An Holistic Staycation At Ockenden Manor Hotel & Spa
The Village & Hotel
Like many pretty little villages in the illustrious Sussex area, Cuckfield’s origins began as a bustling market town in the Middle Ages, before growing into a bustling hub for the iron and steel-making industry for King Henry VIII’s navy. Today, Cuckfield is home to a population of just over 3,500, a dedicated museum, a 13th century church and stately Elizabethan houses, among which is Ockenden Manor Hotel & Spa.
An historical gem in its own right, Ockenden Manor’s records date back to the mid-1500s and feature a grand ivy-clad Tudor front exterior characterized by its elaborate masonry, embellished doorways and an exposed wood framework. I noted the low ceiling when I checked in at the front desk (another common feature of Tudor-period buildings) and wandered around the grounds before my treatment at The Spa, a short walk from the hotel’s main entrance.
Bordering Cuckfield Park and occupying an impressive eight acres of land, Ockenden Manor’s grounds make the most of the sweeping views Sussex is celebrated for. In the summer, tables and chairs are set outside on the meticulously-maintained lawns and pretty Afternoon Teas and prosecco are a firm favourite served among guests.
On my self-guided tour of the hotel grounds, I had the pleasure of stumbling across a hare hopping happily across my path, reminding me that I am most definitely not in London anymore.
Dining at Ockenden Manor
Ockenden Manor, I discovered, is a very interesting building: a bustling hallway branches off into an intimate bar area and winds its way down into a modern, large open plan drawing room. Armchairs and large sofas sit near the window and are, more often than not when I pass by, occupied by satiated guests. The Drawing Room is thoughtfully located near the restaurant.
Although dining options are limited at Ockenden Manor, the menu is seasonal, giving an air of exclusivity to each dish. After a brief chat with both my waiter and the restaurant manager, I ordered my starters and mains which were paired with complementary wines most suited to each dish.
The wine menu is impressive, featuring whites ranging from South America to Australia, reds from Chile to Spain and a wide variety of locally-sourced Sussex wines.
To start, a signature dish was in order: the Warm Home-Smoked Salmon with curry, apple, fennel and squid tempura paired with a chilled Patagonian chardonnay. A delightful combination of sweet and smokey tastes made for a particularly original dish. It is light and leaves plenty of room for the main course and dessert.
Although my evening was a very pescatarion one, I am not a great lover of fish. Salmon is just about the only fish I do enjoy and so as the menu was relatively limited, I was encouraged to try a dish I was unfamiliar with: Line-Caught Sea Bass with charred English asparagus, home-smoked tomatoes and a beautiful tapenade, paired with a smoothe Chilean chardonnay.
I do not say this lightly, but the Sea Bass was the best fish I have had the pleasure of sampling. The assortment of vegetables, tapenade and fragrant foam was outstanding. Should you plan to visit Ockenden Manor over the bank holiday on the 27th of May, I would highly suggest the Sea Bass. I have dined at all three of Historic Sussex Hotels portfolio of properties (Ockenden Manor, Bailiffscourt and The Spread Eagle) and note the consistency in the world-class quality of food served.
A delightfully sweet plate of Dark Chocolate Délice with struzeul, citrus puree and blood orange sorbet concluded my evening and I found myself lazing in the Drawing Room, joining the said group of sleepy, satiated guests.
My morning breakfast tip? Rise early and get first dibs on the table in the window which overlooks the beautiful lawns and offers a sublime view whilst enjoying your morning latte and pain au chocolat.
The Spa Suite
Ockenden Manor occupies a wealth of land and, housed within the luscious grounds, is the main hotel with a short walk that takes you to The Spa.
Of the 28 rooms available at the hotel, six are located above The Spa in the form of colourful open-planned suites which spill outdoors onto a zen-inspired roof terrace. With exceptional views over Cuckfield Park, sundowners after a day at the spa must surely be essential?
Indoors, the spa suite is a unique set-up in that it sits above the spa, making for easy access to and from the pool, spa facilities and outdoor hot tub.
The spa suite is furnished with all of the little luxuries expected at an upmarket establishment: Temple Spa bathroom products, flat screen TV, a large sofabed, fluffy dressing gowns and a complimentary tea & coffee tray with home-made biscuits.
The shuttered partition between room and bathroom gives the suite an edge and features walk-in showers, spacious bathtubs and a sun tunnel which provides much needed light into what would be an otherwise dark bathroom.
The stand-out feature of the suite, for me, was the marvelous blackout curtains and what seemed like an endless number of fluffy, freshly-washed pillows atop an even more fluffy bed. Why is it always the simple things in life that matter so much?
The Spa & Light Therapy Treatment
As well-known as Ockenden Manor Hotel is among us Southerners, it is the The Spa at the hotel which draws visitors from around the county time and time again. Waiting for my treatment, I hear friends chatting over coffee, mothers and daughters bonding over glasses of champagne and couples relaxing in the hot tub outside. “It’s a firm favourite”, a guest remarks as I ask them their take on the spa. I “absolutely must try the Isopod”, says another.
Another time. maybe, as today I’ll be trialling 120 minutes of the The Light Technique, a therapy that addresses both the physical and emotional issues that affect our wellbeing. The technique, born from the 25 years experience of Holistic Wellness Coach and Facialist Katie Light, is a unique approach to wellbeing which has placed her amongst the top therapists in the world.
Heather, my wonderful, highly-professional therapist, asks me a few questions regarding any physical and emotional issues I may be having, which enable her to deliver the best course of treatment over the next hour and a half.
As a society, we collectively face a sense of uncertainty, expectation and anxiety in our daily lives and, through the use of an ensemble of healing therapies, I realise a lasting mindfulness and peace can be achieved. Crystals placed on my throat and heart chakra, powerful Reiki healing, a deep tissue massage to dislodge the stress knots and a cleansing facial alI aided in my clarity of thought, and I emerged with a deep sense of tranquility I find very hard to achieve - unless I am 9,000 miles away on a beach in Bora Bora.
Book a treatment with Heather should you feel you need a little more than just a massage but rather a deeper connection between your mind and body which cleanses the soul and soothes a mind guilty of overthinking.