The Woods At The End Of The Elizabeth Line Where You Can Take A Sound Bath

The Woods At The End Of The Elizabeth Line Where You Can Take A Sound Bath
Two women at a sound bath
Ashley and Uschi, two sound healers who work their magic in the woods.

"If you ride the tube every day then you need sound healing."

You can't argue with Uschi Classen. A music producer-turned-sound healer she knows how to hit the right note, spending her days helping stressed out Londoners recover from the pressures of city life, including their commute: "We're exposed to so many harmful sounds on the tube it raffles your bones and your teeth. All that screechy metal almost sounds likes death. In noisy cities the frequencies are often low which brings down your mood," she tells me.

An Abbey Wood roundelr
Abbey Wood is incredibly accessible these days.

The remedy to ease your ears and uplift your senses, Uschi recommends, is to attend a session of sound healing, aka a sound bath. Though sound baths are not a magical cure — and shouldn't be used in place of other treatments and medications — lots of people swear by them, and it's wellbeing craze that's spreading across the capital, they’re popping up everywhere from spas to bars.

But there's one place that found recent fame thanks to its end-of-route positioning on the Elizabeth line, where sound healing has become a phenomenon: Abbey Wood.

Abbey window shaped sculptures
A monastery was built here in 1178.

When TfL built the Liz line, this suburban station that straddles Bexley and Greenwich made it easier for Londoners to access the ancient ruins and woodland of the area — and thanks to that access to nature it's becoming something of a self-branded healing hub.

Where the beat goes gong

A woman hitting a gong
Dawn Sadler at work in the Abbey Wood Lodge.

Whatever your preferred sensory soundscape there's one to meet your aural needs here: hypnotic Gong Baths that align with the phases of the moon are held every Friday night with Dawn Sadler in the heart of the woods at Abbey Wood Lodge; deep relaxation and chakra healing with Storm Webb take place bi-monthly on a Monday at Abbey Wood Crusaders Spiritualist Church; or there's singing crystal bowls with Uschi, held seasonally with Bayleaf Yoga where you can combine movement with melody.

A selection of south bath tools
"The more you gong the easier it gets, it's like working a muscle."

"I'm here to gong you for your highest good of your higher self", Dawn declares before she descends into a spiritual trance for an hour, performing a one-woman show involving her moon gong. But what is a gong bath and does it involve getting wet? No towels are required but it's recommended that you bring a blanket as Dawn explains: "A gong bath is a therapeutic melodic harmonic meditation where all the participants lay back and relax. It allows you to access a deeper meditation.

"The more you gong the easier it gets, it's like working a muscle."

"I was hoping we didn't have to go but I'm glad I came"

A man and woman kneeling in front of a gong
Debs (right) brought Mark (left) for a sound bath, and he admits he loved it.

That's the theory but does it work? Debs, a committed sound bather confirms: "I can't meditate, but I can gong. I've never been able to get lost in other things but in gong, I get lost. I’ve been to about 25 now."

This session, she's brought someone to try it, her cousin Mark. And while she's a seasoned pro, it's Mark's first time. He admits: "I was hoping Debs was going to change her mind and we didn't have to go but I'm glad I came. I used to be a drummer so I played the cymbal, and the gong tonight took me back. I started moving my head to the rhythm. I thought there was a backing track, that most of it was recorded but it's not — it's all Dawn.

"It's like having a night out of live music. I could have listened for hours."

If you go down to the woods today

Trees with a mysterious sculpture in the foreground
Yes, this is east London.

Abbey Wood Lodge looks directly out onto the ruins of Lesnes Abbey, a monastery that was built here in 1178 and torn down in 1525. The ground is scattered with some of the original stones and they draw in dog walkers and history enthusiasts alike. It's this setting that lured Ashley Bailey into running weekly yoga classes here, which she regularly turns into retreats with guest sound healer Uschi. She tells me: "I love the huge glass windows at the lodge, it feels like you're in nature, and with the spiritual nature of the Abbey it's the perfect place to bring people together for a spiritual practice."

A woman conducting a sound bath in red light
Storm in the midst of a sound bath sesh.

But why do sound baths strike a chord with yoga? Uschi explains: "It's all energy work. People are more aware that energy is a real thing, not just your gas or electrics, but part of wellness too."

Don't worry if the music appeals but the yoga doesn't. Ushchi has taken her crystal bowls everywhere from festivals to corporate offices, barre classes and even bars: "Sound baths are a great way to socialise," she says, "You do breathwork together and experience sound healing, which gives you a meaningful connection making it easier to talk."

Healing touch

Two feet pointing towards floor to ceiling glass, and grass and trees outside

It certainly feels like a social event at Abbey Wood Crusaders Spiritualist Church, where as soon as the doors open, warm chatter fills the room as people lay out pillows and blankets as if preparing for an adult sleep-over. The sound practitioner here is Storm, who discovered sound baths through Instagram and then found out their supposed healing properties while training to become a healer herself: "The tutor suggested placing the bowl over my ovaries and it felt like something went inside my womb and massaged my eggs. I was so amazed that I bought the bowl from her.

A map of the woods - with fallen leaves behind it
"We're either too busy thinking about the future or the past, when we should be in the present, and sound healing helps with that."

"A few days later I went for a scan to check up on my condition, polycystic ovary syndrome and found out one of my ovaries was cured and the other was only partially affected. The doctors said I must have healed myself.”

Storm runs a beginner's sound bath on the first Monday of the month and an intermediate level for those who've fine-tuned their ears to the rhythms on the third Monday. Her sessions follow a guided mediation accompanied by the deeper resonance of Tibetan bowls which connect more to the lower part of the body. "I have the strongest connection with the bassier, more vibrational sounds of metal bowls after my experiences," she says, "but it doesn't matter which instrument a healer uses, just succumb to being there.

"We're either too busy thinking about the future or the past, when we should be in the present, and sound healing helps with that."

Keeping your ear to the ground

A woman doing a yoga pose
"The more you do sound healing the more every cell in your body benefits."

It's not just gongs and bowls that create the magic in a session. One instrument that all three healers use are twinkling chimes, reminiscent of a twirling ballerina in a wind-up jewellery box. It acts like a soothing lullaby, as you lay down and drift off.

Having experienced three sound baths in Abbey Wood for critical Londonist research it's fair to say that I came away feeling more zen. Perhaps it's just being out in the leafy suburbs among calm people, but there may be science at work too, as Uschi suggests: "The more you do sound healing the more every cell in your body benefits."

Maybe think of it like going to a dentist to prevent gum disease — a trip to Abbey Wood might just be the tonic to a more relaxed and fine-tuned you.

The most intriguing sound baths in London

A sound bath gong

Sound baths are popping up all over the capital. Here are some with additional rituals that pricked up our ears.

Quantum Shamanic Sound Bath and Reiki Healing
Overlooking the canals of Hackney Wick these regularsessions at Omega Hub offer sound baths, as well as reiki and 5D energy healing.

Sound Healing and Cacao Ceremony
Performed inside a Mongolian yurt at chocolatier Melt London's Notting Hill HQ, these sensory Saturday sessions on Saturday evenings combine comforting mugs of hot cacao with live singing, gong and crystal bowls.

Thermal Therapy and sound healing
For holistic healing in Hoxton, head to Russian bath house Banya No.1. Your journey begins with a Parenie Ritual, a combination of a thermal massage, ice-bath and being beaten by bundles of birch, oak and eucalyptus leaves, followed by a sound bath.

Candlelit Sound Bath
Is there any experience you can't get candlelit? London is a wax wonderland with everything from classical concerts to theatrical shows and sound baths, performed under the glow of candles. Try Mindful Glow for complete therapeutic immersion.

All images Momtaz Begum-Hossain/Londonist

Last Updated 30 January 2024

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