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Bailiffscourt Spa, Climping


My attitude to taking time out to relax had radically changed over the last few days.  After seven months with only a long weekend to Iceland (okay that was pretty awesome) I felt like I had been saving up all my relaxation and spa time for my long awaited two week break (like so many people).  Unfortunately, after a few days, stress levels hit a record high when my grandma ended up in hospital.


As I sat with her in the ward it came home to me that relaxation, like fitness, is not something you can save up and do all in one week.  (Rereading my Spa Breaks book this, it seems, is something I have to keep learning over and over again.)


I managed to squeeze in a half hour massage at The Glorious Spa Company before visiting hours at the hospital on Sunday and slept so well that night that for the first time in ages I woke up at 7am and felt like I could do anything.


It was August Bank Holiday Monday and my grandma's visiting hours were already full, with her tests due first thing on Tuesday morning.


After a quick phone call to Bailiffscourt (which was open that day from 7am to 9pm) and booking their Relaxation Pamper Day I was chucking my bikini in a bag, along with my just baked pain au chocolat.  Randomly I asked if they had a lot of magazines there (don't ask me why that popped into my head) and the receptionist admitted that there weren't; so I popped into Tesco for a café latte and a handful of magazines before walking to the local station, where the man in the ticket office was delighted to hear all about my spa break and joke that I'd have ages to wait.  One minute later my train pulled up and I was off to Ford station (and had just enough time to text my mum and sister with the number of the spa just in case, as my mobile was switching off for the day).


Looking on Google Maps now, Littlehampton, which most guests arrive at, is actually closer and is definitely better served, but for some reason I'd got it into my head that Ford was a better option.  Funnily enough they have a small waiting area with a leather sofa and paintings of orchids that wouldn't be out of place in a spa, and it was very quick and easy to call a taxi to pick me up from there.  However, coming back at night, with the waiting room closed and hardly anyone on the platform I think Littlehampton would have been a better bet.


I have to say the receptionist was great at helping me select the right package for the day and was un-phased by my stressed out questions; "Is it a good package?"  "Is it nice there?" "Is there really an open prison right next door?" "Can I walk down to the beach from there?"


Yes, there is an open prison between Ford and Bailiffscourt (probably why most people go to Littlehampton), so I promised my mum I'd get a taxi, but as the lady taxi driver explained "They're about to be released so they won't touch you."


Arriving at Bailiffscourt is like arriving in a medieval village, the main hotel building is a beautiful antique and the grounds are extensive with so many different types of building it could be a museum in itself.


The spa is set slightly to the side and is surrounded with trees, a croquet lawn, old fashioned swings hanging lazily, a cute finger-pointing sign to the sea, fields of grain and yes, peacocks.


Inside the spa things get a little more modern but just as laid back.  The reception area is the central hub, with huge glass windows onto both pools, access to changing rooms, treatment areas, the upstairs lounge, a small gym and includes a wonderful range of products from Temple Spa and best of all, two Austin Powers style Perspex egg shaped swings dangling from the roof.  After travelling all the way to Tuscany for the red womb like eggs these were a delicious surprise (and almost as much fun as the old fashioned swings outside).  I also loved the modern pop soundtrack in the foyer – Jack Johnson and other relaxing musical delights as opposed to a stereotypic spa soundtrack.


The facilities here are pretty basic compared to many other spas I've visited but they're perfect for a simple, relaxing spa day.  There's a tiny sauna and a decent steam room, a large indoor pool with hot tub and, my favourite, the outdoor pool with yet another small rustic hot tub.  Both pools have loungers – but the indoor ones do fill up pretty quickly when the weather is bad outside.


I dived straight into the outdoor pool, which, with the surrounding trees and birds flying past gave me an incredible feeling of being in the middle of Africa.  It was one of those days when the weather changed every half hour, so one minute I was swimming in sunshine, the next in rain – which was a pure delight.  (Even if you're not a fan of the rain you can jump into the hot tub, which is mostly covered, and still enjoy the fresh air.)


Bailiffscourt has all the things you'd expect from a top spa – small but comfortable changing rooms, luxurious white bathrobes, fluffy blue towels, complimentary hot drinks in the lounge… with a few odd quirks.  The lounge is comfy enough and I loved the great big crystal in the corner of the room, but it does seem to act as an overflow from the hotel lounges with a massive TV at one side of the room (thankfully no-one switched it on) and guests chatting while rustling their newspapers from time to time.  I did love the small balcony off the lounge, which overlooks the outdoor pool and was out here as much as the weather would allow (I think I moved indoors and outdoors about three times during my afternoon tea.)  As I mentioned it doesn't really have magazines (but that was okay because I'd come prepared) but it does have kids.


Yes, as this also acts as the hotel pool there are two sessions in the day when kids are allowed in the pool.  You can actually use this to your advantage if you like a bit of solo pool time as guests in the know clear out about half an hour before the kids get in – so this is when the pools are completely empty!  To be honest aside from the kids' sessions and one other hot spot around 4pm I was pleasantly surprised by how quiet the spa was on a Bank Holiday Monday. (I think this is because most people just use it for an hour or so, whereas I was quite prepared to stay until closing time to make the most of my day off from the hospital!)  I also took the time while the kids were in the pool to try out the swings; the Perspex ones in the foyer and the old fashioned wooden ones outside (just a word of warning – those white robes are a bit long and I ended up with a muddy bottom to mine!)


Bailiffscourt is very laissez-faire.  I found other guests friendly and relaxed, and it was the kind of day where there was room enough to move if I was finding the chat in the pool or the lounge too much.  Many of the guests live in the area and take advantage of the monthly membership and raved about how useful they found it.


My Relaxation Pamper Day included a one hour body massage, a half hour facial, lunch and a glass of champagne (as well as use of the spa all day).  For lunch I chose chicken with avocado which had a wonderful flavour but was a little overcooked, and saved my glass of champagne to have with some fresh scones as an afternoon tea – which were warm from the oven and melt in the mouth delicious.


But, I've saved the best until last… oh wait, one more thing, the spa is just five minutes walk from the beach, so I did take a quick look – but with grey clouds on the horizon this wasn't a beach day, so it was back into my white robe and the spa.


So… my Vespers massage… was unbelievably good.  To start with the treatment rooms are well set up, roomy enough with soft lights, a good selection of music on play and the beds… Well, Bailiffscourt has Hydrotherm beds so you're essentially lying on a cushion of warm water for your massage.  These are the kind of beds used for dry flotation – but whereas I found the dry flotation experience a little lacklustre, combined with massage they are the closest thing to an in-water massage I've seen in this country (so far).  Some Hydrotherm massages allow you to actually lie face up for the whole treatment.  On this occasion I still turned over, and had to tweak the way my face was sitting in the hole, but it was worth it when I realised that lovely smell was coming from the heated rocks on the floor beneath my face.


The skill of the therapist was exceptional; there are several small details that added or detracted from the overall experience – I loved the fact that the oil she used was very warm, that she placed a towel over my head, I could vaguely hear the sound of the phone ringing in the reception area, but it was just a sublime body massage.  Where my shoulders were still very sensitive and sore she never used too much pressure, but for the next day I could definitely feel as though bruising was coming out and being released.


When she massaged my lower calves she actually made me cry, not from pain but from the feeling of releasing and letting go, and when she had finished I felt completely take care of.


After treatments you are shown to a separate relaxation room, with curved loungers, fluffy blue throws and, of course, refreshments and relaxing music.  It's not that quiet though, with clients and therapists chatting as they walk past the open doors, so I didn't stay in here very long.


My facial in the afternoon was equally as good, but instead of relaxing me it made me feel rejuvenated and inspired and it was hard for me to stay still.  She actually used a lot of the products from the Temple Spa range that I'd already chosen to take home – especially the Love Is In The Air mist.  The facial didn't irritate my skin at all, which is unusual for me, and I loved the final blast of powerful aromatherapy oil that she used around my neck.


I was finally ready to leave about 7pm, when I couldn't swim, read or drink any more herbal tea.  I felt like a new woman, after all the stresses of the last few days I would actually describe the day as life saving.  I felt that I could handle anything… which was just as well as I got a phone call the next morning saying my nephew had been rushed to hospital with suspected appendicitis.  Yes, he had emergency surgery (luckily my grandma's tests went really well), and so by the end of the next day I really could have used another spa weekend (so headed off to the other local spa I had heard so much about – Senspa).


Bailiffscourt is perfect if you want to jump on a train and get away from London or a stressful situation for a day, you will really feel that you are enjoying the heart of the countryside (and seaside) at the same time as relaxing in the pool.  It might get a little crowded indoors during the winter, but the real reason to make your way here is for the superb treatments.  I would say the Vespers massage is the best I've had in the UK, and the treatments and the spa day are extremely good value compared to some other top spas.   It's also only 20 minutes away from my family and I know my mum would love the pools, whereas she might not appreciate the more exotic heat (and cold) rooms on offer in other spas, so I think it also would be my number one pick for her.

I paid £140 for a Relaxation Pamper Day which included access to the spa for the day, one hour Vespers massage and a half hour facial – there are other combinations e.g. one hour facial and half hour massage and the team are extremely good at helping you select the right package for you.  Oh and it also included lunch (one course) and a glass of champagne.


Tea and coffee are complimentary, but I paid an extra £4.50 for the scones, which I had with my champagne as a luxurious afternoon tea.


There is a range of packages, including early morning and sunset specials, as well as monthly memberships.  Hotel guests have complimentary access to the spa, but if you book in for treatments you must spend a minimum of £100 to have complimentary access to the spa.


Taxi £8-10 each way from Ford to Bailiffscourt (weekend, evening and holiday rates apply)


Train journey – on application


Bailiffscourt Spa, Climping,

West Sussex, BN17 5RW

01903 723 576


As at August 2012


Bailiffscourt Spa and Swing

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