Four Seasons Hampshire: Tales from a pampering, pet-friendly country spa

Sam Lewis takes a lesson in dressage followed by a Leg Reviver treatment

By Sam Lewis
Published 30 Sept 2015, 12:00 BST

It's been home to bishops and baronets, but the current lord of the manor at this imposing country pile is a down to earth sort of chap who spends many hours pacing the lobby. Oliver Beckington clearly enjoys welcoming every guest although, being a black labrador, he has a tendency to pay some VIPs (Very Important Pets) more attention than others.

My ridgebacks certainly have nothing to complain about. Perhaps they've spied the plush dog beds waiting in our suite and the VIP room service menu, complete with grilled chicken and other delectable dishes that even my ever-hungry husband would gladly wolf down in an instant. With 500 acres to explore, including numerous pub walks, dogs — and their owners — will be in their element, but those without a pet pooch will not be short of exercise.

Explore the manicured gardens and you'll find tennis courts and a shed full of mountain bikes, while a five-minute walk brings you to an equestrian centre with 14 horses and two outdoor arenas. I'm tempted to canter across the countryside or ask if I can ride sidesaddle across the lawn, but I hear the instructor Jemma is a dab hand at dressage and ask her to instead help me improve my dressage seat. With glee she tells me to ditch my stirrups, open my hips and engage my core muscles and while her expert eye brings great results, I pay the price. After an hour in the saddle my back aches and my legs are cramping.

Just as well that my next appointment is at the hotel's spa for a Leg Reviver treatment. While some hotel's spas are disappointingly small, this one, situated in the 18th-century stable block, is cavernous, with 15 treatment rooms, a large lap pool and a variety of heat rooms. Coloured lights dart from the rainshower as I follow my therapist to vast changing rooms, ditch my jodphurs and slip into a fluffy robe.

My 45-minute Peppermint and Thyme Leg Reviver treatment begins with some decisions. There's a choice of four lights (I opt for a balancing green) and then select an energising Espa oil that smells divine (many of the treatments use ESPA, manufactured just down the road, while others use the Australian chemical-free brand Sodashi).

My therapist, Verity, lightly body brushes my legs before applying an exfoliating apricot kernel scrub to remove dry skin. Blended with an aloe-based gel that's designed to sweep away dead cells and nourish, my skin is soothed and rehydrated. Next up is a cooling menthol oil and deep massage to ease aching muscles, followed by longer gentle effleurage movements to stimulate lymphatic drainage.

My iliotibial band (the ligament down the side of my thigh) and calves are tight from riding and running around with the ridgebacks, but in less than an hour they feel looser, lighter and my skin noticeably softer and smoother.

Peppermint, thyme and rosemary helps clear my mind of my busy schedule for the week ahead and back in the room the dogs tails are wagging.

We peer out the window over acres of idyllic countryside and discover the English summer is sadly predictable. With the sun nowhere to be seen, we abandon all hope of eating ice cream by the pool and, with my legs revived, head out to walk one of the many marked trails to a local pub before settling down to a banquet in the bustling bistro, which serves many dishes created using ingredients growing on the country estate.


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