bath with its cycle of heat, steam and tropical feeling shower sequence, in the same zone the dark and sultry Crystal Steam Bath room was incredibly appeasing. Upstairs I lost Matt for a good half an hour to the Herbal Inhalation Baths, where he was happy to languish in their hot, herbal heat. We rejoined in the beautifully presented herbal sauna which left us calm and refreshed after an ice-soaked flannel in the neighbouring Herbal Relaxation Lounge.
Hour of indulgence
At 4pm we made our way to the treatment lounge and within five minutes had both been whisked away to individual treatment rooms for an hour of pampering. We had a back massage followed by our first ever facials. When we met up again in the softly lit post-treatment relaxation room, we both agreed that the facial – not something either of us would usually be interested in – was indeed an enjoyable treat. It was a very indulgent hour, quite different from our usual day-to-day life.
“The treatment was a very indulgent hour, quite different from our usual day-to-day life”
With one hour to go, we made the most of each minute trying out the Salt Sauna with its amber fiery décor and the most comfortable wooden slatted seats that seem designed to individually shape to your body. The Fire and Ice rooms were all unique experiences and we rounded off this perfect day with 20 minutes in the gorgeous reflexology footbaths, to indulge our neglected and by now, tired, feet.
Even getting changed back into our “civvies” was a pleasant encounter in the new, luxurious changing rooms with their warm wooden décor. We emerged with big smiles; uplifted and light-hearted.
Did Matt, like many men, think a day at Aqua Sana is really just for women and hen parties or a very indulgent treat for the lucky few? No. He was pleasantly surprised that it is a perfect day to spend, whoever you are. From a couple’s perspective, with the pressures of family life this really was a healthy recharge for our marriage and after a significant family bereavement a few months ago, Aqua Sana provides undoubted solace both physically and emotionally. If we lived closer, we would want to visit on a regular basis and be happy to pay for the benefit. As distance is a factor we shall just have to book for special occasions and have the sound knowledge that a decadent and sensual experience awaits us.