I’ve never been an advocate of spa weekends. I can bear the odd massage and infrequent pedicure but the idea of a whole weekend lying around being pummeled, prodded, primped and perfected has no appeal. But I do like a weekend away with a sporty theme and country spas often fulfill this purpose.
Surrounded by fields of sheep and golf-course greenery in the South Downs, Wickwoods Country Club, Hotel & Spa proved the perfect health haven for me this summer. I actually had a month’s membership there, using it daily for exercise classes, gym workouts, lattes and leisurely lunches on the patio. And I did manage one manicure.
It’s a popular fitness venue for the more mature Brighton brigade who combine Pilates, personal training and pampering with tennis leagues and tea parties. And it makes a stunning wedding or party backdrop with its 22 acres of beautiful gardens and artful arbours.
As well as a members’ club, Wickwoods is an idyllic weekend getaway for fitness enthusiasts, walkers and tennis players – and, of course, spa fanatics. Just two miles from the A23, access is quick and easy from Brighton, Gatwick or London. Around 20 minutes inland, it is surrounded by cute villages, gastro pubs and hiking paths set in sylvan scenery.
The hotel is small and exclusive but has the advantage of day members adding atmosphere to the bar, restaurant and sporty facilities.
Regular “Tennis Breaks” are dedicated to learning or improving play. The mid-week programmes are tailored for every standard by Head Coach, Bob Clark. As well as the four floodlit outdoor courts set in verdant woodland, there’s a brand new tennis complex with four indoor courts ready for winter weather. And, what better ways to relax afterwards than the pool, Jacuzzi, steam room, sauna or spa. Catering for every age-group, there are also ping pong and pool tables as well as a children’s play park in the landscaped grounds. But I didn’t see many kids there during my month’s membership. I met one of the owners, Lee Goossens, who confirmed that the average age for members was 52 – my age at the time!
Meals are served all day long in either the trendy, sofa-strewn bar area, the terraces (complete with firepit) or bistro restaurant. Ingredients are predominantly fresh and local and service is cheerful but refined. Goossens told me that staff training was key to their operation. “We encourage head chefs to dine out somewhere on us once every three months anywhere they want,” he added, explaining that this was how they kept standards high and current as well as keeping tabs on competition.
The bar scene is very sociable – comfortable enough for singles to feel unthreatened but also alive with the possibility of meeting like-minded people. The eclectic clientele includes ladies who lunch, tennis tournament groups, businessmen, golfers, older families, couples, singles and non-members. A regular events program includes celebrations for Halloween, Bonfire Night, DJ parties, barbecues, Father’s Day carvery and an annual Summer Ball in June.
Wickwoods has undergone a 3 million pound renovation since Goossens and his partners bought it in 2010. Part of their renovations included creating ‘The Glass House Restaurant & Terrace’ which won a highly coveted AA Rossette in 2018
A new “Glass House” is currently under construction to house a chic and contemporary dining space. Future plans include new changing rooms, pool extension, a power-walking track through the woods and 12 more hotel rooms or lodges.
Wickwoods Country Club, Hotel & Spa
Albourne, Nr Hassocks
More about Louise
Louise Hudson,a ski, golf and travel writer for canada.com and dallasnews.com, Louise has also co-authored three books all available from Goodfellow UK. You can follow her ski adventures at www.onetwoski.blogspot.com and her South Carolina experiences at sctravelandtourism.blogspot.com.