We spoke to Debbie Noble about her converted horse box sauna that frequents Cumbrian swimming spots, and how saunas enhance the cold-water swimming experience
Tell us a bit about your swim background.
I grew up in Windermere and I’ve been in or around the lake my whole life. At four years old I fell off the end of a jetty at Miller Ground while overly enthusiastically feeding bread to the ducks. I couldn’t swim and my Dad had to fish me out. Ironically, Miller Ground is now one of my favourite places to swim in the Lake District, along with Coniston and Tilberthwaite.
How does outdoor swimming enhance your life?
I’ve always preferred being outside rather than in – whatever the weather. I’ve had a long-standing battle with challenging health issues, so being outdoors, in a natural environment, has always been something that has helped greatly. Be it up on the fells or out in the lake, it calms the mind and makes things feel less overwhelming.
I swim with my daughter and the dog as I prefer solitude rather than group swims.
What inspired you to start La’al Sauna?
I started making swim kit bags during the pandemic from repurposed lorry curtains. In doing so I joined quite a few swim groups to spread the word and saw a post from someone who had been to a horse box sauna in Worthing. It looked amazing so I tried to find something similar in Cumbria, but there wasn’t anything like it up here.
I was in recovery from breast cancer treatment. There is never a good time to be diagnosed, but to happen during the pandemic was just awful. Being from a creative and making background, I set myself the task of a sauna build project. It was something I could channel my energy into after such a tough time.
I joined the British Sauna Society (yes, there is one) and started asking lots of questions. Then I was put in contact with a Mobile Sauna Family forum – and that’s where the door opened. It was a vast wealth of technical know-how, build specification and knowledge. Many other people had done what I wanted to do so I knew it was possible. The 2023 New Year’s Day Dip was my deadline and I made it – just!
How does a sauna enhance a wild swimming experience?
A wood-fired sauna, set outside in the natural environment, is an amazing experience. It’s the smell of wood smoke, the rain, the lake, the wind… you feel connected to nature. People wild swim because they would rather swim outside as opposed to indoors. It’s the same with a horsebox sauna: you are outside in nature.
What are the benefits of a sauna?
Combined with cold water immersion, a sauna enhances the body’s reactions and you feel even more amazing. People come out of the sauna after combining it with dips in the lake and they are glowing with joy. Everyone leaves feeling positive and with a smile on their face. And for me that feels great.
Where is the sauna and how can I book?
La’al Sauna is currently sited at Another Place, Ullswater with the fells looming in the background. We also have a roll top cast iron bath tub to cool down in. There are mats to stand on made from repurposed Eddie Stobart lorry curtains and a flag made from part tent, part paraglider. So overall it’s a fun spot!
You can read about Another Place, Ullswater in the November 2023 issue of Outdoor Swimmer