FANCY something to warm the cockles of your heart and fire-up your innards after the euphoric effect of a bracing dip in the ocean? Try the mobile sauna known as ‘the Warming Wagon’.
“It’s perfect for an outdoor summer,” says its owner, Midleton dad of two, Tadgh O’Driscoll.
“It started off as a fun remedy for myself and my watersporting and work colleagues, and it has now grown into a sanctuary that you and your friends can enjoy in the great outdoors.”
Tadgh is a keen long-distance swimmer and jet surfer and enjoys underwater photography. His day job is director of BlockageBusters, an environmental drain and sewer specialist company based in Cork.
“I lived in Germany and Denmark when I was 21,” says Tadgh. “There is a strong sauna culture in the countries. After studying anatomy and physiology I worked as a personal trainer in the Old Jury’s Hotel, Cork. I loved the pool there and I used the nice sauna after work.
“The idea of a Lido project in Cork would be incredible and make the benefits of water accessible to everyone.”
Tadgh believes water is therapeutic.
“Researching the area of underground robotics in Finland, I realised sauna culture is central there. People met in the sauna and chatted, formed friendships and relationships, and formed their own community. It was an incredible connection with people from all walks of life.”
Now that communing with the sea and connecting with nature is becoming more popular, the Warming Wagon, a wood-fired sauna, could be just the place to hit the spot, providing a chill out/warm up with stimulating conversation and a renewal of energy.
Who named the mobile sauna?
“Good question!” says Tadgh. “A childhood pal of my wife’s, Fidelma Griffin, won the naming competition. “Myself and my wife Fennella, thought the The Warming Wagon was perfect.”
The glass-fronted wagon was Scandinavian- inspired, built in Finland and designed in Cork. The mobile sauna regularly pops up at sunrise and sunset at Inch Beach, Roches Point, Fountainstown and Myrtleville.
“People come, swim in the sea, sit in the sauna, share swimming tips and enjoy a snack or a hot drink on the beach,” says Tadgh. “It is very popular. Pre-Covid I had to turn people away,there was so much demand.”
It sounds idyllic.
“To be honest, the reason I got it was for myself so I could go into the sea, then relax and go back in again. It can be very cold long-distance swimming,” says Tadgh. “But groups started coming to the sauna and soon it turned into something fun that we did at the weekends.”
“There are loads of options for people,” adds Tadgh, who, keeping a close eye on Government Covid guidelines, is hoping to accept bookings shortly.
“The sauna can be dropped to your house or you can book it at the beach. Alternatively, we’ve been bringing it out to local beaches so people can book it for an hour. They bring their towels and water and go and sit inside it, then float between it and in the sea.”
Tadgh says the Warming Wagon is all about community, social interaction and wellbeing.
“It became something great! Re-connecting with nature in a safe environment with a huge window to the sea is amazing. It gets so hot in the sauna, people surprise themselves and they run into the cold Celtic sea.”
The sauna/sea experience is invigorating.
“All the neurons start firing!” says Tadgh, whose postgrad is in Mindfulness Based Practice Studies and Research UCC.”
“I was working 90 to 100 hour weeks in my main job it was so busy,” he says. “It was tough having no social life and weirdly the sauna provided one and provided me with a way to relax.
“I’m a vegetarian now,” adds Tadgh, who likes going to the newly-opened Naturally Nutritious on Railway Street for healthy treats for himself and his co-workers. Meeting him outside on a sunny seat there, I can see why.
“I didn’t tell anyone I was going vegetarian,” says Tadgh. “Then one evening my daughter Lola inquired, ‘Daddy, why aren’t you eating meat anymore!”
“I just love the sea and nature all year round,” adds Tadgh. “Curragh woods in Midleton is a favourite spot of mine. It has its own plunge pool in the river there. The icy water boosts well-being, improves circulation and promotes Zen feelings. Going into the sauna boosts your immune system too.
“Currently, the wagon is parked up in my parents’ garden,” says Tadhg. “My mother has back problems and she finds the high temperature of the heat in the sauna does her good.”
She enjoys a bit of company.
“My dad sometimes joins her there!”
So he’s warming to the idea?
“He definitely is!” says Tadgh.
What is the dress code? Do people sit there in their birthday suits?
“Here in Catholic Ireland people tend to keep their boxers on! I prefer to! I was asked by an Austrian girl one night to bring the mobile sauna to the woods. I think there were no clothes involved. I wasn’t there. I popped back with vegetarian sausage rolls and non-alcoholic German beers. “Everyone enjoyed the experience and respected the space.”
Tadgh often drops the Warming Wagon to private houses for occasions such as birthdays.
“And people like the option of booking the sauna for an hour on the beach, costing €120 for four people. Since Covid, we’ve created pods to accommodate four people.”
The Warming Wagon can fit 10 people but with Covid, the maximum number of people is four. “We are extremely safety conscious and the sauna is cleaned down and sterilised thoroughly after each sitting.”
Tadgh conducts his businesses to the highest hygienic and safety standards, adding: “I am a qualified health and safety officer.”
He says the Warming Wagon is a wonderful hobby for him and it is a social experience as much as a physical one. “Meeting people sharing personal stories is amazing,” he adds. “I think the Warming Wagon is a place for like-minded people to come together, connect and open channels of communication.
“The sauna allows for me to incorporate all of those fun things at a beach and introduce people to all different elements and immerse them in nature. We do a lot of charity events too,” says Tadgh. “There’s a lot of positivity out of it and that’s the main thing for me.”
The Warming Wagon is for people from all walks of life who want to explore nature and have a madly alive experience with great conversation; dippers, divers, talkers, walkers, mermaids and mere mortals; all in it together.
To book the Warming Wagon contact Tadgh on Instagram or Facebook. Call 087-2140342.