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Liz Gill and her daughter Anna take a leisurely break in Suffolk at the Swan at Lavenham – a 15th century hotel with a luxurious 21st century spa.

The Swan at Lavenham

 

Weavers Spa plunge pool

To sit in the open-air vitality pool at The Swan in Lavenham is to be at the centre of an extraordinary contrast. In one direction is the Weavers’ House Spa, barely a year old and all cool colours, crisp angles and clean lines. In the other direction is the 15th century hotel with its crooked timbers, sloping roofs and higgledy-piggledy assortment of rooms with barely a straight line at all.

Interior, Weavers Spa, Swan at Lavenham

The Weavers’ House Spa has six treatment rooms, two relaxation suites, a manicure and pedicure area, an aromatic steam room, a hot stone sauna and a retail boutique where beauty consultants can advise on the products.

Inside the four-star hotel are oak beams, open hearths, leaded windows, stone floors, cosy nooks and 45 bedrooms, all individual, all atmospheric. It is, my daughter Anna and I decide, having the best of both worlds.

Bedroom, Swan at Lavenham

At nearly eight months pregnant, Anna is to have the New Beginnings 60 minutes massage for mothers-to-be, while I, alongside her in the couples room, will be having the My Kinda Skin prescription facial which takes a similar length of time.

Both treatments use the Temple Spa products developed by Mark and Liz Warom from nearby Long Melford and based on the health giving ingredients of the Mediterranean diet and both start with the same opening ‘breath of life’ ritual. Our feet are wrapped in a warm towel and we are asked to take three deep breaths while our therapists hold their hands above our faces so that we can inhale the appropriately named Aaahhh balm to relieve any congestion in our airways.

The other thing we have in common is that we are both lying on warm, water-filled Hydrotherm mattresses invented by a man called John Holman whose company trains therapists in its use. The attraction for Anna is that it supports the spine without being stiff so that it takes the pressure off the lower back and its flexibility allows Katie who is giving the massage to reach under her to back and hips while she remains sitting or lying comfortably. It is similarly useful for people who are less mobile through age or conditions like arthritis. For me it was simply a question of helping me chill out, albeit with a few memories of Seventies water beds.

close-up-waterbed

The idea of a prescription facial is that the skin can be analysed and its needs matched to the products. So after a first cleansing with Be Gone, a gentle cream which includes aubergine and liquorice and which is wiped away with warm mitts, my therapist Chloe touches my skin with little pinches and squeezes to test its hydration and elasticity.

There is a second cleansing with In The Beginning which uses melting exfoliating beads and a toning with an essence which includes citrus fruits, rosemary, melon and basil. There are more delicious sounding ingredients in an eye cream with truffles , the Be Firm serum with tomato and pomegranate and the Quench face mask which has blackberry and avocado among its components. With all this softly but thoroughly worked into my face and neck I feel at the end that my skin has had an energising and nourishing meal.

Facial at Weavers Spa

My daughter meanwhile has almost drifted off to sleep while Katie has worked on her arms, legs and shoulders, gently at first but then, with Anna’s agreement, more firmly to relief knots in some muscles. The bump, of course, is only ever touched very gently and all the protocols of a pregnancy massage such as avoiding certain pressure points are carefully observed.

Later as we sip our tea and nibble a macaroon she tells me that after being rather anxious initially she was soon put at her ease: with a bolster under her knees and the bed inclined at the angle of her choice she was able to relax completely. Before the tea, the blend suited to each client, we’d had a delicious sorbet at the end of our treatment and earlier a smoothie while we filled in our details.

Such touches, says spa manager Alex are all part of the ambience. “It’s called a house so it should feel like a home. Some spas can be daunting but we want to be friendly and welcoming. This is a treatment led boutique spa, it’s not a place to spend a whole day, but neither is it a conveyor belt of treatments like you get in some big spas. Everything is intimate and personal. People come here for all kinds of reasons – it’s a special occasion, or they’re on holiday or they’re very stressed and need to relax – so we make sure everything is bespoke. ”

Before we leave Katie and Chloe give us each a skin care plan based on the Temple Spa products but there is no pressure to buy. They do not seem eye-wateringly expensive but I have shelves of stuff so I resist the temptation.

Weavers’ House offers over 30 massages, scrubs, wraps, infusions and facials and has recently begun offering ‘touch therapies’ for people undergoing cancer treatments based on the Defiant Beauty range developed by scientist and holistic therapist Jennifer Young.Feeling both pampered and perky we head for a drink in the hotel’s Airmen’s Bar which was used by bomber and fighter pilots from the RAF and US Army Airs Corps who were stationed in Lavenham during World War II. There are cases of memorabilia and a wall now protected by glass where the servicemen signed their names on the plaster.

Galleried restaurant, Swan at Lavenham

Then it’s dinner in the lovely galleried restaurant where I have lobster and quail’s egg with parmesan crisps followed by slow cooked pork and banana split (but a very sophisticated banana split). Anna has a watercress panna cotta with broad beans, (savoury panna cotta was a first for both of us) then guinea fowl and a pudding of all kinds of chocolate morsels.

Earlier in our visit we have strolled round Lavenham itself, one of the most perfectly preserved medieval towns in the country with over 300 ancient buildings of historical or architectural interest: this was once the 14th richest place in England, its fortunes built on the wool trade. Key buildings include the beautiful timber framed Guildhall, the Little Hall which is now a museum and the fine church of St Peter and St Paul with its 140 ft tower, built and decorated by money from wealthy citizens. There is even something to appeal to Harry Potter fans – a grade I listed 14th century cottage was used as the setting for the boy wizard’s birthplace.

 

The Swan at Lavenham Hotel & Spa 01787 247477 www.theswanatlavenham.co.uk

Rooms start from £185 per night for two sharing including a full Suffolk breakfast. Dinner from the à la carte menu is from £39 per person for three courses. Overnight guests have a complimentary two-hour session with use of the spa facilities.


 

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