Champneys Forest Mere. Part 2. The fairytale continues.
Having changed room 5 times, I was not predisposed to love the rest of the resort and as my companion so rightly pointed out, it’s like a bad relationship. Once you’ve decided it’s not for you, you can’t help but find fault.
We are in the dead days between Xmas and new year and there seems to be a staff shortage. They appear to be making up the numbers with local schoolchildren. Polished service it isn’t. And one of the dining rooms is shut. The one that looks the best of the three.
After the room debâcle, I needed a drink. I never usually really need a drink but I was feeling stressed. At a health farm. We go to the bar area at the motorway service-station-themed café.
Can I have a glass of wine please ? Only with food, madam. Can I have some food then? Only with a meal, madam. Can I have my starter then and come back for my main course? Blank look. I think his brain had started to bleed at the unusual nature of my request.
We thought we would try the other dining room. The one which looked like a school canteen. We walked through through an unused and style-free buffet area. Badly lit, with a plastic Xmas tree and cheap institutional furniture, this stank of damp and decay. But they agreed to let us sit down and have a glass of wine with a piece of bread. So I got my 175ml, which is quite a small glass, when you really need.
The drink rapidly turned into a desire for food. I looked in vain for the salt mill. I thought it had been removed from the table but a quick scan confirmed my fears. Salt fascists. Wine is fine, but sodium is odium.
Please let me have salt if I want it. You let me have cheese wine and bread, but not salt. Let me choose. Don’t foist your salt-is-evil views on me, I don’t agree with them. I am pro-choice.
The food that evening is actually fine. Good, even. Carefully prepared and freshly made and other than the lack of salt, it is pleasant and sufficient. The two glasses of wine help.
Breakfast is served in the motorway café, where there is a buffet with the usual suspects, but you have to pay extra for such delicacies as boiled eggs or an omelette. I go for a toasted wholewheat bagel and cottage cheese. I resort to Marmite to make up for the salt deficiency and discover that it doesn’t go particularly well with cottage cheese, but it is better than not having it.
Lunch is a selection of hot dishes and salads, many of which are full of mayonnaise. The food is fine and not particularly diet-friendly. Which I am pleased about. And the fruit selection is basic. But the food is decent, fresh and tasty.
The staff were pleasant and unfailingly helpful, but amateurish. My companion nearly had her teeth knocked out by an inexperienced waiter, who knocked her glass into her face with a plate, as he was putting it down. An apology would not have been out of place.
I was somewhat surprised that free hot drinks are only available at breakfast and after dinner. At other times, you have to pay. The rooms come with coffee and tea-making facilities but only one serving of coffee, which lasts me about 30 seconds. It feels stingy.
The communal areas in the older part of the resort are tired and old. It looks drab and uncared-for. But I am not here entirely for the purpose of lounging around, notwithstanding that this is what I really want to do. I am booked in for thalassotherapy, included in the package. Being blasted with strong jets of water. But I can’t do that, because my spine might actually collapse, so they give me a whole £10 credit to put to another treatment. There is obviously no £10 treatment available. They do not offer me an alternative.
The spa areas are kitted out in wood and wrought iron. I’d say they were last updated in about 1995. They look a little dated but they are clean and functional. There are a couple of shops stocking a few decent brands (Decleor, Elemis) and swimming costumes and gym kit, should the urge take you.
I have in my package a facial and a massage, and I book threading and waxing. The facial is fine, but the therapist is not confident. There needs to be some pressure with the head massage which is part of said facial, otherwise it feels like someone is just moving your hair around, with oil. But it’s adequate. I scare myself in the mirror afterwards, with madwoman oil-hair.
The back massage also is good and the chap doing it is careful and experienced. The knots in my shoulders start to dissolve. The treatment rooms are fine, not especially luxurious, despite the repeated references to luxury, but again, as with the hotel, they lack attention to detail. I don’t want to have to pile my clothes on the floor because there is literally no other surface on which I can leave them and not everyone is wearing a robe that can simply be hooked on the back of the door.
Also and you may call me fussy, I prefer, when I have my legs waxed, not to have bits of wax left on my legs, which I have to spend part of the afternoon picking off. Likewise, with threading. I prefer that it doesn’t draw actual blood from the skin on my face. But it was thorough and the therapist was very keen to please.
There are lots of beauty and body treatments and they are reasonably priced. It’s easy to get an appointment. Options include some rather esoteric pursuits, such as palmistry and tarot-reading, which was rather unexpected. I didn’t.
The gym facilities look comprehensive, with decent equipment and there are many and various classes, which I also didn’t try. I did see an aerobics class with a number of rather enthusiastic male participants, which was an entertainment in itself and if you like that sort of thing, I think you will be happy here. And in contrast to the outside pool of doom, the indoor pool is excellent. Large, clean and warm, this was everything that it should be.
Likewise the grounds. The resort is set in a stunning location and there is excellent birdwatching and walking to be had. It’s also very peaceful. With a few adjustments, it could be a lovely resort,
And despite the gripes, I have managed to relax. The weather has been perfect and the company hilarious. My companion (who prefers this to Grayshott) very much enjoys the gym and the pool. And she didn’t have to move room once.
Footnote: I understand that there is a refurbishment due in the near future. This does not surprise me.