The Growing Popularity of British Spas - Their Respective Climates and Waters - What Diseases are Treated at Spas - Buxton - Harrogate - Malvern - Bath - Why Taking the Waters at Home has not the same Beneficial Effect
From the beginning of time "change of air" has been the natural remedy for most of the ills that flesh is heir to. Whilst climate is always an important factor in health, the mere fact of change, and its mental influence upon the individual, will in itself improve the vitality. At the same time, certain localities have, owing to their natural climate and the chemical properties of their waters, special repute as health resorts.
As a general rule, places with much sun, a low average rainfall, and a high altitude, have physiological effects which act beneficially upon the health. In high districts the air is purer and drier, and, in consequence, a sense of exhilaration and buoyancy is experienced, and the pulse and respiration are quickened. When people are " run down," suffering from debility, either from overwork or after a severe illness, when they pass the period of convalescence the natural thing is to go away from home for a change of air. The change may entail a trip to the seaside, a journey abroad to one of the well-known foreign spas, or a week or two at such a place as Buxton or Harrogate, where special treatment for different ills can be obtained, and a course of waters arranged for.
Of late years, British spas have become more popular. For one thing, they have been very much improved as regards their medicinal efficiency. The old charge of dulness cannot be levelled against them now. Amusement and recreation are as much a feature of the spas of England and Wales as of the Continental spas. But perhaps the greatest advantage of all is that spa treatment can be obtained efficiently at home without the fatigue and expense of a long journey abroad.
The fact is that we can obtain here in England springs of the same quality as in the most fashionable resorts on the Continent, whilst it is generally acknowledged that with regard to hygiene, drainage, and water supply, British health resorts are above reproach.
The effects of the various spas in England depend partly upon the climate - for example, whether the air is what people call bracing or relaxing - and partly upon the properties of the natural mineral waters. Many people believe that, when out of health, if they go to a bracing climate and take up the open-air life day by day, the result will be quite satisfactory.
But there are many other things to be taken into consideration. In some conditions a bracing climate is certainly beneficial. When there is debility and the appetite is poor, when the patient is nervy or convalescing from an illness, a bracing climate will improve the whole general nutrition, and increase the mental and physical energy. But there are cases where a bracing climate, which drives the whole system at high pressure, is the worst thing possible. In chronic diseases of the kidneys, and certain heart affections, where strain must be avoided, the type of climate should be soothing or sedative, and watering-places on the south-west coast, from Bournemouth to Land's End, ought to be chosen. When treatment by baths or waters is desired, in combination with a soothing climate, Bath or Cheltenham will be found beneficial when a bracing climate would have nothing but ill-effects. The sedative or relaxing climate is the right thing also in such nervous diseases as sleeplessness and hysteria, and in bronchitis and asthma. For old people the best health resorts are places with plenty of sunshine, a mild climate, and an absence of cold winds. The best-known British spas are Buxton, Bath, Harrogate, Llandrindod Wells, Leamington, Droitwich, Cheltenham, and Malvern.
Buxton is one of the most bracing health resorts in Britain. It stands 1,000 feet above the sea in the Derbyshire Peak District, in the centre of a beautiful country of moorland and valley, sheltered from violent winds. Buxton is, perhaps, best known for the treatment of rheumatism, and for some time Mary Queen of Scots resided there, and was treated for this complaint by its baths and waters. The springs are said to be amongst the oldest in Britain. The existence of a Roman bath proves that the springs were known to the Romans.
The baths are warm, and largely used for the treatment of gout and rheumatism. When taken internally, the water helps the system to get rid of poisons, acts as a gentle stimulant to digestion, and promotes the action of the skin and kidneys. Digestive disorders and various skin diseases, especially if associated with gout, are benefited by treatment at Buxton.
Matlock is another health resort which is suitable for the same types of illness that are sent to Buxton.
Another well-known invigorating and bracing health resort is Harrogate. The climate is dry, although perhaps rather cold in winter. There are said to be over eighty springs in the district, and the waters of some are used internally, and of others for bathing. These vary very much in their action.
The waters at Harrogate are taken by people suffering from different types of illness. There are two main groups of water, the sulphur and iron waters respectively. The first is generally advised for people suffering from gout, dyspepsia, and liver conditions, as well as certain skin affections, such as gouty eczema. The iron waters are recommended for the treatment of anaemia, and they are often taken by people convalescing from acute illness. Even young children are given the milder iron waters when run down and debilitated, or threatened with tuberculosis.
Harrogate is well provided with recreations, and is a centre for. excursions by motor, carriage, or bicycle. There are excellent golf courses also, and concerts are given almost daily at the Kursaal - a very fine hall, which was built not long ago. It does not follow, however, that those who are run down in health should flock to Harrogate, because the climate is not suitable for catarrhs and chest ailments, many nervous affections, and old-standing kidney complaints.