‘I call it sauna head – your ego disappears’: how the UK got hooked on heat

From a hut by a Welsh river to a converted horsebox on the beach, saunas are appearing in unlikely spots all over the country

It’s a chilly morning in Walpole Bay, Kent, and I’m waist deep in the sea. Unable to stand it any longer, I wade out and sprint across the sandy beach, where – joy! – a wooden sauna is perched on huge rusty wheels. Modelled on a Victorian bathing machine (appropriately enough, as we’re in Margate, one of the UK’s original seaside resorts) this free community sauna is the baby of Dom Bridges, the founder of local skincare brand Haeckels. “I don’t see it as an elitist pastime,” he tells me. “It’s important to provide healthy spaces to congregate, to build community while also focusing on our mental and psychological health. It shouldn’t be something you have to pay for.”

Locals agree. Volunteer Rosalind Nelson, who opens up every Sunday, says: “Everyone is always in a brilliant mood, because they’ve just swum, so they’re at their best mentally and physically, and they get to look at this wonderful view and warm up.” One user, Carol, tells me that she’s had breast cancer twice and says it’s helped her recovery; another local, Tindara, says: “It just clears your mind completely.”

The Riverside Sauna, Pantperthog, mid-Wales

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