Hannah Scott tells us about her recent soothing break in the Essex countryside…The Lifehouse country spa resort in Thorpe-le-Soken, rural Essex, is far removed from the party lifestyle of The Only Way is Essex that took over our TV screens last year. Nestled within 130 acres of grounds on the site of the former Thorpe Hall – which was converted into the Lifehouse in December 2010 – it is surrounded by beautiful listed gardens, regularly visited in the time of the original owners, Lord and Lady Byng, by Winston Churchill and Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie.
Just five minutes from the train station by a free pick-up car service, the rather uninspiring dark-wood exterior belies the peace and serenity waiting for you beyond the imposing walls. Once you pass through the simple and enclosed reception area with an inviting open fire, you feel hidden from the outside world.
Inside, the use of glass and continuous space is impressive – apart from the treatment rooms and fitness suites, there are no solid interior doors – and the circular, maze-like design that instinctively leads you to the central treatment hub, gives it a light, airy and incredibly spacious feel. With so much glass, the spa boasts stunning views of the gardens in almost every direction, bringing the serenity of nature into the retreat.
I booked the Lifehouse’s House Body Treatment which involved a fantastic back, shoulder and scalp massage. Before the treatment, I was given a buzzer to call me to the hub once my therapist was ready, which meant I could enjoy the salt inhalation, sauna and steam rooms without worrying about the time. My therapist used Vitamin A.C.E cream to help protect my skin against the environment, and using a medium pressure, spent half an hour kneading out the knots in my back and shoulders. Although I didn’t receive the body brushing I was expecting and I felt that oil during the scalp massage would have made it even more enjoyable, my muscles felt soothed after the treatment.
The Lifehouse embraces a holistic approach to health and wellbeing and offers alternative therapies such as acupuncture, hypnotherapy, kinesiology and weight loss consultations. There is also a resident naturopath, who provides informal talks on nutrition. Tai Chi, meditation and yoga classes compliment this approach, and are offered free-of-charge alongside activities such as beat box, life spin and boot camp circuits for those of you who prefer more of a challenge.
Such a refreshing emphasis on healthy lifestyle extends into the restaurant, which has panoramic views of the gardens and an outdoor terrace for the summer months. An abundance of experimental dishes and unique flavours, such as peanut butter ice cream or cheese cake with parma ham crisp, would give even MasterChef competitors a run for their money. Breakfast is either a continental buffet or hot choices including pancakes and Eggs Benedict.
An overnight stay at the Lifehouse, booked before March 31st, starts at £99 per person. The package includes continental breakfast, a two-course dinner with pre-dinner champagne cocktail, a 35 minute massage treatment, unlimited use of the grounds, activities programme and spa facilities including hydrotherapy pool, salt inhalation room, sauna, steam room and swimming pool.
The Lifehouse House Body treatment lasts 35 minutes and is included in all day and overnight breaks. Lifehouse, Frinton Rd, Thorpe-le-Soken, Essex, CO16 0JD; www.lifehouse.co.uk