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Britain's first teddy bear hotel opens in Hampshire
LIFE's no picnic for teddy bears these days.
There's the rising cost of honey, the popularity of Teletubbies and other such TV characters - not to mention the stresses and strains from years of cuddling.
But for all those beleaguered bears tired of languishing at the back of the wardrobe, help is at hand thanks to a bizarre holiday first in Hampshire.
Britain's only exclusive getaway destination for teddies has been launched in Beaulieu in the New Forest.
The Bartie Bristle Hotel and Spa offers some of the luxury pampering us humans can only dream of - from scented steam baths to the finest Champagne.
And at £80 a stay, owners can expect the very best for their cherished toys.
The wacky concept was dreamed up by Julie Tatchell who runs the Bear It In Mind collectable shop in Beaulieu High Street.
She said: "Our vision is to create an environment where today's over-stretched urban teddy can escape for a few days to recharge the batteries in surroundings of unashamed luxury.
"At the Bartie Bristle Hotel, we go the extra mile to do whatever it takes to restore every bear to the bright-eyed good looks and shiny coat of its youth."
The price - based on single or double occupancy - includes a pot of honey on arrival, trips to the village pond and a donkey ride. Optional extras include "bear-tox" treatment and limb repairs.
Just an hour and a half from Paddington, the resort is based in the heart of the New Forest - renowned as a centre of excellence for Poohsticks.
After two or three days reclining at the Bartie Bristle Hotel and Spa, every guest returns home with photos and gifts.
The hotel's bear expert, Amanda Middleditch - who once created a teddy look-alike for TV personality Russell Brand - says the holiday is money well spent.
"I think it's good value," she said.
"The bears go home with all their souvenirs and pictures. People really value their toys and so there is definitely a market out there."
The shop is preparing itself for the first annual bear festival, which is due to take place at Beaulieu Village Hall on June 29.
And Julie is hopeful her idea will prove a hit with visitors.
She said: "It's not something we thought of just like that. The idea was born out of needing somewhere for the bears to go while they were being repaired.
"In the end I think the bears go back feeling special and that they have been rewarded for their faithfulness to their owners."