In our quest to bring you all that is unusual, extraordinary and downright wonderful in Spa World, we visited Walletts Court Hotel in Dover. There, we tried a hydrotherm transformational massage (60 minutes, £75) with therapist-to-the-stars, Ben Barnett.
Walletts Court uses REN products, a "free-from" natural products range, and a favourite of the Good Spa Spies. The spa itself at Walletts Court is small and fairly no-frills, but what makes the spa special is its treatment rooms. You leave the main building with its bijou pool, steam and sauna, and head outdoors.
On the day we visited, the sun was shining; as Ben and I walked towards the three wooden huts hidden from view by trees, the birds were singing. Ben told me that in winter, the spa supplies wellies, and in rain they provide umbrellas. I'm not sure how much fun it would be to nip across the field in a blizzard but, on this gorgeous day, it felt like a rare treat.
So, what on earth is a hydrotherm transformational massage? Well, the Garden of England Spa has a handy guide all about the hydrotherm system. Essentially, hydrotherm is a massage which takes place on warm, water-filled pads.
Ben has developed a theory that different parts of our body relate to different concepts and emotions. His aim is to deliver a treatment that is truly holistic -- engaging and treating both mind and body.
Ben began by asking me what I wanted from this treatment. I said that being less stressed would be good, but Ben pressed me further -- what exactly did I mean? I thought about it for a while, then said that I really wanted a little inner peace.
Ben helped me onto the couch, and took a little time to position me correctly. Ben used REN's Rose Otto oil, which left my skin feeling soft and smelling delicious. We began with some deep breathing. I closed my eyes, (a little regretfully, as the view from the treatment room looked over golden cornfields and rolling hills) and concentrated on Ben's voice and his hands.
Ben began his massage on my feet and, as he massaged me, he spoke. I don't know if you've ever listened to a relaxation CD or tried guided meditation, but Ben's words were a wonderful blend of the two. Some phrases stuck with me, others drifted through my mind. I was conscious of wishing that I could record what he had said, as it all mostly struck me as insightful and not too airy-fairy!
This was my first experience of a hydrotherm massage and I have to say I really liked it. Yes, the plastic pads take a bit of getting used to. However, if you give in and relax, the more beneficial the experience will be.
As for the transformational part, if you're a no-nonsense type who dodges the faintest hint of crystals, then you'd probably loathe this treatment. If you're interested in complementary therapies and fancy expanding your mind, while relaxing your body then this is a gem of a treatment. Always a sign of a good massage, I fell asleep for almost two hours afterwards.
The results? Well, Ben promised that I would leave with "much more than I asked for". One of the things he spoke about was: What if the idea of peace that I had was just the tip of the iceberg? What if a deeper peace existed and could exist within me, every day?
It's an idea that's stayed with me. I do feel a little more peaceful. That peace has remained, through a solo trip to Ikea, a drive around the M25, and even helping to assemble a bookshelf! Transformational indeed.
14th March 2014
Instant results; jasmine and frangipani scents; hot steam rooms; a good selection of magazines; modernist decor.
Whale noises (on CD, not in the pool hopefully); hard massage beds; tiny toilet cubicles; being spoken to like a child; lukewarm pools.
Behind the scenes