MICHELLE TOMPKINS finds a weekend break at Champneys unforgettable... unlike her own name

IF you’re ever lucky enough to visit a Champneys spa, please try to remember your own name.

Not too difficult, you might think. But never underestimate the effects of total and utter relaxation on the brain, and the condition I like to call Cotton Wool Syndrome.

This very real and extremely serious syndrome is the only excuse I can think of for a very blonde moment that found me sitting at Champneys waiting for my facial in the room reserved for those with surnames ranging from I to Q.

Yes, my name is Tompkins. T-O-M-P-K-I-N-S. And, as I explained to my beauty therapist – who was far too polite to chastise me for my pre-school error – I am a journalist, and I really do know my alphabet. Honest.

In fact, my faux pas kept me and my friend amused for the rest of our weekend break... when we weren’t lounging in our fluffy robes with a magazine or snoozing off the effects of a three-course lunch, that is.

Our trip to Champneys Springs in Leicestershire was for no other reason than to catch up with one another from our own corners of the country – me travelling the two hours up from Swindon and she the three hours down from Durham.

Within minutes of being greeted by the smiling, well-groomed receptionists, we’d swapped our jeans and jumpers for a white towelling robe and flip flops, and that’s how we stayed for the best part of 48 hours.

It’s not unusual to see guests at Champneys sitting down to their meals in this state of undress – in fact, it’s positively encouraged. Doing away with the need for clothes, make-up and hair straighteners is all part of the relaxation process, and we embraced it with gusto.

It wasn’t all lazing around over cappuccinos and carrot cake, however. With its focus on health and fitness, the spa has a jam-packed timetable of classes and we pulled on our Lycra on day one to join a hula hooping session.

We discovered it’s not as tricky as it sounds – the hoops are weighted to stay around your waist more easily – but the real skill is in being able to move around the room while still rolling your hips. It made for a giggly half hour, made all the more interesting by the muscle-bound young instructor demonstrating his moves at the front.

While we were in the mood for exercise we also decided to take out a couple of Champneys’ bikes and cycle to the nearby village of Packington, a round trip of all of about four miles. Still, it was a welcome burst of fresh air and made us feel marginally less guilty as we ordered a bottle of Prosecco to drink with our evening meal.

If my memory serves me, Champneys was once super-strict on alcohol consumption and banned it from the premises entirely.

All that has changed now, and wine can be ordered with your dinner. It’s welcome news for the inevitable hen parties and groups of women celebrating significant birthdays, and the perfect accompaniment to the amazing food on the menu.

Forget any notion of rabbit food on ration. This menu is undoubtedly healthy, but you’d never really know it from the taste. I had a goats cheese salad, followed by salmon, and everything from the seasoning to the presentation screamed fine dining. The only time I felt under-indulged was when I ordered the cheesecake for dessert and found it to be less sweet than I would have liked. My friend, however, loved the fact that it wasn’t as sickly as other puds, so I guess that’s just my sweet tooth doing the talking.

Without a bar to retire to, most people drift off to their rooms after dinner to watch TV or just to continue the gossip.

At the salesgirl’s insistence, we’d borrowed a bag load of samples from the Champneys shop to try in our room, so spent an hour or so slathering ourselves in oils, lotions and potions before drifting off to sleep smelling like a branch of Boots.

Breakfast is a similarly healthy affair, with a giant platter of fresh fruits, every cereal you can imagine and homemade porridge on offer. A ‘fry-up’ is also available for a supplement, or should I say ‘grill-up’, with turkey rashers substituted for bacon and scrambled eggs instead of fried.

If day one was relaxing, day two was positively comatose.

First off was a session in the thalassotherapy pool, where powerful jets of water pummel your body in an underwater massage – a killer Jacuzzi, if you like. The therapist said the effect was five times more vigorous than a regular massage and we certainly felt it, especially on our softer, flabbier bits. Ouch!

Robes back on, we flitted (if flitting can be conducted at a snail’s pace) between the pool, sauna and steam room until it was time for our treatments, a facial and a massage each.

In my state of total wind-down, it was here that I seemingly lost all power of thought and decided that my surname must begin with a K or an N, or even a Q.

When my puzzled therapist finally tracked me down, she shot a discreet glance at the I-Q sign and I realised my error.

“I’m so, so sorry...” I said, with a red face and an embarrassed giggle. “I’m not usually that stupid.”

“Don’t worry at all,” she replied. “It happens all the time.”

I’d like to believe her, I really would, but I suspect it was just that Champneys charm talking.


  • There are four Champneys spas around the country.
  • Michelle Tompkins was a guest of Champneys Springs, Gallows Lane, Packington, Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire DE12 7HD.
  • For reservations and booking enquiries call 0843 316 2222 or call reservations@champneys.com. For treatment bookings call 0843 316 2222.
  • Champneys Springs is currently running an offer of £99 for a pamper day (usually £149). The day includes two treatments, full use of the resort facilities including swimming pool, gym, sauna, steam and whirlpool, access to exercise classes per day, a three course lunch and complimentary robe and flip flops.
  • To make a reservation, call 0843 316 2222 and quote SA14. Terms and conditions apply – see Champneys.com for more details.