Spa day in a converted Sussex stable

Susie Edwards-Paines

Susie Edwards-Paines - Credit: Archant

For a spa experience with a difference, it doesn’t get much more picturesque than a converted stable in the deep West Sussex countryside, as Jenny Mark-Bell finds out

I arrive very early for my appointment at Mermaid Wellbeing, a bijou day spa situated in a converted stable block amidst stunning West Sussex countryside. This being the tiny hamlet of Barlavington, four miles from Pulborough, there aren’t any cafés where I can nurse a hot drink, so I walk to the church and sit on a bench. Sitting there, gazing at grass studded with buttercups and wild primroses, and listening to pheasants chucking, is the nicest waiting room experience I have ever had.

The spa itself is a tiny, welcoming space decked out in natural materials in an airy palette of whites and off-whites. It can be somewhat discombobulating to emerge from a darkened treatment room into a populous relaxation area, but there’s not a chance of that here – during your visit, the space is entirely yours. Spa owner Susie Edwards-Paines is also a pilates instructor who specialises in one-to-one sessions or tiny groups, and the same attention to the individual is at work here. While there is a treatment list, she encourages customers to work with her to create a bespoke treatment – at the time I visit she is devising a spa day for a mother and daughter. I opt for a signature facial with hot stones, but after I complain of neck and shoulder problems, she decides to add plenty of massage.

Susie’s massage style incorporates her focus on exercise and movement (afterwards, my head and neck feel like a Jack newly released from his box), and I delight in a bonus Indian head massage as well as some wonderfully therapeutic hot stones. On my face, she alternates these with cold stones, which calm my rosy complexion beautifully. Reflecting her quest for natural wellbeing, Susie uses British-manufactured, natural Green and Spring products and there are nice, individual touches such as the seaweed footbath – for the mermaid connection – and post-massage lavender biscuits.

When it’s all over I just trip out onto the grass and I’m bang in the middle of the sweeping Sussex landscape.

While for some the lure of saunas and swimming pools is hard to beat, this is an escape in the truest sense of the world. That jarring jolt of coming back to reality when you step into a busy street never comes.

Mermaid Wellbeing, The Old Stud Yard, Church Lane, Barlavington near Petworth; 0333 0063234;

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