“Two piña coladas and a PG Ideas, please.”
It’s not the traditional spherical at a swim-up bar. Then once more, 2C isn’t traditional swim-up bar climate both. And, arguably, Alsager — simply off junction 16 of the M6 — isn’t precisely traditional swim-up bar nation.
Extra ceaselessly noticed on the sun-strafed islands of the Caribbean, the swim-up bar holds a particular, if barely soggy, place in holidaymakers’ hearts and medical histories. Wobble your manner via a width or two of breaststroke and you may one way or the other persuade your self you’ve earned just a few plastic cups of barely watery Purple Stripe or some improbably colored cocktails whereas perched on a submerged stool with the wavelets spherical your waist, whereas telling your self it’s the peak of trip sophistication.
However now the UK has its first swim-up bar, opened in November on the Manor Home in Alsager, a spa lodge that describes itself as “a luxurious countryside escape . . . just some miles from Stoke-on-Trent and Crewe”. So can that rum-and-reggae magic nonetheless work right here on the Tropic of east Cheshire?
Day beds line the poolside
Effectively, it’s actually not a scene Bob Marley would recognise. Getting the prepare by way of Stoke (-on-Trenchtown?), I’m the one individual to alight below the hangover-grey skies at Alsager. I don’t stick round, although I’m fairly positive I’d be moved on if I did: a set of neat plaques reveals proudly that Alsager received a Finest Stored Station award yearly from 2011-18 and in 2020 (I don’t dare ask what occurred in 2019).
A fast, drizzle-speckled potter across the city reveals a sweetly sleepy little assortment of second-hand retailers and retirement properties whose very names sound as soothingly enjoyable as any four-star spa (Homeshire Home, Lavender Home, the Oaks). A ten-minute stroll the opposite manner takes me up an unpromisingly suburban-looking highway, previous an outlet referred to as Curtains & Consolation, to the Manor Home Resort & Spa.
Checking in, I discover a bed room that’s barely extra fashionable than I anticipate, and a restaurant that’s barely cosier than a snob like me deserves. Beneath its beautiful, wonky picket beams I’ve a improbable dinner, the place the spotlight is an apple and berry crumble. It tastes of pleased childhood autumns and bonfire smoke and my mum half-heartedly telling me off for scuffing the leaves in my new Clarks sneakers.
Breakfast subsequent morning is even higher: Staffordshire oatcakes, that are like pancakes however . . . oatier. They’d nearly be good for you in the event that they weren’t full of cheese and ham and fried. Emma, the cheery waitress, brings sachets of each crimson and brown sauce “as a result of, technically, you will have a selection” — then thrusts the brown ahead firmly.
Up to now, so pud — however subsequent day is Spa Day, and I’m blown away. The place different, related resorts have a humid little outhouse as an afterthought, so “the women” have someplace to go whereas the boys play golf, the Manor Home’s brother-and-sister co-owners, Jack and Jess Mellors, have created one thing spectacular.
The pool home inside
After an overhaul that began in lockdown however solely completed late in 2022, the spa right here now unwinds expansively throughout a classy, iridescent-tiled indoor advanced, a reasonably out of doors backyard, and a few beautiful inbetweeny bits, with an aromatherapy steam room, natural sauna and the remainder tucked into attractive reclaimed-brick-and-wood sheds. I swing indolently on the hanging day beds, wallow within the sunken hydrotherapy tub till my fingers appear like prunes, and snore loudly via the guided meditation tape within the Himalayan-crystal-lined salt steam chamber. Even higher, the out of doors bits have underfloor heating, so there’s none of that horrid, chilly, tiptoey dashing from vitality pool to panoramic laconium.
Probably the most enjoyable factor, although? The absence of what we consultants name “spa bollocks”. The primary house here’s a lounge/restaurant/bar, the place employees bustle cheerfully as an alternative of gliding obsequiously, and patrons giggle out loud with their friends or companions as an alternative of whispering self-consciously in these “spa voices” some palaces of wellness compel us to make use of. There’s correct meals on the menu, a correct blaze within the wood-burner and correct gin on the bar (Eleacier, from the Winding River distillery right here in Alsager). Effectively, who says a spa shouldn’t do an honest G&T?
All of which makes it completely logical that the primary out of doors pool occurs to have a bar at one finish.
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Structurally it’s nothing extra difficult than the indoor bar having sliding home windows on the again, so the bar employees can merely flip spherical and dish out drinks to these within the water. But it surely appears like probably the most decadent day trip this facet of Sodom. A pomegranate mojito? In a well being joint? Whereas steam rises from the pool right into a wintry English afternoon prefer it did from my crumble the night time earlier than? And I don’t even need to get out of the pool? That’s my form of spa therapy.
The Mellors are contemplating night openings sooner or later (though severe drinkers ought to notice that Alsager has no swim-up kebab store at which to finish the night time out). However in the meantime I purchase a spherical for my fellow soak(er)s — and even Joan, the 65-year-old from Manchester who asks for that smart cup of tea, giggles wickedly on the illicit thrill of sipping it in her swimmers.
One after the other we reluctantly get out and return to the true, non-swim-up world — however cheered in locations that different spas can not attain.
Ed Grenby was a visitor of the Manor Home Resort & Spa, which has B&B doubles from £71; day spa from £75 (manorhousealsager.com)
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