Last weekend, we headed over to Surrey for Nature Spa UK’s mobile sauna launch event in the tranquil surroundings of Divers Cove. With murmurs of a second lockdown gaining momentum in the lead-up to the event, the lure of a Halloween sauna followed by a lake dip proved too tempting to pass up. Here’s our round-up of how the day unfolded.
Despite being advertised at fairly short notice (just seven days prior), tickets for Nature Spa UK’s launch event on October 31 were snapped up in a matter of hours, highlighting just how much of an appetite there is for authentic sauna experiences here in the UK. The demand was so great, in fact, that tickets for a second day were later made available also.
Located in a magical woodland setting at Divers Cove in Godstone, which offers open water reservoir swimming to its members throughout the year, the hosts had found the perfect spot to unveil their new wood-fire sauna trailer – and with the dark nights drawing in and temperatures falling, late autumn seemed the perfect time to head inside for some much-needed heat relief.
A warm welcome
Upon arrival, one of the event’s hosts provided me with a warm welcome and a full tour of the site, including the reservoir with its mystically blue waters; and despite the torrential rain and flash-flooding that deluged us through most of the morning, the prospect of a dip later in the day still seemed rather enticing!
With a little time to wait before my allocated sauna session at 2.30pm, I was invited into a nearby cabin serving all manner of complimentary hot drinks and various other treats – including pumpkin soup for those keen on making the most of the Halloween celebrations – which was a really nice touch and provided extra added value to the already very reasonable entrance fee of £15.
I decided to take shelter here for the foreseeable future, and this also gave me the chance to speak with several fellow attendees who had already enjoyed some time in the sauna. Although there were a sizeable amount of Divers Cove swim club members present, who were curious about this new arrival on the site’s grounds; there was also a strong presence from sauna enthusiasts and those associated with the British Sauna Society, many of whom had travelled from far and wide to be here for the occasion.
When discussing other desirable sauna locations in the area, the recurring locations that seemed the most popular were the Beach Box sauna on Brighton seafront, along with the New Docklands Steam Baths up in Canning Town. Yet there was a palpable desire to experience something new, and Nature Spa really hit the right note with this offering tucked away in a truly charming spot out in the middle of the countryside. Whilst slightly more difficult to reach via public transport, perhaps, it was certainly worth going the extra mile for.
The afternoon heats up
As my 2.30pm timeslot arrived, I made use of the changing rooms provided opposite the sauna and threw on a dressing gown provided by the hosts whilst the clean-down from the previous session was taking place – which, by all accounts, seemed as thorough as possible, and the facility was immaculately clean as we headed inside. Based on the email sent out to guests, it was a smidge unclear as to whether bathing suits were required – I came prepared for either eventuality – but I wisely checked with the hosts and was somewhat relieved to hear that swimwear would be mandatory for these particular sessions (if you book the sauna for a private session, you have free rein to dress down to your heart’s content).
The sauna itself is an authentic wood-fired sauna that seemed to average between 72-80°C, the organisers informed me, and the sauna master standing outside the trailer ensured a constant supply of fresh wood onto the fire to keep us as toasty as possible.
The sauna (with its triple-layer bench design) seems as though it could comfortably host around 20 people or so in normal times; but with social distancing still high on the agenda, this was understandably limited to just eight people, with specific areas crossed out to ensure a safe and spacious environment for all.
The heat was intense yet comfortable, and after 20 minutes or so of working up a sweat, the bulk of us decided to make the short walk down to the reservoir en masse to test the waters (quite literally). The contrast in temperature provided the desired shock to the system – so much so, that I only actually made it in half-way. Unlike a plunge pool, the opening of the reservoir has a gradual incline, meaning you can take things at your own pace – and even members of the club who were used to swimming in these types of temperatures suddenly found the prospect a lot more daunting without the luxury of a wetsuit!
Looking to the future
After the stressful year we’ve endured, getting a sweat on whilst tucked away in the woods – with rain beating down on the roof of the sauna and candles on the window providing a gentle, calming atmosphere as dusk approached – proved the perfect tonic to a difficult 2020.
You’re entirely free to pop in and out of the sauna at your leisure for the duration of your one-hour session, and it’s surprising just how beneficial and therapeutic the 60-minute window can prove. I absolutely loved the experience and everyone I met was so friendly too, ensuring a calm and laid-back vibe throughout the day.
It’s my understanding that the sauna is to remain on site at Divers Cove for the foreseeable future, and regular sessions are likely to be held every weekend on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays once lockdown restrictions have eased (hopefully in early December). Everyone in attendance was highly enthusiastic about the launch, with many indicating that they would return as soon as possible. And with imminent travel to European spas and saunas looking more and more unlikely by the day, this is surely the perfect alternative.
To keep tabs on the next round of events, be sure to follow @naturespauk over on Instagram.