Wellness weekends in and around Cheltenham
Forget passé spa days, wellness is now all about self-care, mental wellbeing and spirituality. Located at the heart of the Cotswolds, Cheltenham is the perfect place to base yourself for an inspiring wellness staycation that will rejuvenate your body, mind and soul when the restrictions allow.
Embrace the outdoors
Stretching across five counties and 800 square miles, the Cotswolds’ rolling hills, the ‘wolds’, and golden stone come together to make one of the U.K.’s most awe-inspiring regions – especially for walkers. With its acclaimed reserves, famous gardens, and historic trails, it’s the perfect place to recharge your soul and be at one with nature.
Those feeling energetic can follow the Cotswolds Way – a long-distance, sign-posted track from Chipping Campden to Bath. If covering all 97 miles seems excessive, set out to meander along a picturesque section of the famed way from Broadway Tower, Cleeve Hill or Crickley Hill Country Park.
For those wishing to discover the northern Cotswolds’ hidden gems, The Winchcombe Way is a marked 42-mile figure-of-eight trail around the Isbourne Valley that has Winchcombe – a famous medieval centre – at its heart.
If visiting Cheltenham from mid-March to mid-May, the Blossom Trail is a 40-mile, waymarked route through the beautiful Vale of Evesham. In spring, the blossom trees that line the course are in full bloom. The pretty pink and white flowering trees will remind all of the glory of nature along the way.
At half the distance, the Five Valleys Walk may be for you. This circular trail of around 20 miles crosses the Chalford, Nailsworth, Ruscombe, Slad and Painswick valleys and their respective villages.
Hug a tree
Forest bathing or shinrin-yoku emerged as a phenomenon in Japan in the 1980s as an eco-antidote to tech burnout and to inspire people to reconnect with forests. This tree-hugging trend has made it to the fore recently in Britain thanks to the Duchess of Cambridge, who cited it as the inspiration for her debut garden at the Chelsea Flower Show ‘RHS Back to Nature’ in 2019. The benefits of ‘nature therapy’ are also backed up by science. In 2018, academics at the University of Derby found that improving a person’s connection with nature led to significant increases in their wellbeing.
More than merely a walk in a park, forest bathing requires concentration and connection. In his book, Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing, Dr Qing Li – President of the Society for Forest Medicine in Japan – says: “Make sure you have left your phone and camera behind. You are going to be walking aimlessly and slowly. You don’t need any devices. Let your body be your guide. Listen to where it wants to take you. Follow your nose. And take your time. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get anywhere. You are not going anywhere. You are savouring the sounds, smells and sights of nature and letting the forest in.”
There’s no better place to get back to your roots (pun intended) than in the acres of the Cotswolds’ famous arboreta: Batsford or Westonbirt. Chedworth, Cranham and Fish Hill Woods and Wychwood Forest and the Forest of Dean also offer a taste of tranquillity in our fast-paced world.
Bolt from the blue
Blue mindfulness is a wellness trend that is inspired by the book Blue Mind, in which author Wallace J Nichols outlines how any water-based activity can positively impact physical and mental health. The book’s tagline says that by being ‘near, in, on or under water can make you happier, healthier, more connected and better at what you do’. Be soothed and calmed by the big blue at the Cotswold Water Park – an area of 40 square miles, with more than 170 lakes set across the countryside of Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and West Oxfordshire. For wild swimming locations – rivers, lakes or waterfalls – in the Cotswolds, check out wildswimming.co.uk. If pools are more your thing, Sandford Parks Lido in Cheltenham has been a swimming hotspot since it first opened in the 1930s; Stratford Park pool in Stroud sits in beautiful grassy grounds, and Cirencester Open Air Pool has been delighting water babies since 1869.
SANDFORD PARKS LIDO, STRATFORD PARK POOL AND CIRENCESTER OPEN AIR POOL ARE TEMPORARILY CLOSED DUE TO COVID-19 BUT WILL REOPEN AS SOON AS GOVERNMENT RESTRICTIONS ARE LIFTED.
Salute the sun at Soul Circus
Famous for its laid-back vibe and opportunity to recalibrate, search out Soul Circus. At this wellbeing festival – held every August (tickets for 2021 are already on sale here) – music, yoga and holistic therapies meet festival antics and after-parties. Do the downward dog, spread your wings during aerial yoga, enjoy a mindfulness workshop, get sparkly at the ‘Glitter Den’, dance under the stars to internationally renowned DJs, then head back to your comfortable Cheltenham accommodation to be sure that rain and mud won’t ruin your night’s sleep.
Imagine floating your way to a stress-free existence? Join the flotilla of fans of sensory deprivation who enjoy floatation therapy or Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST). Scientific studies have shown that time in a floatation tank can lead to reductions in stress as well as muscle pain as well as increase feelings of calmness. Float in the Forest is a dedication floatation centre, located in the Forest of Dean. Experience weightlessness in 25cm of water that is saturated in Epsom salts and heated to body temperature. All your troubles are sure to drift away.
FLOAT IN THE FOREST IS TEMPORARILY CLOSED DUE TO COVID-19 BUT WILL REOPEN AS SOON AS GOVERNMENT RESTRICTIONS ARE LIFTED.
A trend that is gaining momentum in wellness circles is sound-bathing. Never heard of it? You’re not alone, but those in the know say that this therapy results in a deep state of relaxation. Sound-bathing sees a combination of gongs and singing bowls played in such a way as to calm the mind and relax the body. Take a journey of self-discovery and inner exploration with Louise Shiels of Sound Awakening, who runs ‘Sacred Cacao Sound Ceremonies’ at Downdog + Crow in Woodstock.
DOWN-DOG + CROW IS TEMPORARILY CLOSED DUE TO COVID-19 BUT WILL REOPEN AS SOON AS GOVERNMENT RESTRICTIONS ARE LIFTED.