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July 25, 2023

English Euphoria: The Bothy by Wildsmith at Heckfield Place

Everything seems generous at The Bothy by Wildsmith — the sun loungers are huge and the treatment times are long. 

By Theodora Halstead

I’m going to take you on a journey if I may, back in time, to a quieter world, a slower pace of life, to the late 1800s and rural England… I’m taking you to Heckfield Place.

Heckfield Place is a stunning Georgian country-house hotel, meticulously restored to an impeccable standard and has, since its launch in 2018, established itself as one of the best hop-skip-and-jump-just-outside London places to stay in the UK.

And here, among the 400 acres of ancient oaks and sprawling rhododendrons is where famed horticulturist and botanist, William Walker Wildsmith, honed his craft. Wildsmith was the mastermind behind the progressive gardens and arboretum — during his stewardship, he and his team traveled all over the world hunting down interesting trees to bring home and introduce to the grounds.

So important was Wildsmith’s influence on Heckfield, they named their botanical skincare range after him; more recently their new spa has taken his moniker.

[See also: The Best Urban Spas of 2023]

The Bothy by Wildsmith interior facing exterior
Heckfield Place opened The Bothy by Wildsmith earlier this year / ©Paul Massey

The hotel itself is a delight: all the luxury you’d expect alongside thoughtful and quirky nods to nature. Not a stuffy or stark floral arrangement in sight — the work of in-house florist, April, is apparent in every room, and she uses the blooms and greenery from the grounds and garden to fill the rooms with the fragrance of Heckfield’s bounty.

Heckfield is also filled with over 400 pieces of modern British art. Some unexpected, but all perfectly complemented by the carefully selected neutral interiors that ensure that the stunning grounds of Heckfield and the hotel’s belief in the power of the natural environment and the calmness that it brings is ever present.

But onto the spa… The Bothy by Wildsmith is a true sanctuary that brings Wildsmith’s ethos of the healing power of nature to life. You approach the spa through a quintessentially British walled garden. I was there too late for the tulips but in perfect time for the peonies, lavender and agapanthus, a sublime mixture of colors and aroma that immediately calms your senses and sets the scene for the serene envelopment of The Bothy.

[See also: The Best Trend-Setting Spas to Visit this Year]

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At 17,000 sq ft, the spa is substantial with multiple areas to relax in — there were probably five other guests there when I visited and I hardly noticed them. The staff are discreet but always polishing or finessing… a wet poolside footprint does not remain there for long.

From the fossilized stone, the Fibonacci staircase, the birdsong soundtrack and naturally the products used, huge consideration has been made to ensure that nature and the majesty of Heckfield’s grounds are woven throughout.

One of the walls of the sauna is made entirely out of glass so you can admire views of ancient oak trees and fields of wheat while you sweat out the toxins of an evening spent sampling the Moon Bar’s cocktail list

The 60-ft swimming pool, The Waters, is bathed in natural light. Wall-to-ceiling glass brings nature into the space to create a soporific haven for post-lap snoozes and a few chapters of your favorite book. It’s chlorine free too, so no nasty chemicals to wash off before you head back up to your room.

Everything seems generous at The Bothy by Wildsmith — the sun loungers are huge, the treatment times are long, the pace is relaxed and unhurried. 

The oak terrace is home to an alfresco hydrotherapy pool, letting the water jets soothe tired muscles while the calm of nature feeds your soul. There is a plunge bucket of ice cold water on the terrace, I certainly didn’t have the courage nor the inclination to pull the string and allow myself to be awoken from my calm, warm state of relaxation.

[See also: The Lanesborough Club & Spa: HydraFacial Review]

The Bothy by Wildsmith relaxing space
The Bothy by Wildsmith has multiple spaces to relax in / ©Paul Massey

Though I visited during summer, the spa is designed to create cozy corners with firepits and chairs decked with sheepskin rugs, ensuring that a winter visit would be well worth it too.

There are six treatment rooms, all in the serene subterranean part of The Bothy. Treatments range from the expected (facials and full body massages) to the unexpected (myofascial release and naturopathy).

The Bothy is also home to a program of carefully considered “movement” classes designed to get the most out of the grounds and experts. Desperately dodging the cold water immersion, I experienced 90 minutes of shinrin-yoku, otherwise known as forest bathing.

The practice of forest bathing seems like an ancient one, conjuring visions of druids celebrating the summer solstice or worshiping the Green Man. And though the benefits of fresh air and proximity to nature isn’t anything new, forest bathing officially only became a practice established in 1980s Japan, seen as the perfect antidote for modern living.

This prompted a slew of scientific studies and research, which all reinforced what has long been assumed — engulfing yourself in nature is good for the soul.

[See also: Wellness Guru Dr Vishal Patel on the ‘Sensei Way’]

Heckfield Place exterior
Heckfield Place was built in the 1760s / ©Paul Massey

I took to the 400-acre forests surrounding Heckfield Place with their in-house mindfulness teacher, Benjamin, who guides the forest therapy sessions. His goal for our session is to amplify the power of being immersed in the forest with some mindfulness practices.

We meet by the floating forest at the entrance to The Bothy by Wildsmith and head out and pause by the foot of a giant redwood. Standing at the base of this huge, 165-year-old sequoia, brought over by Wildsmith, is the ideal place to start a forest bathing session.

Nothing reminds you of the might of nature better than a tree of this size. Through breathing exercises, guided meditation and opening up all your senses to the forest, you are quickly brought to a feeling of calm and peace during the session. With eyes closed Ben encourages you to listen to the sound of the birds in the trees, the wind humming through their branches.

The sounds of nature are received differently by the brain; the sound of the forest triggers balance and relaxation. As you inhale deeply, you breathe in the abundance of essential oils that are naturally released into the air by the trees. These oils are proven to decrease blood pressure, reduce cortisone levels and encourage your white blood cells to regenerate. The multi-sensory calmness lasts long after you’ve finished your session. 

The whole experience at The Bothy leaves me feeling lighter. I let things go easier. I’ve got a renewed perspective. And that’s down to the ethos of The Bothy by Wildsmith that mirrors that of Heckfield itself. Time works differently here. It is slow, it is important. It is meaningful, it is thoughtful, and it reconnects you to the healing power of nature.

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