This weekend I went on my first ever big group Christmas getaway. We had talked about it over Summer and fortunately someone in the group is an organisation queen and made us actually do it (thanks Jennie!).
We picked a retreat option by democratic poll and were ultimately swayed by the existence of a hot tub at a place called Woodland’s retreat in West Pennard, Somerset.
The drive down from London took a while, thanks to some irritating traffic and an unexpected road closure that caused a rather long diversion, making us prematurely run out of road gin (this was rectified at Waitrose, Fleet Services).
Once we got there we were greeted by a lovely 2 storey house, complete with games room boasting darts, pool and football table, the aforementioned hot tub and 2 sitting rooms, as well as the 7 bedrooms.
Thanks to the hold ups on the road we lost out on the good rooms, boo. But we did get a lovely bathroom complete with giant walk in shower and free standing bath.
We waited for the shopping that had been preordered to arrive and fajitas were on the menu for night one, a classic crowd pleaser. We have some excellent cooks in our friend group and these did not disappoint, I am not sure I have had food that was Aga cooked before but it was excellent and we did not run out of cheese or guac so job well done.
Beer and hot tub was also an obvious pre-dinner activity as we had to wait for some people who headed down after work to arrive before the feast could be consumed.
We then investigated the real wood fire in the front room and played a game of Articulate with more drinks, which I did not win and I am not happy about that, my family takes articulate very seriously…
The next morning a few of us got up and went to check out the gym at the spa, which was included in our stay. There was a large pool, which was heated to 29 degrees which was really quite nice; an outdoor hot tub; a sauna; some treatment rooms and the gym. It was small, a few cardio machines, some free weights and a scary weight frame thing that I have never used before because at all my gyms that have had one it is generally monopolised by muscly looking guys and I don’t want to look stupid for not knowing how to use it.
Four of us managed a solid hour session before heading back to the house, where breakfast was just starting to be made after a quick run to the shop.
Breakfast consisted of many brunch classics – bacon, hash browns, avocado, halloumi, toast and scrambled eggs and was delicious and fuelled us up ready for our countryside walk.
Now, it had rained the night before the walk. It was really rather muddy. We soldiered on through various fields, along a brook and over some very questionable looking bridges, all in the name of going to a pub. We walked for an hour and were sort of lost and very very muddy and decided by democratic vote to find the main road and the pub. When we looked online, we realised the pub closed at 2.30. It was 2pm and a 40 minute walk away. Messed up on that one, which was a shame because I love a good country pub and would have liked to try some local cider, but oh well.
We headed back to the house and got prepping for the big Christmas dinner, before donning our swim stuff to head to our 4-6pm slot at the spa. The pool it turns out was a delightful temperature – those few extra degrees make such a difference! and there was a debate on whether the long thin cylindrical swimming floats should be called noodles or woggles (it is woggles FYI). Some people went and spent some time in the sauna but I am personally not a fan of them, it is too hot and makes breathing uncomfortable haha. The rest of us popped outside for a chill in the hot tub, which was actually smaller than the private one at our house weirdly and also the jets didn’t work so it was more like a communal bath, but it did have cool purple lighting. Annoyingly unlike the night before, it was not clear enough to see the stars, which I love to see when I am out of London, you really don’t appreciate being able to see them every night until you’ve lived in a city!
We headed back to the house because some people wanted to start getting ready and others just wanted to go in a hot tub that worked where the alcohol was located. Cooking was conducted and people put finishing touches on secret Santa. I donned my adorable reindeer antlers and made my boyfriend wear the Santa had I bought him which he was thrilled about.
Then it was time for the main event. Everyone who remembered their Christmas jumpers put them on, and then took them off again because it was boiling in the kitchen from all the cooking! Meanwhile, our resident photographer Ian took couples photos of all of us and then of course we all started taking silly photos because us.
The table was laid complete with cute antlers for the prosecco glasses and the food was exquisite. We had veggie versions of stuffing and roasties not cooked in goose fat and then all of the meat. And so much cauliflower cheese it was unreal.
Bradley (@bradbakes – you should check him out on youtube and instagram) had made 2 delicious desserts, a Yule log and a gin and tonic pavlova. Both were so good and I managed to eat a piece of both even after all that food which I was pretty proud of! And frankly after all the activities that day I think we deserved to eat all of that delicious food!
We did secret Santa in the second sitting room (so fancy!) as it was better suited to a more communal atmosphere with the chairs being more in a square than a line as the main one was. The mandatory tub of chocolates – celebrations were also opened.
After that, because we obviously hadn’t had enough food, we had a cheeseboard. Cheeseboards are basically my favourite part of Christmas so I was pretty happy about that, despite being very full.
Due to our hot tub obsession a bunch of us got back in there, whilst others went and played darts and so forth in the games room. Those of us who were hardcore stayed in the hot tub until about midnight and then, after everyone else had gone to bed, had a cheese and port party in the kitchen with the leftover cheese because there was absolutely loads! No regrets.
In the morning we made the same breakfast as the day before which was equally delicious, before heading to the spa again for a final relaxing few hours, before tidying up and leaving.
It was a fantastic weekend and I am glad I have such a good bunch of friends who I got to enjoy it with. It truly got me in the festive spirit and let me unwind from the stress of having started a new very busy job the week before.
If anyone cares to go down to Glastonbury for not the festival but a chill weekend, would thoroughly recommend Woodlands Retreat – if anyone wants to look it up we stayed in Woodlands Farmhouse.