The Spa Hotel Review: Ockenden Manor, Sussex, UK
Review: Jane Pople
Set in the quaint Sussex village of Cuckfield, just over an hours drive from London, this historic hotel and spa are nestled just out of sight. Surrounded by rolling hills and verdant green countryside it’s easy to see how one might find a stay here relaxing.
Full of history and character, the main hotel building is complete with wooden beams and roaring log fires. Check-in was quick and easy, and we were told that we had a room in the Spa building just a minutes walk down the path. The receptionist even rang ahead to let the Spa team know we were on our way, so a warm welcome was also experienced here and we were quickly led up to our room. A much more modern building the Spa sits on the edge of the beautiful Sussex wilderness, nine acres of gardens to be exact with a backdrop overlooking the stunning Cuckfield Park. With lots of glass panelling, perfect for enjoying the enviable views, and straight lines the architecture suits this space and wonderfully juxtaposes the historic hotel around the corner.
My partner and I were shown the Per room, one of the junior suites set above the Spa. It had a wonderfully spacious open-plan bedroom and lounge, with doors out to the roof terrace and a magnificent view of Cuckfield Park. The bathroom really stole the show, beautifully decorated with a generously sized free-standing bath and rainforest shower wet room, complete with Temple Spa products and white fluffy robes. With time for a quick Nespresso coffee, thanks to in-room machine and generous helping of pods, it was time to head back down to the Spa reception for my treatment.
I had booked in for the Elemental Rebalancing Ritual, a 120 minute treatment which promised to restore balance to my whole body using the Five Elements.. The Spa reception was very busy (it was a Saturday afternoon), so I was shown upstairs to the treatment room area to complete the consultation form. As this is a bespoke treatment, as well as the usual consultation form there was also one to ‘find your element’. Answering a series of questions about your lifestyle, from favourite season to colour, taste to activity levels, you can find what element is best for your own needs. Mine were revealed to be fire and wood, showcasing that I have normal to combination skin, which can occasionally be oil-prone – I was impressed as this is very accurate.
My therapist Nicky came to collect me promptly at 3pm and showed me into our treatment room. She ran through what I could expect over the next two hours and chose the wood and fire elemental oils that would be used. The treatment began with the inhaling of essential oils, and then a back, neck and shoulder massage, I had requested a firm pressure and Nicky ensured that it was just right for my preference. Hot Thai compresses were used along my spine and shoulder blades, these help to element toxins and release tension, and I could feel them working. My legs were massaged next, and stretched in a firm but gentle way, this is to help the body’s flow of Qi and to promote a feeling of optimum well-being.
Then the treatment moved onto a luxurious facial, cleansing, massaging, gently exfoliating and using serum to leave my skin feeling refreshed. Then to finish a foot massage and exfoliating treatment, working across feet and pressure points to really relax and soothe.
As part of my consultation form I had ticked that I wanted to feel ‘de-stressed’ after my treatment, and I really did. I could feel the tension lifting from my muscles throughout the 120 minutes, and left feeling very calm and rejuvenated. My therapist went through what products she has used and shared different recommendations of types of products that would work well with my skin. She also gave me the Thai poultices that she had used explaining how they can be used at home within the next few days. The Elemental Rebalancing Treatment is finished decadently with a selection of handmade chocolates, with flavours representing each of the elements, and glass of sparkling wine from the nearby Ridgeview estate. I enjoyed these delights in the relaxation room just down the hall, the perfect way to come gently back into reality.
The rest of the Spa facilities are ideal for a day or short spa break, with indoor and outdoor pools, plenty of pool side loungers, walk-through rainforest shower, relaxation room and a gym and fitness studio. I didn’t really have too much time to explore though as that evening my partner and I had booked in for dinner at 7pm in the hotel. After a short walk from our Spa suite we were shown through to the dining room, which was spacious, with a large sky-light and a great ambience.
Ockenden Manor has three menu choices for dinner, the a la carte, an eight course tasting menu and a six course surprise tasting menu. We explained that we were both vegetarians, and were brought the vegetarian tasting menu. Despite the three menus I do feel that if you are a vegetarian your choices are quite limited, we opted for the a la carte menu and only had the option of one starter and one main. I think that some more traditional restaurants need to cater further for those with different dietary preferences, us vegetarians can often be left feeling as though our options are afterthoughts.
The wine list was very extensive and helpfully stated which wines were vegan and vegetarian, we opted for a sparkling choice from the Bluebell Orchard in Sussex, which was truly lovely. We had the starters of Parmesan Dumplings, which were delicious, and then both had the Vegetarian Assiette, comprising of roasted vegetables, pasta and risotto. For dessert we shared the Assiette of Desserts which again was delicious, each course was beautifully presented and the service was impeccable.
After a very comfortable night’s sleep in our super-king bed we made our way back down to the hotel for breakfast, which is served between 8-10am at weekends. In the daylight the dining room showcases the beautiful view, a wonderful way to start the day. There is a plentiful selection of pastries, cereals and fruit to which one can help themselves and a menu is provided to order a cooked breakfast. My partner ordered the vegetarian cooked breakfast and I opted for the porridge. We also enjoyed a generous helping of toast, complete with a selection of Tiptree jams & honey. The service again was impeccable and the food was delicious and arrived promptly. Ockenden Manor serves as a great spot to enjoy the local countryside and with such hearty breakfasts as fuel it is easy to see why this is such a popular activity for many of the guests.
Check-out is 11am, and after receiving our complimentary morning paper and enjoying another quick Nespresso we easily checked out with the staff being helpful and efficient as they had been throughout the duration of our stay.I would definitely recommend a stay at the Ockenden Manor, I think two nights would always be preferable to ensure enough time to enjoy the beautiful surroundings as well as all the Spa has to offer. The Elemental Rebalancing Treatment was easily the best spa treatment I have experienced, comprising all of the best parts of different treatments from massage to a facial, in one indulgent and truly de-stressing experience.
Spa – beautiful facilities, highly professional staff and comprehensive treatment menu
Suites – decorated to an incredibly high standard with luxurious features
Surroundings – beautiful views of the Sussex downs
Elemental Rebalancing Ritual – £185 for the extensive 120 minute treatment
Stays at Ockenden Manor Hotel & Spa are from £199 per night, based on two sharing a Standard Room, mid-week, on a B&B basis. www.hshotels.co.uk; 01444 416111