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Woodhall Spa: when calls the trees

On a day where the sun was hidden behind a pale grey sky, we got into the car and left the city behind. Fields and flowers blurred in the background, raindrops streaking across the windows and marking the rush of our pace. Regardless of the poor weather, we were determined to make the most of the day. Well, as much as we could. The rainy conditions tired us somewhat, our minds screaming for cosy blankets and hot cocoa. We were almost tempted to acquiesce. In the end, our desire to accomplish something with the day won out.

Following rolling hills and curved roads, it took us little time to reach Woodhall Spa. When Thomas Hotchkin accidentally discovered a mineral spring in the area in the late 19th century, he developed the land. To attract visitors, Hotchkin developed the Spa Baths and The Victoria Hotel opened in the area. Other hotels followed over the next century, adding to the village’s quaint Victorian aesthetic.

Peaceful and surrounded by nature, Woodhall Spa is a fair blend of pristine Victorian architecture and towering trees. The village works with nature, with many of its roads bending and twisting in cooperation with Mother Nature. A fine example of this is the Teahouse in the Woods and Kinema in the Woods. Both aptly named, the two establishments are surrounded by proud trees, their trunks impressively wide. Leaves rustled against each other in frenzied excitement, the wind whipping through the branches as the rain started to pick up again.

We found refuge in the Teahouse. Warm and inviting, the Teahouse has been in operation since 1903 (excepting a brief period between 2011 and 2014 when it was ‘Ristorante Il Parco’). With booth seating for four and tables for everything else, we took a seat at a square table in the middle of the room. Well spaced, the restaurant was filled with the gentle hum of quiet conversation. Our server, a kind and attentive woman, gave us a few minutes to mull over the menu. I decided on deep fried brie wedges and Elderflower Belvoir. My friend wasn’t hungry, and so ordered a simple coffee and requested a few bites of my meal.

After ordering, the drinks arrived promptly, and the food came much faster than anticipated. Lightly fried, the brie wedges were generous portions that melted in your mouth. Their sweet, subtle taste fused well with the crunchy exterior provided by the frying. Sitting on a bed of fresh vegetables with cranberry sauce, the three elements of the dish came together to create a refreshing, mouthwatering dish. The Belvoir, crisp and light, finished the meal perfectly. Given the disagreeable weather, we decided to forgo the usual jaunt to a bookstore in favour of another form of escapism – the movies.

With half an hour before ‘Finding Your Feet’ was on, we wandered along King George Avenue. A paved road with many a leaf-layered footpath weaving through the trees, it amazed us how quiet it was mere meters from the restaurant. We saw other walkers in the distance, but each kept to our own space, content in our own little worlds. When the rain began to fall again, we headed towards Kinema. Originally serving as a sports pavilion for The Victoria Hotel, Kinema is situated in front of a thicket of trees. On Easter Sunday 1920, The Victoria Hotel burnt down. Two years later, its ruins, the pavilion included, as purchased by Sir Archibald and Lady Weigall. From then on, the pavilion was converted into a cinema.

The interior of Kinema retains the same vintage feel that the exterior exudes. Your feet glide under deep, red carpeting. All the signs are done in various classical styles – from the art deco ‘box office’ sign to the kitschy glass-stained box lights stating ‘Kinema 1’ and ‘Kinema 2’ for the two screens. Inside the screen room, intricate and stunningly realistic paintings grace the walls. Low lighting in the form of imitation flame torches are on either side. The seats, the same deep red of the carpet, are wonderfully plush, moviegoers sinking immediately into their seats with content sighs. Maintaining its classic feel, the movie stops halfway for intermission, allowing viewers to grab snacks, take a restroom break, or chat about the movie. We took this time to eagerly discuss the highlights of the first part of the movie, theorising how it would end.

A self-discovery film about an upper-class woman eking out an identity for herself following her husband’s infidelity, ‘Finding Your Feet’ is a heart wrenching and hilarious film about being true to yourself and appreciating all that life has to offer while you have the time to. We left the film in high spirits, even more determined to live our lives to the fullest and not let a moment pass us by.

The drive back home was spent in comfortable silence as we both mulled over the lessons learnt in Loncraine’s charming British comedy. However you define the best life, it’s important that, rather than seeking out perfection, you reach out for the things that fulfil you, and keep close the people that sustain you.

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