With views to die for, fine dining, al fresco pizza oven, a fully equipped gym and a spa to seriously indulge your mind and body, it is a wonder that so few locals seem to realise that the new Hawkchurch Resort & Spa is open to members of the public as well as residents.
Reopened in its new form as a Darwin Escapes resort last December, the former caravan park now has luxury (and they really ARE luxury) lodges ranging from 1 to 4 bedrooms, sited around spacious grounds overlooking the countryside between Hawkchurch and Axminster in East Devon. These are obviously aimed at the holiday market, and Darwin Escapes parks have a loyal following up & down the country, but they would also be great for guest accommodation, if you are planning a big Christmas, wedding or just can’t quite bear to have the in-laws in the house!
As far as locals are concerned, the main attraction is the main lodge. Decorated in a modern hunting lodge style, there is a very smart bar & restaurant, with a log fire for the winter and extensive outdoor eating area, complete with pizza oven. This is fired up every Friday, Saturday, Sunday & Monday, weather permitting, from 12 noon. Pizza prices range from £6.95 to around £10. The Beeches Restaurant is fine dining, with a few lighter lunch options and a Sunday Lunch. The bar does happy hour cocktails 5.30-6.30pm, and the restaurant is open to non-residents, including a function room available for hire. (This is also used as a conference room). Costa Coffees are available all day if you just want to pop in and investigate.
The gym is also open to non-residents, and includes use of the hydrotherapy pool with its multiple jets and sauna and steam room. It has cardio equipment and free weights and when I visited was manned by a really charming guy, who was very friendly and knowledgeable. At the time of writing, there is a special offer of a £10 taster session including access to the gym and hydro pool areas, so it’s easy to go and see what you think. It would certainly be a smart place for a gym membership, and a nice alternative to the main leisure centre gyms in the towns.
The Ezina Spa offers treatments from Aromatherapy Associates, and include facials, massages, wraps, gel nails, pedicures and manicures, and includes a pregnancy package which I always thought would make a lovely present for an expectant mum, as all other presents always seem to be for the baby! I am not a spa goer by habit, but some of the treatments, especially the facials and massages, could definitely tempt me!
Having driven past the old caravan park regularly for years, I saw the new lodges and facilities being delivered (and may have cursed occasionally at another ‘house’ blocking the lane!), but I had no idea of the scale of transformation that was taking place behind the hedges. The lodges are very well spaced out, with their own decks (some with hot tubs), and the grounds are spotlessly kept.
I have friends who live in the area, and I can see it being a great central meeting point, sometimes for coffee, sometimes for pizza, or when miracles happen, sometimes for the gym! It’s handy to have somewhere, especially in the summer, that doesn’t involve doing battle with the hordes in Lyme Regis, or the traffic on the A35. For visitors to the area, it’s another option for dinner or lunch, and I’m guessing the setting is a perfect sunset spot. If you want to combine a visit with a walk, it is only a stone’s throw from Lamberts Castle hill fort, or Hawkchurch, a lovely village with a very pretty church and country pub.
All in all, I’d recommend a visit, as it’s quite unlike anywhere else in the area, and will offer something a little different to the area for both visitors and locals alike.