A haven in the New Forest
ROOM AT THE INN
IN any other circumstance, I would be waxing lyrical about my room — the fresh figs and red wine, the fire crackling in the upstairs bedroom, the terrace and balcony overlooking the greens and browns of the New Forest in deepest Hampshire.
And then there are the warm stone floors of the luxurious bathroom and the tempting little nook with a daybed for one, should you and your partner argue ( which, frankly, would be entirely impossible here — in this romantic room, you could fall in love with a baboon).
But at Lime Wood nothing, not even the seductive, cossetting guestrooms, can compete with the wonder of the Herb House spa. It is an understated palace of pools, hot tubs and saunas, with a raw food bar at the entrance and yoga classes on the roof garden.
I could happily spend a day in just the changing room, where each locker is equipped with a waffle robe, soft cotton slippers and a bottle of water. As well as the usual shower cubicles, there are private rooms with huge steel bathtubs where, after a facial or a swim, you can soak like Cleopatra.
Head therapist Ewelina Jarosz is the real deal — she has devised a program of treatments that run the full rainbow of beauty and grooming to deep bodywork, all using outstanding Voya and Bamford products. I have a 90-minute Chavutti Thirumal massage, which involves lying on cushions on the floor while Jarosz covers me in oil and then walks on me. When I first spotted the ropes anchored in the ceiling for Jarosz to hold on to as she presses her feet into clients’ backs, I considered creating a diversion and then running away. But, five minutes in, I’m a convert.
I float, skimming the ground, back to the Main House, a grandly proportioned Regency manor with high ceilings and swirling staircases. There are plush, book-lined rooms to be quiet in with tea and cake, a billiards room in the basement (along with a wonderful wine cellar), an enticing bar with lethally delicious cocktails and a restaurant newly headed by Michelin-starred Angela Hartnett, in her first foray outside London.
Every corner you turn in Lime Wood, there is a detail being seen to. After an ambrosial breakfast of local yoghurt with honeycomb and homemade Danish pastries, I pass a group of staff being trained, by the humidor, in how to cut cigars. Further on, a stash of wellington boots in all sizes and colours is being tidied and rearranged for guests to use.
Outside, chefs are emerging from the smokehouse, where they are smoking their own salmon and ham.
I do not want to go home. AZB (Afsaneh) Knight was a guest of Lime Wood; her new novel is The Sunshine Years (Random House).
Lime Wood’s Courtyard, left; chefs Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder