Sometimes it’s easy to get swept away in the chaos of life. Working (and commuting), seeing family and friends, devoting time to hobbies, doing mundane jobs like housework and appointments, catching up on social media… It can feel like we rarely get chance to just stop and take a step away from it all.
At a point where there’s so much going on in my life – I’m 22 weeks pregnant, working hard, smashing a lot of daily activity, attending events, blogging – I can’t remember the last time I ‘stopped’, so the invitation to enjoy a one-night stay at the Lifehouse Spa as part of their Baby Moon package came at just the right time. With Mother’s Day coming up, I thought it would be a lovely opportunity for my Mum to join me on this mini break to spend some quality time together.
After a train to London Euston, the tube to London Liverpool Street and another train over to Thorpe le Soken (4 hours), we were collected from the station by one of the Spa staff, a handy 3 minute drive away.
On arrival Mum and I were shown around and were surprised by how large and spacious the Lifehouse Spa is, built around the historic walls and stunning gardens of English Heritage Listed Thorpe Hall Gardens, making a nice addition to the beautiful indoor space and injecting character into the premises. Immaculately presented and gorgeously decorated just as you’d expect, it certainly didn’t feel cold or clinical. Mum even said she immediately felt relaxed and as we settled into our room in the delightful Mulberry suite.
Exploring the surroundings
Despite a chilly brisk wind, we went straight out to discover more of the 12 acres of listed gardens. A map helped to direct us through the different areas, all blooming with a whole range of exotic plant life and greenery, while the lakes and pools were home to many ducks, geese and other unusual birds living within this well-kept ecosystem. This element of the Spa really helped to instil a sense of escapism away from the busy world.
Around 5pm it was time to don our robes ready for an hour of pampering. Mum was booked in for a Swedish Body Massage (‘to reduce muscular pain, ease stiffness and relieve stress’), while I was offered the Dreamy Maternity Massage, allowing mums-to-be time to rest and restore using organic luxury baby skincare brand Little Butterfly London’s ‘Fall Into Dreams’ massage oil ‘to soothe, calm and relieve any strains that being pregnancy may bring’.
I found this such a lovely experience, a rare chance to completely relax and indulge in some ‘me’ time, allowing each part of my body – arms, back, legs and feet – to be firmly but gently massaged. My shoulders were particularly tight so I agreed to more pressure on this area which felt slightly uncomfortable yet amazing at the same time (a sign it’s doing some good!). It was a nice touch to keep the remaining bottle of massage oil to use at home, knowing it will be safe to use on baby’s skin too.
Afterwards Mum and I both felt completely chilled out and revived, so a big thanks to the friendly and super informative staff for doing a brilliant job.
Indulging in dinner
We felt very privileged to have a set menu especially prepared for the evening which on paper looked like my idea of heaven:
I can honestly say we were blown away by the quality and taste of every single component. Creative, interesting and fresh with plenty of variety of flavours and nutritional value, the portions were very generous (and reasonably priced) to the point that we couldn’t finish our desserts (we wrapped the cake up to eat the next day – it would be rude to leave anything!). Let me take you through each stage:
Ravioli made from beetroot? Yep, a great wheat-free alternative without compromising on taste thanks to the fava bean puree which tasted like pesto thanks to the green herb oil. A classic combination of smoked salmon with avocado hit the healthy-fat spot, while the quinoa and brown rice sushi rolls were substantially packed and full of flavour, making this a promising start to the meal.
If I could put combination of ingredients into a salad, it would be this: fresh spinach leaves, roasted squash, crunchy broccoli and sugarsnap peas, sweet beetroot chunks, pretty pomegranate seeds and large portion of protein – in this case, a huge chicken breast smothered in a chilli and ginger dressing. This plate nailed those expectations (although missed out on the courgette ribbons and almond flakes as listed on the menu – oops!) and resulted in a very satisfying but light main dish.
This is where the chef’s talents really shone through. The dark chocolate mousse achieved the right balance of being creamy and chocolatey without the overpowering taste of avocado (I’ve experienced this before – not great), while the Banoffee Pie…let me just take a moment. WOW. One of the most foodgasmic experiences I’ve ever had. This definitely wasn’t ‘healthy’ (I’d love to know what was in it) but each element – the chunky oaty base, the rich caramel sauce and cream topping – worked harmoniously together. As I said, we were too full to eat the lemon polenta cake but enjoyed its light, spongey, citrusy delights on the train home the next day.
A peppermint tea was needed to settle our food babies and finish off what was a wonderfully satisfying meal, accompanied by friendly and accommodation service which was neither too rushed or slow.
Getting our swim on
Still full from the night before, Mum and I headed down to the pool facilities first thing to build up an appetite for breakfast. Being pregnant I skipped the sauna, jacuzzi and steam room but enjoyed swimming with Bump in the 18 ½ metre pool surrounded by windows, making it feel close to the outdoors. My shoulders in particular were feeling the effects of the massage but being in the water helped to ease this.
Breaking the fast
Back to the light, open and stylish restaurant ready to fuel the day ahead. It was good to see a wide selection of things on offer, including fruit platters, plain yogurt, cereals, toast, pastries and a variety of cooked items (scrambled eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, sausages and bacon). There was also the option to order (at no extra cost) porridge, a full cooked breakfast or eggs should you wish, plus gluten and dairy-free options available.
Walking the trails
Nicely filled up, although still cold and breezy outside Mum and I borrowed some wellies from the spa (a nice touch) and set off to explore the wider 130 acres of grounds and trails on the map. In keeping with the escapism element of our stay it was nice to be in touch with nature as we walked through fields and woodlands, making our own way around – although there could have perhaps been more signage around to coincide with the different trails.
Coming to an end
Checking out of our room at 12pm meant we had a few hours to kill before being taken to the station so we chilled out in the lounge/bar area by the restaurant, a bright, bold and stylish room filled with comfy sofas and cushions. A great spot for us to enjoy a spot of reading and catching up on emails.
The sun finally made an appearance (at last!) so we ventured around the gardens for the last time to capture the beautiful scenery in a more Spring-like setting while getting our steps up before an afternoon of travelling ahead. It’s this attraction of both the inside and outside of the Spa that really appealed to us and would highly recommend to others, alongside the friendly and helpful staff across the whole site who made our stay a very pleasant one.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to the Lifehouse Spa for inviting and paying for my Mum and I to stay for the Baby Moon break, we had a fantastic, relaxing time away and left feeling reinvigorated for busy times ahead. All views are honest and my own.