There was a time when a chunky plastic hot tub in the back garden was the height of sophistication. But thanks to their soaring popularity among footballers and the nouveau riche of suburbia, these disco light-bedecked, chemically filtered tubs are now viewed by many as being a bit, well, naff.
Instead, the middle classes have been quietly cottoning on to an achingly cool Scandinavian version — wood-fired, freshwater hot tubs.
Only this week, former prime minister David Cameron took delivery of a six-seat, two ton, £8,000 wood-fired tub, hand-crafted in Derbyshire and installed in the grounds of the family’s Cornish clifftop retreat.
Made from cedar wood and stainless steel, these gorgeous tubs don’t use electricity or chemicals, are filled from the tap and heated via an inbuilt wood-burning stove with steel flue. Best of all, say owners, they’re fun in all weathers.
Here, Sadie Nicholas meets the wood-fired hot tub devotees…
THANK GOODNESS FOR HOT TUB FRIDAYS
Project manager Mark Osborne, 60, lives in Nottinghamshire with wife Jacqueline, 50, a furniture design administrator. They have four children. He says:
Jacqueline and Mark Osborne, from Nottinghamshire, spent £3,000 on their hot tub from Sweden and now love unwinding with a gin and tonic under the stars
Most people look forward to sinking into a warm bath at the end of the working week, but Jacqueline and I have something better. In our house, every Friday is ‘Hot Tub Friday’. We unwind in the warm water, nursing a gin and tonic under the stars.
We live in a perfectly ordinary three-bed semi, but our garden is something special. I bought our wood-fired hot tub on a whim last August, and it’s changed our lives.
I got the idea when we were on holiday in Malaysia last year, and were lucky enough to have a hot tub on the decking outside our room. We were sitting in it enjoying a drink one night when I said to Jacqueline: ‘Why haven’t we got one of these at home?’
Their tub is made from cedar wood and has an integral wood-burning stove. Mark, pictured with wife Jacqueline, said it weighs two tons when filled up with water
She and the kids thought I was mad when I ordered one from a Swedish company called Skargards.com for £3,000. I pointed out that nobody would think anything of me spending far more than that on a car or kitchen.
Our tub is their four-seater ‘Panel’ model, made from cedar wood with an integral wood-burning stove and steel flue. Although delivery from Sweden was included in the price, manoeuvring it into the back garden was a mission.
In the end we had to take down part of my neighbour’s fence and call on all the able-bodied men in the street to help lift it.
It weighs two tons when filled from the tap via the hosepipe. There are no chemicals, electricity or wires, and the stove is cleverly designed so it heats the water evenly.
You just pop the logs in — we use air dried birch as it’s more sustainable —light it and wait around 90 minutes.
The couple, pictured enjoying their tub, said they use it on Friday nights and that the water is still warm enough for a quick dip while they drink their coffee on Saturday morning
It’s got a thermometer and in cold weather I check it from the kitchen using binoculars. Once it reaches 37 degrees, we hurtle down the garden and get straight in.
We empty the water after every few uses, give the inside a wipe with disinfectant and sweep the ashes from the stove. Before Hot Tub Fridays, we used to flop onto the sofa with a drink and watch Netflix.
Now, we’re out in the fresh air all year round. It forces us to put down our mobile phones, chat, and marvel at sights we never noticed before, such as shooting stars and all the birds.
If we put the lid on before we go to bed, on Saturday mornings it’s still warm enough for us to sit in it with a coffee after breakfast. We’ve used it every weekend since it arrived, even through the worst of winter. It’s our perfect escape.
WE HAVE ‘BOARD MEETINGS’ IN OURS
Business owner Jo Biker, 44, lives in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, with husband Matt, 43, who owns a haulage company, and their children, Nell, 10, and William, nine. Jo says:
Jo Biker, pictured with her son William, uses her hot tub no matter the weather after investing £8,000 in it two years ago
It was cold and wet last weekend, but I spent four cosy hours luxuriating in our wood-fired hot tub, a glass of wine in hand, immersed in the spectacular views over our 3.5 acre paddocks.
People assume hot tubs are just for sunshine. But the colder and wetter it is outside, the more romantic the feeling of sinking into the warm water, which is heated to 38 degrees by the stove with a flue built into the side.
There are lots of cheap and cheerful wooden hot tubs on the market but they get grotty pretty quickly. So two years ago, we invested £8,000 in our wood-fired version from a company called Bathing Under The Sky.
Made from cedar, it comfortably seats six and should last up to 20 years. It takes 90 minutes to fill using a hosepipe, then we drop dried logs into the top of the stove and set them alight.
Business owner Jo, pictured, said the tub can comfortably seat six and should last up to 20 years. Her tub takes 90 minutes to fill using a hosepipe
When friends stayed at her home last year they spent the entire visit in the wooden tub
A wheelbarrow-and-a-half of logs keeps it going over the weekend. It takes around three hours to heat on a warm day and four in chilly weather.
The water stays clean for three dips without any need for chemicals or filtration. After that, we simply let the water drain away. I just swill it out with a gentle, eco-friendly disinfectant and it’s ready to be filled again.
It’s the star attraction when we have friends to stay; last summer when friends we hadn’t seen for years came, we abandoned all plans for days out and spent the whole time in the tub.
Matt and I joke that we have our marital board meetings in it when the children are in bed. One of our most magical moments was on New Year’s Eve 2017 when we sat in it watching the snow falling and fireworks going off. William’s got a friend sleeping over soon so I’ll be getting it ready for them to use — no matter the weather!
ONE ISN’T ENOUGH, SO I BOUGHT TWO
Susan Green, 58, is a businesswoman and lives in Hulme End, Derbyshire, with her daughters, Amy, 22, and Sophie, 21. She says:
Susan Green, pictured with her daughter Amy, loved her cedar wood-fired hot tub so much she bought another one which could be used by guests at her Mongolian yurt
A plastic hot tub full of chemicals would never do for me, and I say that as someone with a first class degree in chemistry!
But I adore the cedar wood-fired hot tubs so much I now have two.
Anything else would be at odds aesthetically and environmentally with the countryside that surrounds the converted hayloft and cowshed that’s my home, and also with my own values. Nature and its preservation is very important to me, which is why I have 100 field-mounted solar panels and a biomass boiler.
One of the tubs nestles between my house and the cottage next door. The other sits alongside a Mongolian yurt named Gaia’s Hideaway, which I hire to holidaymakers.
It’s surrounded by hedgerows with panoramic views across the hills, and it fits in perfectly. It’s important to me that whatever I do or build on my land mirrors the surrounding natural beauty.
Susan, pictured with her daughter, said the tub is very peaceful and she loves using it in cold weather. Each of her hot tubs cost around £6,000 and can take two hours to fill using a hose
That’s the tub I tend to use, and when I sit in it on a starry night and close my eyes, it transports me to a very peaceful place.
I love to be in there in cold weather when the steam rises up to keep my head warm, and there’s the lovely smell of the eco-certified wood burning as smoke rises out of the steel flue.
I bought the first one two years ago and the second late last year, both from Forestflame.co.uk. They each cost around £6,000 and hold 1,700 litres of fresh water — they take about two hours to fill using a hose — and have steps, and seats for up to six people.
There really isn’t much to it when it comes to getting the fire going, emptying the water after a few uses and giving them a clean.
Cleaning the tub is simple and they do not rely on chemicals. Susan said her daughters also love taking a dip when they visit
In fact, their simplicity and the natural, fresh water bathing experience they provide is a huge part of their appeal, especially when you consider that plastic hot tubs often have the same water in them for months because they rely on chemicals and filtration.
It’s a wonderful way to feel connected with nature and also to my daughters, who love to get in with me when they’re around.
It helps them to de-stress from work and studies, and in such a peaceful environment we find that inspiring chatter about everything from holidays to business ideas flows freely. But I’ve noticed they both beat a hasty retreat when it comes to cleaning them!
IT’S PERFECT FOR PARTIES
Alison Fox, 54, owns a furniture company with her husband Peter, 56. They live in Staffordshire with their two children aged 20 and 22. Peter is also co-founder of Forestflame.co.uk, which made David Cameron’s hot tub. Alison says:
Peter Fox, pictured with his wife Alison, made his wood-fired hot tub in 2007 and former PM David bought one of his tubs recently
Our red cedar hot tub has done wonders for our family life and the four of us regularly climb in for a good catch-up. In fact, we’ve often had three generations in it at once because my parents, who are in their 80s, adore it, too.
They live three miles away and if we’re filling it up, I’ll ring and tell them that it’ll be ready for them to join us in a couple of hours.
Wallowing in the warm water helps ease their aches and pains — it’s basically like having an enormous, stress-relieving bath with the added bonus of loved ones to chat to.
We didn’t know David Cameron had bought one of Peter’s hot tubs until we saw the news, but there had been a recent order shrouded in mystery where Peter didn’t get to meet the client, even when he delivered it to a large estate in Northamptonshire.
It could have been Cameron’s people who then transported it to Cornwall, or perhaps he bought one of our hot tubs second-hand. Who knows?
Alison, pictured reading inside the tub with her husband, said there’s something magical about the steam rising into crisp, cold air as bats and owls swoop around
Last week it was reported in the Angle News that David Cameron had bought a £8,000 posh tub
Peter and his friends, Rory and Nick, made their first wood-fired hot tub in 2007 after Nick and his wife visited friends who had imported a Swedish tub.
He and Peter reckoned they could combine their carpentry skills to make sustainable, eco-friendly hot tubs that were superior in quality yet affordable.
We had one of the prototypes for years, but last October Peter built me a new one: two metres in diameter and 90cm high. It comfortably seats six, though after a few glasses of wine at parties we’ve been known to squeeze in a few extras!
Our tub is in the back garden of our stone-built house, overlooking fields on one side and the village on the other. I love nothing more than immersing myself in the water on a frosty night.
Peter prefers using it in barbecue season, but there’s something magical about the steam rising into crisp, cold air as bats and owls swoop around. One of my fondest memories is from a snowy night when two ducks waddled up from the River Hamps that runs alongside our garden to look at us.
All it takes is a bit of kindling and paper to get the fire going, then you just have to keep giving it a poke and feed it an extra log or two every so often to keep the temperature at 39 degrees. It doesn’t matter how cold it is; we stay toasty warm.