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Introducing Sarah Baxter of 'The Hydro-hub' Newton Abbot

This month in the Zen blogzine, we meet the inspirational, Sarah Baxter.

Sarah and husband Dan are founders of one of the regions only hydrotherapy pools open to the public.

The Hydro-hub exudes wellness in every sense and it is one of the nicest, calmest pools and places I have been to in Devon. Centered around community, this is such a jewel, run by genuine, lovely people that really do care.

Tell us about you!

' I have been teaching for local leisure centres and swim clubs since I was 16, swimming had always been part of my upbringing and I absolutely loved teaching kids to swim.

I became self employed at 21 which was when I set up my first swim school. An opportunity came along through a customer whose girls I was teaching. It was just before my own daughter was about to start school and I wondered whether the timing was right. I didn’t want to look back with regret, so I decided to go for it and the swim school was born! I really believe that if it wasn’t for taking that initial chance, we absolutely wouldn’t be where we are now. I managed to persuade my then boyfriend (now husband) to leave his job and come and teach with me, so we could grow the swim school and both work for ourselves. It was a fun time and together we learnt so much about the basics of business and how to grow something from nothing. It gave us both a strong, grounded work ethic that each of us still adhere to today. That first swim school developed into The Little Fishes Swim school which started in Chudleigh. It has gone from strength to strength with the addition now of pools in Exeter and Newton Abbot. We strongly believe in small classes at the school as we feel they are much more beneficial in helping your children to develop their swimming skills quicker and with more confidence.

How did the idea of the Hydro hub come about?

' The Hydro Hub was a vision we had dreamt about for a long time and when the opportunity came along to make that a reality, it was so exciting! The centre is located at Seale Hayne which is a beautiful estate that sits above Newton Abbot. It used to be an agricultural college and the estate is set within 90 acres, is surrounded by fields and gorgeous views across to Teignmouth. In more recent times the estate was managed by a charity which provided fantastic opportunities and services for children and adults with profound physical and learning difficulties, it was the charity who purpose built the swimming pool but unfortunately in 2019 they could no longer continue the upkeep of the estate and it was sold. I had been teaching swimming lessons at the pool for 10 years and knew how valuable and special the centre was and that we needed to do something to ensure it remained open. The potential to create a health and wellbeing centre that was accessible to everyone was always our main vision.'

What are the health benefits of swimming & exercising in warm water?

' The pool is constantly heated to 34.5 degrees and open to people of all ages and abilities, allowing everyone to enjoy the benefits of exercise in warm water. It is safe for non-swimmers and a great way to relieve pain, improve mobility or just relax! That is the amazing thing about hydrotherapy, there are so many benefits to so many different people. The warm water helps the muscles to relax which can ease pain and make exercise easier. The buoyancy of the water helps to support body weight, which can relieve pressure on joints, reduce pain and increase your movement. Exercise against the resistance of the water can improve muscle strength, co-ordination, endurance and balance. Hydrotherapy can also help improve circulation and reduce swelling and improve general physical condition and well being. Due to the water temperature, we only recommend being in the pool for 30-40 minutes at any one time.'

The Hydro-hub seems very community oriented?

' This really is my favourite thing about the centre, it has such a great community feel, the people that come and use the facility are truly grateful to be able to have access to the water and we love being able to support them with this. The support we have received over the last few months from our customers has been incredible and kept our spirits lifted during such a difficult time. We are open to all ages and abilities and it is lovely to see everyone coming together to enjoy the centre.'

The whole centre seems very wellness focused?

'Absolutely, wellness and wellbeing is very much at the heart of the Hydro Hub, Our aim is to provide a safe and inclusive environment and part of that is ensuring all of our customers feel relaxed and welcome in a non judgemental setting.

Relaxation room at the Hydro-hub

We provide a range of health and wellbeing services both in and out of the water including massage, eau chi, tai chi, sports therapy, sauna, holistic therapies, physiotherapy, parent and baby sessions including baby massage and sensory classes. My favourite space is our beautiful relaxation room which is the perfect place to take a moment to collect your thoughts and enjoy a peaceful coffee because we all need that every now and then!

The Coffee Hub at the Hydro-Hub


'It is such a priority for us that the centre is as inclusive as possible, our pool and changing rooms are fully accessible with 2 overhead tracking hoists and adult changing bed facilities.

We have shower chairs and changing rooms with plenty of space for carers to be able to provide support.

Also we have just invested in a new poolside chair hoist which has been a welcome addition and helped even more swimmers to be able to access the pool.'

Tell us about your Future plans for the hydro hub and how you’re recovering from Covid.

'We are very excited for the future of the Hydro Hub, it has been a rocky few months due to Covid but we are so happy to be open again and looking to the future. We want to continue to spread the word about the centre so that people know that we are here and providing something that isn’t always easy to access for everyone. We want to continue to work with our customers to ensure we are providing a centre that they enjoy coming to and that meets their needs. We also want to grow and develop our studio space to be able to offer yoga, meditation and more complementary and holistic therapies. We are very much looking forward to watching our little centre grow and bring the benefits of hydrotherapy to as many as possible.'

As if these projects weren't wonderful enough, Sarah and husband Dan also have another business F.I.S.H - fun in the school holidays, which makes them one of the biggest childcare providers in Devon, offering school holiday activities and care for children all over the county.

What is the story behind Fish?

A few years into self employed life and we began struggling with childcare ourselves through the school holidays while trying to still work. We used our swim school client base to understand that actually we weren’t the only people struggling and it was obvious there was a real need for some kind of provision to help families, this was 13 years ago and there really wasn’t much around then that parents could access. Dan felt like he needed a new work challenge and having previously worked in leisure centre holiday schemes we decided to create our own! As parents ourselves we knew what we were looking for in childcare and having our child stuck in a sports hall with no natural daylight all day wasn’t it!

We knew there was a gap in the market for something that provided a day of variety and that was open and accessible for everyone. We wished to create a club that children wanted to come to and enjoyed themselves while they were there. We wanted staff who had fantastic interaction skills who were fun, interactive and who above all genuinely enjoyed working with children! Above all we knew we wanted to provide a service that was affordable for parents, that offered value for money and fitted around their working life.

Working at FISH is a really Team effort and it is important to us that all staff feel valued, appreciated and their thoughts and ideas are considered, this is how we like it as the more input we have the better the sessions are that we are creating for children. It is definitely a very hands on job, no matter what level you are working at, I've had water balloons thrown at me, run some disastrous cooking activities, screamed my head off on a high ropes zip wire and even broken my hand playing bench-ball with the kids….but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

We now pride ourselves on being one of the biggest childcare providers in Devon and have 17 Ofsted registered provisions. We work closely with schools and the support we receive from them is invaluable. We feel really lucky and proud to provide holiday club provisions as well as the wraparound care before and after school that is so vital to working parents like us.

FISH is really close to my heart. We have worked so hard over the last 13 years to create a service that everyone can access and I am proud of that.

I am driven by families who need us, I feel we are providing an essential piece of the puzzle in ensuring the livelihood of those families. Without their confidence in us they would be unable to work the hours they need to. I think above all, the relationships that we have with the parents that use us and the schools we work with, make us special. We take time to get to know our families and ensure in times of support we are there for them.'

Then to now.

' If it wasn’t for the swim school we wouldn’t have felt confident enough to create FISH and now we also face a new challenge together with The Hydro Hub. I feel driven by our achievements so far, it encourages me to keep going, keep growing and keep busy. My brain is always busy!

I really hope that FISH and the Hydro-hub continue to carry on providing for families for many years still to come.'


If you would like to visit or enquire about any of the facilities Sarah, Dan and their team offer, they can be contacted on the links below.

Edited By Summer Bradshaw



Issue 5 ~  Autumn '22
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