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  • Jo Cooke

Hen Heaven

If your idea of "The Perfect Hen Party” involves naked men, copious amounts of alcohol, a party bus and a brief visit to every licensed premises in town, then read no further.

However, if like many modern brides you would prefer a day of pampering with your chosen girlfriends and family, then there are plenty of spa packages available across the country.

Personally, the idea of spa day with my girlfriends has been a dream, but the reality of actually going to one fills me with absolute horror. Being plus size and on the mature side, no amount of luxury or pampering could entice me or many of my friends to bare all in a spa full of strangers. I’m pretty sure that other spa users would be just as horrified at the idea of half a dozen, middle aged, overweight, almost naked women joining them in the communal jacuzzi.

So the Spa experience was one that would forever remain on the “To Do” list.

Until, totally by chance, I met Sharon Ward.

Sharon is a friendly soul, with a warm smile and infectious laugh, who was a fellow exhibitor at a large wedding show. Dramatic as it may sound, our chance encounter may have changed my life. Sharon is the manager of a new, contemporary, boutique style spa, with a difference. I have to admit that I was somewhat sceptical after listening to Sharon describe the spa, the treatments and the packages on offer – after all, this total stranger was describing my elusive dream. At the end of the very hard weekend Sharon very generously extended an invitation to experience the delights her spa had to offer.

As it would have been rude not to accept, it was time to face my fear and move the spa day from the “To Do” list to the “Done” list. With my trusted wing woman Alison and three of our plus size models in tow, we headed North East, to deepest Chelmsford! Twelve minutes later and we arrived. Surprisingly there was no jostling for parking, and we drove straight through the pink gates into the free Car park. We were greeted by the lovely Sharon in the ultra modern, ground floor reception and offered refreshments before being escorted to the spa, which occupies the first floor.

We were shown the gleaming facilities and were given the Health & Safety information talk before being left to enjoy the facilities, which include jacuzzi, steam room, sauna, heated pebbles, monsoon shower and the tranquillity of the chill out room. The latter being equipped with heated, moulded beds, soft fluffy towels, iPods & speakers, magazines, candles, ice cold jugs of water, dishes of lemon & lime slices.

It certainly looked amazing, but the thought of wrapping my ample body in a “one size fits all” (or, in my case, one size fits one leg) robe was still at the forefront of my mind. Imagine my relief on discovering five spa robes neatly hanging in the changing room in a variety of sizes, with five towels and five pairs of spa slippers laid out for us. This was the point at which it dawned on me that the entire spa was, for the next four hours, exclusively for our use. There would be no strangers wandering through that we would need to hide from whilst trying to cover up our lumpy bits & pieces. We wouldn’t have to lower our voices or our raucous laughter. It was just us – with regular brief visits from the Spa staff to refill the water jugs, check water levels and ensure we were all drinking enough.

At lunch time we were given the opportunity to order a hot or cold snack, some lunch or afternoon tea. That offer was a no brainer. We are all plus size, so sampling the food was an absolute must. Within 30 minutes the food had been delivered on china plates.

This all seemed far too good to be true, so, being the fastidious person I am, I set about composing my “snagging” list. But the more I looked, the less I found. I was almost disappointed that I was unable to find anything to dull my enthusiasm. Then, out of no where I realised what the catch must be, I had missed the obvious……

The price !

Feeling quite smug, I gathered the price lists, not only for the spa, but for the hair salon and the nail bar. After studying the literature, I felt somewhat frustrated and surprised to learn that there were packages to suit EVERY budget. If you are yearning for a day of pampering, have the luxury of time, but limited funds, you can tailor your day to your individual budget – simply by crossing the threshold into the adjoining academy, where, treatments are delivered by 2nd & 3rd year students (under the supervision of their trainers) for a fraction of the cost of a qualified therapist. If your budget is flexible and time is of the essence, there are a number of packages available starting at just £28. You can choose what ever treatments that take your fancy from the extensive menu.

So, despite wasting much of my long awaited spa day searching for faults, disadvantages, hidden costs or just anything that I could mention that was even slightly negative, I came to the conclusion that I really couldn’t. It’s not often that this happens ! I have found myself a real piece of Hen Heaven, right on my doorstep.

The only real problem I can envisage for me in the future………. Is having to work regular late nights & working out how to delete “last destinations” from the Sat Nav.

Now, I have to ask myself do I really want to share the name and location of this little gem – No I don’t, but I will.

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