Having stumbled unwittingly into the peri-menopausal years (just I hasten to add), I appear to be seeing more of the early hours than I did in my early twenties. Come witching hour, you’ll find me flipping the pillow – on repeat - in search of the cold side (just me?), stumbling to the bathroom for moonlight pees or plotting the demise of my sleep-talking partner.
Our body’s circadian rhythms are intrinsically aligned with all aspects of our mental and physical health (sigh) and it’s safe to say my internal clock needs its batteries re-charging. So, with a promise to ‘reset body and mind’, I retreated to Careys Manor & SenSpa in bucolic Brockenhurst to try their Ultimate Sen Sleep Spa Break.
Despite the inevitable holiday traffic, shoulders tend to loosen as you arrive in the New Forest. Spanning an area of 566 square kilometres, ponies, cattle and even a drift of pigs can be spotted roaming the ancient heaths and woodland.
Arriving at Careys Manor for 3pm check-in, I was shown to my beautiful garden-view room; eyeing the epic-sized bed I noted that I could star-fish in the centre without touching the edges. Wasting no time, I donned my robe and followed the signs to the Thai-inspired spa; two serene buddhas guard the entrance signifying chill-time. Not only is the décor eastern-inspired, many of therapists are Thai - or trained in Thai treatments.
My therapist, Pan, met me in the spa reception and led me to a treatment room, leaving me to get settled on the bed. The start of the Ayurvedic Head Massage treatment was signified by the chime of a bell.
‘Ayurveda’ means ‘knowledge of life’ and has been practised for 5,000 years as a way of balancing mind, body and soul - In Hindu mythology it’s attributed to Dhanvantari, the physician to the gods. If anything was going to help me sleep, this was.
The benefits of Ayurvedic head massages are worthy of note, too - said to reduce stress and anxiety, relieve emotional stress and tension, release endorphins, reduce headaches and promote much-needed – and sometimes unattainable - sleep.
Pan commenced the treatment by pouring streams of warmed coconut oil on my scalp which felt eye-rollingly soothing. Pan’s fingers methodically danced across my head – massaging the oil deep into my scalp.
Following the flow of energy pathways – aka Marma points – a head massage is said to positively manipulate energy (prana) and relieve stiff muscles. Pan focused on areas of tension in my face, neck and the suboccipital muscles at the base of my skull - an area that often takes a battering due to poor posture or hours staring at a screen. She set to work on my clunky shoulders – popping the knots like a pod of edamame beans - even my ears received the VIP treatment.
By the end of the 45 minutes, I felt as though I was on another planet. Pan sat me up and handed me a glass of water, while I tried to bring myself back to reality. I was so deeply relaxed, all memory of my room number had evaporated and I spent a good five minutes wandering the hallway in my robe, trying to open random bedroom doors like Alice in Wonderland. Eventually, I gave in and phoned reception for assistance, blaming Pan’s magical hands for my ineptitude.
As part of the Ultimate Sen Sleep Break, you get a two-hour hydrotherapy pass too, for optimal wallowing. Any lasting muscle tension will be soothed by the swan neck fountains, while the bubbly jet beds coax the body to let go and relax. I happily nipped between the toasty crystal steam room – complete with Bohemian Amethyst - and the ice room; the invigorating tropical rain shower and the herbal sauna. Heated to 80.C, if you close your eyes you can almost imagine you’re on an Andaman Island.
I was truly ready for a nap but my rumbling tummy signalled it was time to eat. Leaving the coconut oil in my hair to continue working its magic, I threw on a dress and made my way to the Zen Garden Restaurant, a Thai restaurant in the centre of the spa - what’s not to love? Gold murals, bamboo ceiling and serene Zen garden views - the atmosphere is tranquil; the food is incredible. I feasted on the hot and spicy Meang Pla: Zen Crispy Seabass deep fried with a concoction of Thai herbs, ginger, lime, chilli and lemongrass, followed by the mouth-watering Ped Ma-Kharm: Crispy Duck with tamarind sauce, pak choi, shallots and coriander.
Post-feast, I retreated to bedroom (after mentally noting the room number) and excitedly got stuck into the Ultimate Sleep Gift Box waiting for me. Everything in the box is designed as part of bedtime sleep ritual. I popped the kettle on and brewed SenSpa Wellness Tea blend - made exclusively by Camellia’s Tea House - smothered myself in the SenSpa Relaxing Body Cream – made with organic lavender and jasmine (lovely) - and gently laid the gorgeous Blästa Henriët wheat eye pillow over my sleepy eyes. Manoeuvring into the centre of the bed, I switched off my phone and - with no deaths to plot - drifted off to sleep and didn’t wake up until morning. Result.
Take me there:
Ultimate Sen Sleep Spa Break (from £554) includes a two-hour SenSpa Hydrotherapy pass, Ayurvedic Head Massage (45 minutes), full use of the facilities, dinner in one of the three restaurants, bed, breakfast, and an Ultimate Sleep Gift Box.
Good Spa Guide
13th April 2022
Behind the scenes