PPROACHING your 40th birthday can be a trepidous business.
Do you celebrate in style, or try and hide your impending old age for as long as possible?
Well, for me and all of my school friends turning 40 this year, it has been a rather extravagant, drawn out, and fancy dress kind of affair.
We’ve dressed as cheerleaders to watch the darts at Lakeside, turned into 80s icons while belting out karaoke, and we’ve even jetted out to the actual Dirty Dancing hotel in Virginia to become Frances “Baby” Houseman for the weekend.
But when it came to the actual dawn of my 40th, I decided to take myself off, sunglasses firmly on face, and drown my sorrows in a hot tub.
And what a hot tub it is over at Moddershall Oaks set in sprawling Staffordshire countryside.
We were lucky to have wall-towall sunshine on our visit, so I really was stripping straight into my swimming cossie and dashing out to the hot tub on arrival.
The hot tub is shared between guests staying in the spa’s seven bedrooms, but we had it to ourselves during our stay. Or perhaps other guests were put off by the sight of me bobbing around in it in my bright red swimsuit (Pamela Anderson, I am not).
We dried off in the sunshine on our terrace outside our bedroom – all of which have benefitted this year from a revamp to become “boutique spa suites” complete with plush new furnishings.
The spa complex is a pretty pleasing proposition all round – set on a hillside surrounded by woodlands, where you can head off for a little walk in between more relaxing lounging in the hot tub or the outdoor pool. There’s also a large indoor pool, although I admit we only properly discovered this on our second day at the spa, so much fun we’d had in the outdoor facilities. You can order drinks from the well-stocked bar when you’re in the outside pool too. There’s also the recent addition of The Snug, a very luxurious beauty parlour where you can get your nails done, party make-up and lashes. I opted for a mini manicure (£30) and enjoyed a nice glass of fizz as I relaxed to gossip with my therapist. Walk further down the complex and you’ll find the spa’s main treatment rooms where you can book in for massages, facials, exfoliations and other body treatments. Most people heading here will pre-book treatments as part of their package and this is highly recommended as they seemed to be fully booked for all treatments during our stay. For dinner we headed down to the Lakeside Restaurant, as the title suggests, next to a pretty lake at the base of the country retreat. This is also the area which can be set up for rather idyllic outdoor weddings too.
The restaurant itself is worthy of a visit and you don’t have to be a guest at the spa to dine here).
It matches fine dining aspirations with pleasantly hearty portions, a highlight being the delightful shin beef with red wine jus teamed with a large pot of creamy potato and Jersualem artichoke gratin.
Breakfast was similarly filling, and I was unable to resist the eggs benedict, while the other half went for the traditional Staffordshire cooked breakfast.
We completed my birthday break with a stop-off in the neighbouring town of Stone on our way home.
Because no visit to Staffordshire is complete without a fill up on the county’s famous oatcakes and cheese – and a rather extravagant, caketopped milkshake to boot – at the town’s Oatcakes and Milkshakes cafe where people queue out the door for the treats.
Well, you’re only 40 once...