I was so relaxed after my stay at Moddershall Oaks Country Spa Retreat in Staffordshire that it took me several hours to notice my t-shirt was inside out.
And my 20-year-old daughter was so Zen-like after her 25-minute hot stone treatment (£40) that she nodded off on the drive home. Then she had another power nap when we got back and slept all night like the main character in an Aesop’s fable.
The deep tissue massage I enjoyed was one of the best and firmest massages – ever. I emerged after 50-odd minutes feeling truly chilled-out. A lot of tension had been released from my shoulders in that massage and Anna, the therapist, was friendly and interesting and keen to chat. She clearly loves her job. As we conversed, I asked her loads of questions. I was surprised to learn that 90 per cent of clients are silent during massages. We talked throughout and had a good laugh, too. I find it strange to lie in silence while someone is massaging you, but each to their own. Also, I’m nosy. And a talker.
Afterwards, we let the oils soak into our skin for 30 minutes before a dip the indoor pool and the invigorating hydrotherapy pool and steam room. The spa, near Stone and close to Stoke-on-Trent, is surrounded by countryside and woodland. When we arrived, horses were grazing in a field. The building itself has a homely feel to it and that makes sense as it’s the owner’s former home, converted (and massively extended) to form the spa.
One of the reception staff told me that when heavy snow fell last year and staff were stranded, the management put them up overnight in the hotel and ensured they had food. Stories like that make you appreciate the place and attention to detail of this family-run business.
An outdoor vitality pool with loungers dotted around and a Kelo sauna next to it overlook the spa deli/bar by the main reception. The pool (like a large rectangular hot tub) was busy with guests when we arrived. This was surprising first thing on a Monday morning. But there had been a wedding the previous day and the guests were eking out every moment of their stay. I don’t blame them.
The lakeside restaurant is next to the large expanse of water with hammocks and a summer house reading area, and the wooden pagoda is a popular wedding backdrop. Meanwhile, the spa has a tranquil lounge area with a fire where guests can relax before and after their treatments. The fire was not lit as it was sunny in August when we visited. The spa management are developing a sleep lounge in a former gym area – a space which will be completely blacked out with no phones allowed for the ultimate in relaxation – a fabulous idea. I tried a flotation tank earlier this year and can attest to the positive benefits of a short blast of sensory deprivation.
Moddershall Oaks’ pool changing area has hairdryers, lockers, luxury delicious vanilla and fig shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and hand cream which smells good enough to eat. The sparklingly clean changing area features simple, yet lovely, touches like this that enhance the overall experience. The treatment rooms are upstairs and are dim-lit and relaxing, as you would expect. My daughter said she could hear my laughter emanating from the treatment room as she waited for me once her hot stone treatment was over.
After a restorative shower in the downstairs changing area, we both dressed for lunch. We were the only people not wearing dove grey towelling robes which was quite funny. Both mother and daughter were a little self-conscious to be fully dressed (t-shirt on the right way around on this occasion, thankfully.) The attentive waitress checked and swapped our chairs which had slightly damp seats from a previous robed inhabitant.
For our starters, we both had the cauliflower. Three battered florets paired with a cauliflower purée and beetroot-infused tiny cauliflower pieces. I was pleasantly surprised that my daughter opted for this, but she wolfed down every morsel and declared it to be much better than my cauliflower dishes. No huge shock there, then.
I had chicken supreme with a chorizo crisp and vegetable risotto with vegetables and goat’s cheese. I don’t usually like the strong goaty taste, but it was subtle. My daughter had gnocchi with spinach and olives and sun-dried tomatoes. Both dishes were sublime, and slightly smaller than dinner portions, ideal for a spa lunch. We turned down pudding, tempting though the menu was.
Afterwards, we got changed to go on a short bike ride to burn off lunch. The spa loans bikes out to its guests, the delightful basket-fronted old style bikes that make you feel as if you should be featured in an Instagram post, windswept hair flowing.
“Mum. There’s something wrong with my bike. I can’t change the gears,” my daughter hollered.
I swapped the bike. We were supposed to be on a nature trail but ended up on a perimeter road.
“Did you not listen to the directions?” my daughter asked (I overlooked the fact that she had not tuned in to them, either). The sun smiled down on us briefly, which made the cycle ride up the steep hill marginally less daunting. My bike gave out the loudest mechanical yelp every time I braked, not helped by the gradient when going downhill.
On the way back, we passed the Made gym, a purpose-built site adjacent to the spa, owned by the director’s daughter. Spa guests receive a £3 discount off the usual £8 class prices. Returning to the spa, we admired the views, before reluctantly changing our clothes and heading home. My daughter’s hot stone massage helped release tension in her shoulders after a busy year at university. We both slept well that night.
Verdict: Moddershall Oaks is recommended for its friendly, family-run atmosphere, lovely surroundings and perfect massage. The food was also delicious.
A Simply Spa overnight Break costs from £169.50 per person and includes a welcome drink followed by a tour of the spa and a two-course meal. Simply Spa days start from just £89.