Discover this secret retreat…

Knowle Grange Health Spa in Wadhurst is currently undergoing an impressive development, which will see both its existing health and holistic offerings enhanced, and also include a new state of the art gym, kitchen and café. Eileen Leahy met its owner and director Carol Barazzone for an exclusive tour to discover more…


Winding carefully down the leafy lanes from Frant to Wadhurst, a sign suddenly appears on my left promoting Knowle Grange Health Spa.

I slow down and drive into the parking area of this charming converted country house, that was once part of the grand Knowle estate just next door and is today a hive of activity. There are diggers, concrete mixers and builders all over the place. The latter are busy walking in and out of a very smart, newly erected barn-style building to the right of the main property carrying bundles of cable wires, flooring and general construction paraphernalia. It would seem there’s lots of exciting development going on at this spa which first opened in 1998.

I head towards the reception area and am greeted by one of Knowle Grange’s extremely friendly beauty therapists who then guides me towards a sun-filled kitchen in the adjoining private house in which I find the spa’s owner and director Carol Barazzone.

“Welcome to Knowle Grange,” she smiles and immediately offers me a cup of coffee.

The first thing the business entrepreneur tells me as we sit down to chat in her kitchen – which is currently doubling up as a prep space while work is being carried out in the new barn – is that she never imagined she’d find herself running a health spa.

“I picked up a copy of the Evening Standard and saw an advert in it for a property for sale in Sussex. It piqued my interest because of its beautiful gardens but also because it said it was a private residence with a health spa. Two of my daughters also live in the county of Sussex – one in Brighton and one in Hove – and although they are nowhere near here when I saw this property I just fell in love with it.”

Carol reveals that was back in 2019 and before putting her home on the market and taking the plunge to buy Knowle Grange she did a lot of research into the area and Tunbridge Wells and decided that she liked what she found very much.

“That was in August 2020, and amazingly even though we were in and out of lockdowns due to Covid, there were no bumps in the road. My house sold quickly and this purchase was pretty stress-free too.”

Having worked in finance in the City for her whole professional life, Carol readily admits that she had no experience whatsoever in running health clubs or spas and has therefore had a lot to learn along the way. But with the help of her 12 regular staff who run the gym, beauty spa and general hospitality side of the business, she has learnt a lot in a relatively short space of time.

“When I got here I just loved the gorgeous gardens.” She goes on to say that she and her loyal gardeners, who have tended the land here for around 20 years, were determined to bring back the outdoor space to its former glory.

And what a job they have done! Not only have they breathed life into a neglected small kitchen garden, which is located behind a newly built private spa salon, they have also salvaged an ailing yet delightful Victorian greenhouse, designed by legendary 19th-century horticulturalist John Weeks, where they have planted all manner of vines, clematis and fruit trees.

“The idea is we can eventually source ingredients to serve in our new café which is currently being built. We will also have a lovely terrace where our members and day guests can enjoy lunch or afternoon tea,” explains Carol.

We head over from the huge greenhouse towards the 12-metre-long outdoor pool, which is filled with natural spring water and boasts a clever telescopic enclosure so it can be used in all seasons. Just by the swimming pool is a beautiful folly which is currently festooned in pretty wisteria and is just one of the areas in which you can enjoy a treatment – whether that’s a massage or a manicure.

Knowle Grange also boasts a number of other relaxation areas which are great if you are going along as a group of friends on a spa day and want a little bit more exclusivity. These are very popular with hen parties Carol says, and the good news is you don’t need to be a member to avail of them.

As we continue strolling through even more gorgeous gardens towards the new barn, Carol tells me that she has employed the services of Ruby’s of London to supply her new café’s cakes and savoury treats. They will be sourced from the bakery’s Tunbridge Wells HQ on Monson Road.

Carol also says that the new gym, which will be in the same building as the café, will be equipped with state-of-the-art, multitasking fitness equipment and that there will be a number of unique exercise classes to choose from, once the barn is officially opened later this month.

“We want to offer our existing members and anyone who is on our waiting list something that’s just a little bit different.”

Currently Knowle Grange’s gym is housed in the main part of the property but this, Carol says, will eventually become the lounge area of the beauty treatment side of the business, which offers Caudalie skincare treatments and also houses a plunge pool and sauna. The boutique establishment’s steam room can be found in Knowle Grange’s smart new changing area which is located in one part of the extensive gardens presumably so guests can quite literally feel at one with nature.

In addition to all that, Knowle Grange also offers its members the services of a qualified osteopath, Timm Smith, from The Back Pain Project who is operating on site. “I’m also very keen to offer things like Reformer Pilates,” adds Carol.

Although there is a lot of change and development currently happening in this stunning part of the East Sussex countryside, just a few minutes’ drive from Tunbridge Wells, Carol explains that this does not mean that she and her team will waiver from delivering a very personal spa experience.

“We are looking to increase our membership quota, which is currently 150, but taking care of course to ensure that the club is not in any way crowded. We want to maintain the ethos of being able to escape here – whether that’s to tone up or simply relax in an atmosphere that is both friendly and private.”

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