Ashdown Park, Sussex: forest of dreams ritual

Surrounded by Ashdown Forest, Tamsin Wressell has a forest of dreams ritual Wednesday, 30 March 2016

By Tamsin Wressell

A roaring fire, grand piano, high ceilings and ancient stone arches greet me as I walk into the reception of this historic Neo-Gothic country house. I walk up the dark wooden staircase, glancing through the high window that gives a view of the adjoining church on my way up to my master suite, which sits on a mezzanine balcony.

A grand dark wood door keeps the opulent yet cosy feel of the hotel running and inside doesn't disappoint. Our king size bed sits in the generously sized suite, filled with antique-looking dark wood furnishings with beige and duck egg blue fabric touches. The bay window by the lounge area lends views out to the hotel's lawns and lake while the corner whirlpool bath feels like a spa facility in itself —especially when teamed with the Molton Brown toiletries provided.

Down in the hotel's cocktail bar, the terrace can be spotted through stained glass windows, and dim lighting gives a warm and comfy atmosphere. The extensive cocktail list makes decision-making tough, but my champagne-based cocktail accompanied by canapés seems to be the ideal choice before dinner.

We're led into a lavish dining room with chandeliers and a second piano. A passion fruit jelly amuse bouche kickstarts the flow of delicious courses, from the poached cod and pea puree starter to the peanut parfait dessert.

Back in the suite, the bed proves as comfortable as it looks and I awake fresh and eager to head down to the spa. Surrounded by Ashdown Forest, the country house is set in 186 acres, with lawns, a secret garden and lake crafting the perfect stroll for a crisp winter morning. It's the surrounding areas that have inspired my treatment — the Forest of Dreams Ritual — and after absorbing Ashdown Park's grounds, I'm keen to find out how.

Given the size of the hotel, the spa facilities are a little small: a swimming pool with Jacuzzi sits in the main room while a steam room and sauna can be found in the changing rooms. I head straight to the treatment room where I'm scrubbed down with a eucalyptus-infused Turkish body scrub. I'm massaged with lavender oil, known for its balancing and relaxing properties, before hot stones are placed up my spine. My therapist finishes off the treatment by massaging my scalp and misting a lavender body spray over me.

While no local products were used during my treatment, I leave feeling uplifted, refreshed and with a calmer, balanced mind — the same feelings I associate with a cleansing walk in the woods. Only this time I leave with super soft skin and my muscles are much more relaxed. It seems the perfect way to gain the same benefits, with a few extra ones thrown in.

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