Bathing under the Sky Outdoor Spa: the cold truth
The experience of al fresco bathing in Cambridgeshire.
You don’t need to be in Finland to enjoy the experience of al fresco bathing. The idea of immersing oneself in a hot cauldron of water is becoming more common place and is ideal for the unpredictable British weather. So when I heard that an outdoor pop up spa had opened in Bourn, South Cambridgeshire, I grabbed a bunch of adventuresome girlfriends and hotfooted it over there to find out what it’s all about.
Meet Bart and Alexandra –they are the brains behind Bathing Under the Sky which has grown into a family business involving their daughters also. They started out in 2010 and have since then built up a successful business selling and hiring out their fleet of wood-fired cedar hot tubs and saunas. July and August is a manic time for them as they are regulars on the major summer festival circuit including: the Wilderness, Womad, the Secret Garden Party and the Isle of Wight Festival.
The outdoor spa is found in a beautiful rural setting close to Bourn golf course. Don’t be put off by the thought of gold balls flying over your heads, the site is located on the other side of the road so you’re well clear of any putting activity.
Here we all are looking fabulous and just look at these views, and before you ask – cozzies are ON.
On the day we visited the sun was out and it was England at it’s finest, although a tad windy. I was reassured by Alex that the spa experience is equally good in the rain, if not better, and although I wouldn’t be put off by drizzle – isn’t everything better when ths sun’s out.
There are eight wood-fired cedar hut bubs and a barrel sauna, all made in the UK from redwood cedar. The hot tubs are kept around a toasty 38° but if you want the heat turned up a little, as we did, just ask for more wood to be added. Bart, Alex and her team are really helpful, they’ll bring water, bubbles, a G&T or soft drinks to your tub.
The barrel sauna operates as any normal sauna and it’s beautiful shape resembles an old-fashioned gypsy wagon.
The authentic tradition of Nordic spas uses the contrast of hot and cold water treatments to help relieve stress, soothe the skin and muscles and improve circulation, to mention a few benefits. Following in that tradition there’s a cold water tub for those brave enough to jump from hot to downright freezing water – the things I do for you Muddy readers!
I was reassured by Alex that the process of hot – cold – hot is a wonderful experience (*cough*, really?). The advice given was to go from the hot tub into the sauna and then plunge straight into the cold water – no time for toe dipping. We did it! Admittedly accompanied by screams and shrieks (we were in there for seconds) but the end result does leaave your skin feeling prickly and alive – definitely invigorating but I couldn’t lounge in it like this hardy chap is.
The spa site has been designed with fire pits, deck chairs for relaxing and giant games dotted around if you are brave enough to face the elements in your towel – I guess they will come into their own with warmer weather.
There are hot drinks and home cooked food available (not in the hot tub I hasten to add). Don’t expect a five course meal but rather light bites: samosas, quiches, sausage rolls, pizza and cakes – all freshly made and very delicious.
The hygiene element was a big question for all of us – we interrogated Alex about how they kept the water clean and sanitised, Everyone has to shower before and after using the hot tub and water is drained every evening and refilled the following day. There is some chlorine added to the water but not in strong amounts. Alex explained that the hygiene of the spa is paramount and she said she is happy to be seen to rule with a rod of iron in that deparment.
There’s a changing marquee for each sex, lockers for anything that you don’t want to lug around with you and hairdryers to tame the frizzy barnet – helpful if you’re heading on somewhere else afterwards. Oh, did I mention that this one’s for the grown ups – kids playing tag around the hot tubs is not conducive to relaxation – so farm out the kids and enjoy some adult time.
Great attention has been given to the process of how you navigate your way around the spa, bearing in mind it’s in the middle of a field. Carpet covered platforms around the entire site have been fitted so you’re not knee high in mud – I wouldn’t bring the Jimmy Choos however I’d stick to your vans or flip-flops.
If you don’t fancy the spa idea but like the idea of a wood-fired hot tub in your garden they can be bought for £5,590, re-conditioned ones are available to purchase at the end of the season.
Looking to impress your mates or business clients – what about the world’s first and only Hot Tub Bus – wowzers hey?! It has three hot tubs on the upper deck and the sauna and changing facilities downstairs.
So, my first review of an outdoor spa and I can honestly say I loved it. I do enjoy the outdoors – it’s a rustic experience and we were blessed with a beautiful day but the proof is in the pudding and I came home beautifully relaxed and cleansed and promptly crashed out on the sofa for an hour.
Good for: camping, outdoorsy types, groups of friends looking for something different and frazzled couples seeking relaxation and a chance to unwind.
Not for: kids (you need to be over 18) and those seeking a luxury 5* spa experience – this isn’t Babington House and if you’re not keen on embracing nature and a rustic experience you won’t stick around.
£: a full spa package costs £28, the sauna package including the cool pool is £13.
Bourn Golf & Leisure, Toft Road, CB23 2TT, bathingunderthesky.com