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Have kids? Have a pamper!

Hmmm, you’ve reached an older feature - let’s get you up to date! Read our latest Beauty features here.

I’m much of a control freak to let other writers loose on my lovely little blog, but there are times, dear friends, when I have no choice. For how to review an Under-5s club when your own midgets are all doing their times tables at school?

Luckily for me, my friend Kerry Potter lives locally – here she is, above, and just sooooo happens to be Contributing Editor to Elle (she’s the one who flies off interviewing the celebs *grrrr*). Even better, as you can see, she has an ankle biter, so she’s stepped into Muddy shoes and reviewed it for our delectation. Here you go, and thanks Kerry. x



“Would you like to review a swish family private members club, where your son can play and you can have a pampering session?” asked Hero. After thinking it through for approximately 0.5 seconds, I find myself excitedly gunning up the M40, to Sanctum in Beaconsfield, my two-year-old Max in tow.

The thing with being at home with small children is that as lovely, fun and rewarding as it can be, it’s not exactly relaxing, is it? After five years of balancing a full-throttle job with looking after two little ‘uns, I’ve reached a point where reclining in the dentist’s chair with a drill in my mouth constitutes precious me-time. When else do you get to life down in the middle of the day, after all?

The views from  Sanctum

The views from Sanctum


Sanctum, opened in January by former marketing executive Antonia Joyce, is as much for mums (and dads and grandparents) as it is for pre-school children – and that’s its beauty. The location is both pretty and convenient to reach – it’s based in a converted barn on farmland, among bluebell woods, just off junction 2 of the M40, although it’s remarkably peaceful considering you’re only minutes from the motorway. Max made a beeline for the big selection of toys – he especially loved the blackboard-topped table and chalk (furniture you’re allowed to draw on – yes!) and the giant Connect 4.

There’s an extensive timetable of classes seven days a week – Max tried a brilliant Noizee Parka Music class, run by a lady so full of beans she made Mr Tumble look lazy. They sang, danced, played musical instruments, wafted a silk parachute around, balanced bean bags on their heads and so on. Parents can either join in or perch on the stylish mid-century modern sofas and drink coffee.


Antonia understands that her clientele like the nice things in life, and motherhood hasn’t changed that desire– the café is excellent (no lukewarm tea in plastic cups à la your average village hall class here) and I “reviewed” a slice of excellent courgette and lemon cake (the things I do). That said there’s no la-di-da snottiness here – everyone is chatty and I noticed a lot of friendly professional networking going on. Many women who attend run small businesses, while caring for their children. One of the mums told me she sometimes brings her laptop and works while her child plays. The attention to deluxe detail extends to the décor – you feel like you’re in a chic living room, while the Cowshed products in the toilets are more Soho House than Church Hall.


And then there’s the pampering – in the barn opposite Sanctum is beauty salon Hillmotts, where I enjoyed a body scrub treatment (£55). Dead, winter skin sloughed off, quick rinse under the shower, moisturizing oil massaged in, and, bingo, I was ready for summer, limbs soft and glowy. I can’t tell you how nice it was to have a morning where I got to do something deliciously decadent, and my son had fun too – how rare to combine both. You can either book a onsite nanny to look after your child during your treatment or bring a friend so you can look after each other’s children while you take it turns to be pampered.

Across the courtyard.... and there's the beauty retreat!

Across the courtyard…. and there’s the beauty retreat!

Sounds expensive, you’re thinking. Well, it’s not cheap but like most things in life, you pretty much get what you pay for. Antonia offers two tiers of membership, silver (£45) and gold (£85) with different levels of access. However, you can try a class before you commit, there are often offers on bundles of classes, and the occasional Friday afternoon Pamper & Play sessions are good value at £15 – you get a 15 minute treatment slot for a manicure, massage or similar, while your child plays alongside you. The fact that some members live up to a 45-minute drive away shows that the demand for something a little more chi-chi than your bog-standard mother and baby groups is strong.

And my son’s verdict? He repeatedly bellowed “NO! STAY!” as I dragged him out of the barn. I know how he feels.

Sanctum is currently offering a bundle of any 3 classes for £25, between 23 May – 3 June.


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