Congham Hall, Norfolk: Herb Garden Treatment

Stephanie Cavagnaro tries out herbal healingWednesday, May 18, 2016

By Stephanie Cavagnaro

Marking the 300th anniversary of Capability Brown's birth, VisitEngland has named 2016 ‘the Year of the English Garden'. And what better way to appreciate this country's natural bounty than with some botanic pampering?

Norfolk's whitewashed Congham Hall is set in 30 acres of parkland and renowned for its herb garden, which includes around 400 varieties. Many are used in the restaurant and spa.

I enter the ivy-clad Georgian manor house to a wall lined with DuBarry boots and a library filled with DVDs, books and games to use. I'm taken to Primrose, my garden suite, and am told some of the 26 rooms and suites have been recently refurbished. My room is large with bold floral-print wallpaper, a checked carpet and lime green armchair. There's a sprawling bed before a flatscreen TV and an en suite with separate shower and roomy bath. Wi-fi is also included, but it's slow.

Beyond the French doors is the lovely herb garden, where plants sprout from plots beside meandering gravel pathways. Having spotted both common and unusual herbs, I'm keen to see how they're put to use in the Secret Garden Spa, open to residents 8am-8pm most days.

At the spa, I head straight for the 12m indoor pool with massage jets for a few laps, before sinking into the outdoor hot tub. There's plenty of time to sweat it out in the Finnish-style sauna constructed from Douglas fir and the temperate bio-sauna, cool down in the experience showers and spend time in the humid steam room before my treatment.

I opt for the brand new 75-minute Herb Garden Treatment designed by Elemental Herbology, which takes the Year of the English Garden as inspiration. During my consultation, I sip a berry anti-ageing skin shot with garden-sourced mint. As my therapist Monica explains, “This treatment really focuses on your upper half — the bit that everybody's most concerned about.”

She tells me she's going to use ‘fire' oil for the massage, which contains basil, sweet orange, rosemary and ylang ylang to promote vitality and combat my lethargic state.

Flickering candles, a heated table and a rosemary aromatherapy infusion are the perfect relaxation-inducing combination. The treatment begins with a back massage, where Monica finds all the tight spots, even manoeuvring my arm to better reach problem areas, before applying hot stones to dissolve any remaining tension.

Then it's onto my back for a face and scalp massage, which doubles as a facial — Monica uses a cleanser, antioxidant packed serum, eye elixir and a calendula and rose damask moisturiser that leaves my skin feeling supple and nourished. My complexion was much improved for weeks afterwards.

Later that evening, I try the hotel's two AA rosette restaurant — a lovely, bright room with little potted herbs on each table — that aims to source 80% of the ingredients used from within a 20-mile radius. A starter of chestnut gnocchi with wild mushroom was moreish and an aubergine and nut roast tian with spiced lentils, baked halloumi, toasted pumpkin seeds and red pesto was an inventive and tasty vegetarian option.

The next day I make plans to set out on a walk. Congham Hall has complied a list of the Magnificent Seven Norfolk gardens, which include trails through famed spots such as the Queen's Sandringham Estate. But with the hotel's herbs incorporated into so many elements of my stay, I didn't really need to leave it to enjoy the spoils of rural England.

Essentials

Congham Hall Hotel offers double rooms from £135 per night, room-only or £219 per night for dinner, bed and breakfast for two. The 75-minute Herb Garden Treatment costs £75. T:01485 600250

conghamhallhotel.co.uk



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