Greenwoods Hotel and Spa, Stock

Greenwoods Hotel and Spa sits on the edge of one of Essex’s impossibly pretty rural villages, complete with three churches and four pubs, five miles from Chelmsford. The setting of this former grade II listed manor house in grounds as coiffed as its glamorous spa guests is enough to make you soporific with interiors restored to high Essex chic. There are 39 luxurious rooms, with feature walls and co-ordinating upholstery, but I was here as a day guest, my sister in tow for a pre-Christmas treat.

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We began in the gym, which overlooks the gravel drive with long, light-giving sash windows. Brownie points immediately as there’s a trainer there the whole time, on hand for advice. Equipment includes a Power Plate, the vibrating piece of shiny tech that you often want to use but don’t. We stretched on it but didn’t get around to using it properly as I imagine Formula One racing driver Jenson Button might have when he stayed here last month. My personal trainer sister was impressed: the equipment is varied with free weights, kettle bells and Bosu balls.

Workout complete, we swam in the lilac-hued pool area, the pool itself an inky blue, with a circular Jacuzzi where a blonde girl sat in her baseball hat, selfie-ready, I imagined.  Our treatment of choice was a seasonal 20-minute mulled wine back massage apiece. Thai therapists expertly massaged and smoothed our knotty backs before applying the warming, scented oils.

Basted like Christmas turkey’s we were ready for the included lunch in the minimally styled Ellis’s Restaurant, with on-trend grey panelled walls and glamorous glass chandeliers, named after the owner of the manor house until the 20th Century, awarded one AA Rosette. Amongst mainly lunching female guests, we ate a crunchy, generously sized walnut and Stilton salad, with prawns, (the final ingredients perhaps unnecessary), followed by a pleasingly pink crab risotto for me, not the best but not the worst, while my sister ate a good piece of salmon with buttery green beans. Afternoon tea can be taken in the cosy-looking wood panelled Lounge Bar with an open fire and plush armchairs. It's an inviting space to curl up for an hour or two.

Greenwoods is a popular local wedding venue and a new venture for 2017 includes an Orangery for 250 guests, with early artist impressions making it look like a contender for Grand Designs. Expect it to book up fast.

*Dazzling December package, £79pp including a 20-minute exfoliating back massage and a two-course lunch, available Monday – Thursday until the end of December 2018, over 16s only,