We never thought we’d get this excited by a greenhouse, but the one at Lime Wood Hotel is so beautiful, it’s also hired as a private event space. When Abigail Butcher visited, she simply had to sample its fresh produce at Herb House spa too…
Just an hour and a half from London, deep in the New Forest, Lime Wood is a secluded hideaway hotel accessed via a long, sweeping drive. As well as the Regency-styled main house, there are garden rooms, forest suites, cottages and cabins discretely tucked away in the grounds, all of which provide the understated luxury for which Lime Wood is, rightly, famous.
Lime Wood’s spa, Herb House, is set apart from the main house, a discrete yet three-story building housing the visionary Raw & Cured restaurant, shop, gym and spa with eight treatment rooms, an indoor pool and outdoor Jacuzzi backing onto the forest. A lovely herb garden already supplies the spa, but the new greenhouse will up the eco-ante, no doubt pleasing its glamorously green clientel.
The huge, Victorian-style glass greenhouse is a stunning addition to the romantic gardens. When I visited, 23 varieties of chilli, lemons, melons, Russian tarragon, peas, aubergine, lovage and figs were flourishing in terracotta pots. An ancient olive tree sits proudly at the center of vast table, where private events and cookery schools will be held.
To the spa…
While the greenhouse’s produce isn’t used in the treatments, it does supply the celebrated raw food restaurant Raw & Cured, which is as integral to Herb House’s identity as the spa itself.
This is where I got my first taste, as I filled out my pre-treatment consultation form, sipping a fresh juice – I chose Goddess of Greens, a zingy combination of spinach, lemon, ginger, apple and cucumber. Delicious.
The changing rooms are huge with private changing cubicles set around a relaxing, central area, with a sofa and table filled with magazines. All around are baskets of freshly laundered, rolled towels, bottles of water and a beautiful aroma of the herby-smelling Bamford products used throughout the hotel and spa. Empty lockers are ready for new guests: fluffy bath robes, flip flops, hangers and a bottle of water.
Herb House allows its therapists a 15-minute turnaround between appointments so there’s no waiting. As I relaxed on a comfy chair, I thought: no wonder this place is popular with celebs (Jude Law and Kate Winslet, to name a few) — on four visits, I have never, ever felt rushed, disappointed or found as much as a towel out of place.
I had the Herb House Total Body Signature Treatment (90-minutes, £150) which combines flowing massage, acupressure and stretching designed to relieve muscular and emotional tension and improve circulation.
My therapist, Kate, had prepared a foot bath for me and as I soaked my toes she offered me a choice of oils — chamomile, lavender and geranium; rosemary, ginger and basil or peppermint, lavender and tea tree. I opted for the latter and after patting my feet dry Kate left the room while I climbed onto the warm bed.
Instead of the usual top and bottom, Kate worked on one side of my body, then the other with long flowing strokes. This, she explained, is to work with the body’s energy channels. Periodically she slowed to focus on acupressure points, and I discovered that my calves were extremely tight, probably due to excessive dog walking and skiing.
Kate then sought out the knots in my shoulders and forearms — it had been a busy week and I had been climbing the evening before, so my muscles were sore and tense.
After the massage, Kate pulled my arms and legs gently before stretching my tight hamstrings. The treatment finished with a head and neck massage and, just was I was falling asleep, Kate placed a hot, rolled towel around my neck and left me to get up slowly, don my gown and leave the bliss of the treatment room.
Health on a Plate
After a brief trip to the spa to sit in the sauna overlooking the forest, I enjoyed a long shower and quick change before lunch in Raw & Cured.
Open now for seven years, Raw & Cured was one of the first restaurants to serve raw food. The creator, Sheila Hulme, has been on an 80-20% raw diet for many years after losing her husband to cancer, and concocts dishes from scratch using quality, seasonal and sustainable foods, some of which are plucked from the new greenhouse. It perfectly accompanies Herb House ethos and its treatments, adding the final boost to your body with feel-good nutrients.
The atmosphere is informally rustic, with chunky wooden tables and benches around a central bar. I chose nori rolls — seaweed sheets filled with parsnip and pine nut ‘rice’, avocado, carrot and mixed leaves served with soy dipping sauce — and home-smoked salmon marinated in lemon, lime and dill accompanied by a fennel and caper salad.
If all this is sounding too virtuous, I then followed it with raw chocolate and orange cheesecake with a hazelnut base.
It was hard to wrench myself away, but when I left, I felt thoroughly pampered, healthy and reset. The very name Herb House evokes visions of a natural, authentic experience, which it delivers in beautiful buckets.