Bad Oyenhausen’s salty springs

Postcards from Bad Oeyhhausen, West Phalia. The pigs remembered in this fountain lead to the discovery of the thermal waters. As they wallowed in a muddy field, the farmer noticed a crust of salt on their backs. (The story reminds me of the cows who found epsom salts). The king set up a salt mine. As they were drilling for salt reserves, the miners discovered a thermal spring.

Poseidon Terme

A leaflet from the Poseidon thermal complex on the island of Ischia in Southern Italy. The Ancient Roman Emperors and other elite took holidays in their villas on the near by island Capri. The islands are near Naples and it’s volcano, Vesuvius.

It can take an afternoon at least to try out all the pools and saunas. The sun beats down on you as you sit in hot pools. You can swim in the sea and sauna in a cave. I walked around the track of a circular pool, feet on a bed of pebbles, through hot water then into freezing cold.

Epsom Salts

[flickr album=72157624463361393 num=1 size=Medium] We found the well at the centre of a radiating development of low houses. It was enclosed in a newly designed monument and surrounded by lavender. This was the source of the famous Epsom Spa.

Henry Wicker, a villager, was grazing his cows on the common during the very dry summer of 1618. He saw a water collecting in a hoof print on the dry ground. The next day a hole he had dug was full of water. The parched cows wouldn’t drink the water, but Wicker tried it. He found that it was salty and soon felt its purgative effect. With proof of its cleansing qualities, he then set out to tell of its curative powers. In this way, the cow herd Wicker was the discoverer of magnesium. The story reminds me of the farmer and his wallowing pigs, in the German spa town of Bad Oeynhausen, whose foragings were the start of the salty resort.

The ‘Epsom Salts’ in the water are magnesium sulphate. It is abundant in seawater and effects the way sound travels through the sea; it allows only low frequencies to travel a long way underwater, like the sounds made by whales.

As visitors came from Europe to take the waters, by drinking and bathing in them, a circle of shops and refreshments grew around the well. After this came the inns, taverns, gaming rooms (casinos are often connected to spa towns), a bowling green, a cockpit and the assembly rooms.

Celie Fiennes in her travel journal notes the ‘ raceing of boyes, or rabbets, or piggs; in the evening the Company meete in the Greenes, where are Gentlemen bowling, Ladyes walking, the benches round to sitt, there are little shopps, and a gameing or danceing-roome”.

Some visitors drank 16 pints of the water a day from stoneware jars and followed this with a walk as the effects took place. In 1750s you could buy Epsom water at the Mineral Water Warehouse in Fleet Street.

Nemiah Grew was the author of The Anatomy of Plants, Seawater made Fresh, and The nature and Use of the Salt contained in Epsom and other such waters. He began to produce the salts to sell in chemists and there was no need to travel to Epsom common to take them. Epsom was also out run by other fashionable spa towns like Bath Spa and Tunbridge Wells. The spa was in decline but the gaming and racing lived on.


Put 2 cups of Epsom salts in a bath. Soak for more than 15 minutes.
You can buy 1kilo bags of Espsom Salts from the chemist.

Matlock Thermal Spring

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The mill in the photos is the Cromford Cotton Mill of Richard Arkwright. As we toured the mill, I was struck with the way Arkwright worked things out. He worked out how to process cotton using a machine; he designed the mill as a fortress, with good defences as the machinery was unpopular with some;  he built the workers cottages with room for a pig and with light coming in at the top floors so the men could use them as workshops (most of his employees were women). The Peak district water would freeze in the winter, but he located the mill so the  warm water of the thermal spa could keep the mill working all the year round.

The Petrifying Well

The Petrified Well
This is the petrifying well of Matlock Bath. Matlock Bath is a small spa town which was fashionable  in the Victorian Era for hydrotherapy, and now its amusement arcades, fish and chip shops and illuminations make it known as a seaside town without the sea and even the Alps of the Peak District. The petrifying well attracted the Victorian vistors who came to take the waters. Objects such as ‘wigs, booms and birds nests’ were left under the flow of the thermal water. The water is warm and rich in calcium and limestone and the objects became encrusted with mineral. The objects appeared to turn to stone.