BELLA BARTOCK dives in head first to endure some full-on pampering at one of Croydon’s better sports clubs
Jingle bells might well be the sound usually associated with this time of year. But for those in Croydon looking for a more unusual Christmas present for their partner, then the splish splash of the pool and spa at David Lloyd Purley might be worth considering.
My friend, Claudia de Boozy, and I were given a day-pass to visit there recently. Which for Claudia proved a bit of a problem, because she was parked outside Tesco’s in Purley when she called me, lost and asking for directions. I explained, slowly, that “David Lloyd Purley” is, in fact, “David Lloyd off the Purley Way”. I gave her directions to Stafford Road, though Claudia – who still doesn’t know how to work Google Maps – got lost round the back of Costco.
Eventually, she found me, and the club. We were visiting on a Thursday. It has a large car park, but even in midweek, it can be busy. The club has 6,500 members, with an average of 1,500 visiting every day.
There’s a small shop by reception where you can get a last-minute cossie or shorts, that sort of thing. Claudia decided she must have a sports bra. I have no idea why.
We were given a brief guided tour. The owners have recently spent a small fortune on upgrading and modernising the place, and they have done it to a very high standard, all looking very mittel Europa business hotel. The gym, training and exercise rooms are situated in a vast space along the length of one corridor.
The gym is huge with several of every type of equipment – treadmills, rowing machines and so on, so that there’s no problem with queuing or waiting. You can do a spinning session in a specially designated room or take part in what they call a Blaze class, which is their brand of high-intensity session where a suitably strict trainer makes you do your weights and punch bags to strident dance music. Far too strident for me.
The club says that it is family-friendly with many activities for children and also a creche, which seems a very good idea.
The clue is in the name: apparently, David Lloyd was once a big cheese in the tennis world, so racquet sports are a big thing here, with 17 indoor and outdoor tennis courts and four squash courts.
And they also cater for the whole business powerbroker thing: if you want to fire off a couple of emails while still a bit sweaty from your work-out, you can channel your inner Dragons Den by using their business facilities while waiting for your next pilates class.
Indeed, there’s a whole list of classes to attend, too many to list all of them here, and while Claudia and I were there we decided to join in with the tai chi. I think Claudia thought she was going to get a cuppa and a biscuit, she seemed a little disappointed as we joined a short queue outside Studio 1.
By the time the class was about to start, the queue had grown to about 20 people (just three of them men). Someone, a regular by the sounds of it, said there had been just six people at the same class last week, so this was going to be busy.
I was reminded of school gym classes as I fetched my mat. The instructor spoke in a calm and soothing voice. She did her best to create the right atmosphere, using tranquillity music and incense. But a fire door was left open, and we could hear some incongruous banging and clanging from someone working out nearby. One class member eventually had a clever idea of closing the door.
This was a large, bright room, but with so many of us attending, it was at times difficult to keep an eye on our teacher who was wending her way through the room.
After three repetitions of a cycle of various positions, we were beginning to feel familiar with some of the moves, but before we could congratulate ourselves on the fluidity of a fourth repetition, it was meditation time. Our leader spoke gently while we lay on our mats with eyes closed, a blue crystal on the forehead and a red one on the pelvis to realign our chakras.
It’s a shame we were so close to the sound system, as we couldn’t hear what the instructor was saying for the tranquillity music. It didn’t seem to matter, it was all rather relaxing. With our chakras in the right place, Claudia and I headed off for a spot of lunch.
The café is large, bright and comfortable and resembles a high-class motorway service area. Some bizarre misunderstanding meant that Claudia’s asparagus, walnut and Italian cheese dish appeared as three asparagus spears on the side of my Thai chicken soup. This was rectified, just with pine nuts in the place of walnuts. The soup was tasty, though.
Suitably fortified, we headed off for a hard afternoon of doing very little. We left the long corridor of exercise and headed for the women’s changing rooms, which lead to a world of water and relaxation.
The changing area is large and well-equipped, providing roomy showers, body wash and proper hairdryers, so you don’t have to stick your head under the hand dryer. Large towels are provided at reception, but it’s worth asking for more than one or taking your own. It’s a long way to go in a damp swimming costume once your first towel gets damp.
We changed into swimming costumes. Mine is more than half my age and hasn’t seen the light of day or been in contact with water since flower encrusted swimming caps were in fashion. It was fit for the purpose of this afternoon, though. We eased into the jacuzzi, which was the temperature I like for my bath.
The water pressure is pleasant on your back, or indeed whatever body part you may present. Claudia settled in, while I decided to go off and brave the family pool, 1.2 metres depth and a cool, but pleasant temperature. I took the plunge. I didn’t even wince.
I progressed to the adult pool. This is a 25-metre long, 1.3 metres deep, three-lane pool, with two of them designated as “Medium” and “Fast”. I picked the unnamed one on the left. Suffice to say, Anita Lonsbrough is not going to be feeling threatened by my distorted breaststroke.
There was also a small sauna and a eucalyptus steam room at the poolside, but before I’d done enough to re-earn my 50 yards certificate, a freshly simmered Claudia rejoined me and it was time to hit the spa.
You enter by hovering your pass over a sensor that opens a glass gate, a kind of New Age wardrobe door to Narnia.
This really does lead to another world.
The temperature here is warm, the lighting subdued with a warm, gentle and futuristic colour glow from various rooms and facilities.
The spa has four saunas, three steam rooms, water pools and relaxation showers and areas.
The Finnish sauna is the hottest at 80-88 degrees. At my stage of life, I’m already hot enough, thank you very much, but these things must be tried. Surprisingly I found myself happily sitting in this furnace for more than the 30 seconds I thought it would take to reach my threshold.
After your sauna, you can choose between a peppermint or rainforest experience shower, or do both. You can go hot or cold.
The Himalayan Salt sauna features a wall of Himalayan salt. This one’s a little less hot at 72-80 degrees. The background music in the spa is soothing and of either the classical or tranquillity genre.
Time to cool down, we stepped into the large Salt Water Hydro Pool which is set on a reasonably vigorous wash cycle. You can sit up or recline while the water froths up around you and pummels your kidneys. There’s also a kind of ruthless power jet shower to wake you up.
Our next move was to the Amethyst Crystal steam room.
This aromatic room is infused with rosemary and patchouli and features an amethyst stone which stands like a sci-fi totem. The amethyst had been vandalised twice in the previous couple of weeks. We couldn’t really get our heads around the idea of vandals in a spa, but this is Croydon. This was Claudia’s favourite.
We then retired to the heated beds by what they call their “living wall”, a wall of plants that breathe in indoor air and exhale a detoxed version. The beds look rigid and unyielding hard, but we were assured that they’re ergonomically curved and heated to a very cosy temperature. When you get on they’re actually incredibly comfortable.
It had been a hard day already, and I found myself drifting off in no time, waking myself up by the sound of my own snoring. Fortunately, the unintrusive rumble of the Salt Water Hydro Pool meant that no one else noticed. I think.
I didn’t worry when I looked round to see Claudia had disappeared from her bed. I knew she was in the Amethyst Crystal Room.
For the masochistic, there’s also an ice-cold plunge pool. We went no further than dipping our bunions in. You can also rub yourself with ice from the ice fountain to get your circulation going. Claudia expressed her disappointment when there was no mid-afternoon G&T into which she might add some of the ice.
A Dry Deep relax room offers four suspended cocoon-like hammocks. They’re a little tricky to get into, but it’s worth persevering. The hammock swings and spins gently with your movements. It must be something like this when you are a baby in the womb.
Meanwhile, Claudia was still trying and failing to climb in. After falling out once too often, she flounced away. I knew she’d gone to the Amethyst Crystal room.
To mix things up a little, I moved on to the Citrus Steam room.
There’s also an outdoor spa area with another a jacuzzi spa pool, a Swedish log sauna and sun loungers.
You can move freely from one pleasant sensory experience to the next, and during the course of the afternoon, we tried the full range (apart from the ice plunge pool) several times. Time is irrelevant here, until you leave and discover you’ve spent many more hours than anticipated lost in a world of relaxation and chill.
The spa is about cleansing, refreshing, restoring and appeals to four senses. The only thing we didn’t do in there was eat. The décor is modern, clean and unfussy yet warm and inviting.
We did drag ourselves out eventually, with Claudia commenting that all the staff we’d encountered throughout the day were friendly and helpful.
The place is open most days, from 7.30am until 9.30pm, and its members have a host of social events organised for them there, as well as the sporting competitions you’d expect. There’s a full programme of tennis tournaments, singles and doubles, junior squash coaching (a 14-week course for beginners costing £154), half-term swimming lessons for kids, and spreadsheets chock-full of adult and children’s classes, from run club to body combat to dance.
There’s a membership offer available now at David Lloyd Purley, available until December 14, in which you can have a free trial fortnight, provided you sign up for a year’s membership.
Which is not cheap: there’s a £100 joining fee, plus £165 per month for “Platinum Spa”, with full access to all the facilities and the spa. Access to just the gym, pools and studios at off-peak times is the joining fee plus £60 per month. Children’s memberships are much cheaper.
Once we’d used the power hair-dryers and had packed away our things heading for the car park, I noticed Claudia scoop up an application form and slip it into her handbag.
“I know what he’s getting for Christmas,” she said, with what I can only describe as a Priti Patel smirk on her face. “Such a change from a pair of slippers or another set of Marks and Sparks pyjamas.”
If, on a midweek morning in January, you spot a woman of a certain age laid out, asleep in the Amethyst Crystal room, you’ll know who it is.
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