Spa de Sal in Brentford opened two years ago. Two years exactly to the day as it happens, that I went in to meet founder and owner Matilda Goes (pronounced not like the verb, but Go-ez, it’s a Portuguese name).
I’d come for an hour of relaxing salt therapy, and got chatting with some of her regulars. Peter McNamara, an executive producer from Sky, had happened across the salon walking past it one lunchtime and has been coming since it opened.
“My mother and father live by the sea, so I know the benefits of salty air. I go for long walks, for two or three hours whenever I’m there, and it sets you up for the week”. Peter does not have particular breathing difficulties normally. He doesn’t come because of any illness, but just for a sense of general well-being.
Photographs above: Matilda Goes and clients relaxing in her salt spa
Peter had come across the concept of salt therapy first in Eastern Europe, which is where Matilda also first learned of it. Salt spas have been part of the culture there for a long time, after it was noticed that men who worked in the salt mines didn’t seem to get colds or respiratory illnesses. They were introduced to Britain about twelve years ago and there are still only a handful here, the next nearest being Walthamstow. Matilda has a loyal following from the Eastern European communities of Ealing who are already aware of the benefits.
It’s been a gradual process of building up her clientele, but once people find her salon, they mostly remain faithful, and come from as far afield as Maidenhead, Gerrard’s Cross and Islington. I met Doug Hobbs from Isleworth, who’s been coming for over a year. He has a life long condition which means his lungs fill with fluid, and started coming when his doctor told him he couldn’t go on holiday, following a bout of pneumonia. “I came here and found my breathing was easier and the doctor gave me the all-clear, so we had a lovely couple of weeks driving across Europe to the Baltic”.
Photographs above: Doug Hobbs with Matilda and the consultancy and massage rooms
Doug, who is 75, tries to come weekly, especially since having a triple heart by-pass, as he finds he can breathe much easier. “Straight after I have to have a sleep, but then I find I can breathe more deeply. I’m able to clear my lungs, so I have more energy to do things”.
Matilda set up the business because she herself suffers from Bronchiectasis, a respiratory condition which causes chronic coughing. Although she is dependent on inhalers, she’s not a huge fan of reliance on mediation. During a bout of bronchitis she was looking online for anything that might help, came across a salt spa and decided to try it out. She found it helped her and decided to open a spa of her own. This is her first business, having spent nearly thirty years in corporate sales working for airlines such as Lufthansa, KLM and Emirates.
When I tried it out, I found it very relaxing. You go into a white room, with salt, like snow, a few inches deep on the floor and encrusting the walls. You sit in a comfy chair with your feet up and relax. Some sleep, I read my book, to the unintrusive accompaniment of subtle mood music. Some people take children, but you can choose not to share your session with children. I did feel, like Peter, that I was breathing more deeply afterwards.
Matilda’s regulars include singers who want to relax their vocal chords and athletes who want to repair muscles more quickly, and people who come just because they want to de-stress. You are offered a herbal infusion afterward, and are welcome to sit around drinking and relaxing until you are ready to rejoin the wet, windy November day outside.
I am delighted to say that the Spa de Sal has joined The Chiswick Calendar’s Club Card scheme and is offering 25% off a first session. If you start going regularly, Matilda offers other discounts on packages, depending on the number of sessions. She also sells gift vouchers and those attractive salt crystal lamps.
Spa de Sal is at 5 London Rd, Brentford TW8 8JB, Tel: 0208 582 8971.
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See also: Why everyone should try meditation