The Spies visit the new Aqua Sana at Center Parcs Woburn Forest
We're big fans of Aqua Sana spas at Good Spa Guide – we love a spa where we can chat with our friends while working our way through experience rooms and pools. So we jumped at the chance to preview the Aqua Sana at Center Parcs Woburn Forest before it opened.
The 7,000 square metre spa is spread out over two floors; there are 25 experience rooms, 22 treatment rooms, three lounges (one pre and two post-treatment) and lots of relaxation space. Outside, there's a large hydrotherapy pool with swan pipes and hot tub beds, a zen garden and a terrace with loungers overlooking the forest. Café Vitalé Bar sits next to the spa and serves a good range of healthy and not so healthy options.
The thermal area 'The World of Spa' is slightly different to other Aqua Sanas; instead of a central spa space with lots of rooms running along the outside, Woburn Forest has been divided into different mini spas. The Fire & Ice, Mineral & Gemstone, Blossom, Herbal, Sensory and Salt spas all have their own set of experience rooms tailored to the theme. For example, the Blossom Spa has a steam room, rain walk, relaxation lounge, a heat room and spa showers all scented with the heavenly smell of West Indian rose and coloured in pink hues.
Aqua Sana at Woburn Forest feels softer than other Aqua Sanas. The use of muted colours, the smaller experience areas, and the comforting ultra-modern mock-fireplaces make it feel much more tranquil than others. There are no architectural high ceilings which look beautiful but tend to raise the noise level, just peaceful relaxation.
There are some really nice tweaks that make the spa feel high-end. There are individual seats with armrests in some of the steam rooms, which is great for those that like a little personal space. All of the experience rooms are visually appealing; the Lava Volcano Sauna is the hottest thermal room (I could only stand a few minutes before I retreated to a more temperate area) and is cast in black and orange light with a wall of volcanic rocks lining the side of the room. And for those who never quite know what to do with their specs, the glasses shelves outside some of the steam rooms are a really useful addition.
Everyone will be able to find a thermal room to their taste at Aqua Sana Woburn Forest. My favourite was the Mineral Room – a steam room where mineral and trace elements like magnesium, lithium or iodine selenium are infused into the air. The room was misted with a delightful lemongrass smell and had a "crown" of ergonomic beds; it was the perfect place for me to warm up after a dip in the hydrotherapy pool.
There are more than 50 treatments on the menu – I had the Decléor Aromatherapy Massage (55 minutes, from £69). My therapist, Alex, was really careful about checking my consultation form and tailored the treatment to my needs. She started the massage with a back diagnostic to look at the areas of tension or aches and pains. The massage was a good mix of techniques, with Alex using traditional Swedish massage, long stretching movements and finger pressure on acupressure points.
I asked for relaxing and that’s exactly what I got. The worries about work projects, upcoming nuptials and deadlines all drifted away under Alex's expert attentions. Post-massage, she checked whether I would prefer to go to a light or dark relaxation lounge. I opted for dark where there were plenty of soft leather chaise lounges to lay back and gently fall asleep.
The spa space is beautiful and relaxing, the treatments top-notch and the food lovely. Top marks to Woburn Construction Director Don Camilleri and his team, and Kerry Fenton-Kent and Donna McKee (Group Aqua Sana Manager and Aqua Sana Manager Woburn Forest respectively). The next few weeks will really count as the spa opens up to the public. With a small group of journalists the spa was a five bubble experience, but time will tell when the spa reaches higher numbers.