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Calcot Manor

It's the first day of the summer holidays and I'm dropping my 18 month old twins off with my parents for two nights and heading into the heart of the Cotswolds for some unadulterated quality time with my 7 year old daughter Phoebe and 5 year son Marlon. Work commitments stop their father coming too so it really is just me and them and no double buggy!

Our first stop is Calcot Manor, near Tetbury.
We arrive on a pretty gloomy afternoon and are welcomed by an incredibly helpful and smiley receptionist who immediately tells us where everything is and shows us to our family suite. This is an enormous space made up of two sleeping areas divided by separating doors. The children's beds are already made up in lovely bright duvet covers and there is voluptuous looking bed for me scattered with cushions. Even the bathroom is vast and as Marlon pointed out had the largest bath we'd ever seen.

Having two babies makes 1 adult swimming with 4 children impossible so we
knew that our priority for the two days was getting some good swimming sessions in. So top of the agenda was a reccy of the two pools on offer at Calcot. The indoor pool at Calcot Spa is just breathtaking. A vision of blue with amazing lighting and massively inviting. Children are only allowed in the indoor pool between 3.45 and 5.15 to allow spa visitors some peaceful swimming time. Despite the allure of this pool we decided to be brave and daring and go for the outside option - we quite liked the idea of swimming in the rain! We ran to get changed and leapt into the heated yet still pretty refreshing pool.

I had a facial booked (well you have to don't you?) for 4.30 so after the swim we headed for the Playzone. This is some crèche! Located in the upper reaches of a newly converted barn the play area caters for children of all ages. The lower level area has every imaginable toy any child up to the age of 8 would love. Marlon immediately spotted some Star Wars models and was off. The Mezzanine level is for children aged 8 upwards although I could have spent a couple of days in there myself quite easily. There's table football, Play Stations, X boxes, a Bey Blade arena, a life-size action
man and to cap it all a state of the art private cinema! Phoebe of course wanted
to be upstairs and the staff kindly allowed her up there to enjoy its delights. In the summer months the Spa organises outdoor activities for children over 4 years of age. The Playzone staff will accompany any children interested over to the Spa and stay with them for the duration of the event. Activities include Five a Side football, cricket, dancing, bowls and chess and tennis.

The Spa. If you do visit Calcot allow yourself a full day (or three) just to be in the Spa. It is simply beautiful. Just a year old and impeccably furnished with sleek treatment rooms and a relaxation room (with adjacent sauna and shower room like you've never seen) looking out onto the rolling countryside. Outside is a hot tub set in front of an open fire! My facial was of course lovely and even though my visit to the spa was cruelly short testament to its relaxing effects was the one client fast asleep in the
relaxation room, magazine on floor and the man in the hot tub one minute reading his novel, the next minute head back, eyes closed in perfect bliss!
The Spa offers you the indoor pool, a gym, a Hamman bed, Dry Flotation, 6 treatments rooms, a dedicated cosmetics area and a beautiful café to boot.

Children's tea is served between 5.30 and 6.30 in the Gumstool Inn. All tables were already laid with the appropriate furnishings (highchairs, plastic cutlery, beakers etc) to accommodate all the families in residence. Phoebe chose sausages and baked beans, Marlon spaghetti and a salad (yes he loves salad!). Ice cream to finish and I had two happy and full children ready for some relaxing. We hit our room where Phoebe discovered they had their very own TV/Video directly opposite their beds. I knew that Reception held videos and CDs so I rushed over and was greeted with an open drawer full of video treats. James and the Giant Peach was my choice and as the children enjoyed that I wallowed in that giant bath. Books read and baby monitor on I headed for the conservatory restaurant.

Dinner. Tonight I was to dine alone and call me a wimp but I was feeling slightly apprehensive. The minute I walked into the restaurant however all my fears vanished. I was met once again by a smiling member of the Calcot team and taken to a quiet corner table overlooking the gardens and fields. The waiters were just wonderful. Welcoming, chatty (but not overly), helpful and somehow reassuring. Dinner was delicious (the menu offers a beautiful selection of dishes made with locally grown and produced treats, the majority of which are organic), my steak did really melt in the mouth, the wine flowed and I found myself thoroughly enjoying the dine alone
experience. After all the majority of my meal times involve the six of us fighting for conversation slots interspersed with the hilarity (and occasional grimace) of watching the twins eating habits!

Morning came as did the rain so we made a dash over for breakfast. The weather didn't dampen the Calcot charm and the breakfast waitresses had us giggling whilst decideing what to choose from the Children's and my own breakfast menu. Phoebe ordered scrambled and I poached eggs. Mine arrived on a beautiful plastic child's plate, Phoebe had a huge serving on a huge porcelain plate. Apologies and peals of laughter abounded and the chef was of course to blame. I like that in a waitress!!

The rain eased and we decided to take advantage of the bikes available from the Spa and go on the bike trail through the countryside surrounding the hotel. The trail is 2 miles long and meanders along the edges of the fields. We were kitted out with bikes (they have something for all ages even a tiny bike with stabilisers for the wee-est of cyclists) and off we went. We saw rabbits and heard the birds and sheltered in the woods (during a downpour) and marvelled at the silence and just had a wonderful time. Marlon's legs got tired so we had a break and meandered around the trim trail. What a
relief that it was too wet for me to show my children what each beautifully built wooden apparatus was meant for.

Sadly our time at Calcot was up. After just 24 hours we had to move on. Calcot is ideal for any family break be it a night or a whole week. Phoebe loved it so much she said she wanted to live there. There is so much to do and enjoy within its walls and acres and the staff are amongst the best I have come across. I'm not sure there was anything missing - apart from maybe just a bit more time!

Anne-Marie Francis

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