Behind the scenes at the Sanctuary of Healing in Langho

Singing bowl

Singing bowl - Credit: Archant

What made a captain of industry walk away from the firm he founded to set up a healing sanctuary? Mairead Mahon finds out.

Tony Clarkson

Tony Clarkson - Credit: Archant

TONY Clarkson probably wasn’t the obvious candidate to launch a healing sanctuary. ‘Yes, if someone had suggested chanting – or any of our treatments – I would have run a mile or, at the very least, raised a slightly quizzical eyebrow.’

Until then, his career involved founding a flourishing textiles firm in Brierfield near Nelson that did so well it eventually expanded into Europe. ‘The only type of meditation I was concerned with was meditating on whether to invest in flying lessons or to upgrade to an even flashier car,’ he jokes.

But then recession struck and, although Clarkson’s Textiles weathered the storm, it left its mark. ‘It was hard for me to forget the sensation of dreading the postman and I still felt as if I was under pressure,’ he says. ‘It was a total mismatch between reality and what I felt.’

His GP had prescribed anti-depressants but, by chance, a friend told him about NLP or Neuro Linguistic Programming therapy, a form of counselling used to treat a range of conditions including stress and anxiety. It was a defining moment for this hard-nosed captain of industry. ‘I was pretty cynical but nonetheless, gave it a go and after three sessions I felt that my joy in life had come back. It was time to make a massive life change.’

Pilates instructor, Charlotte Hopkinson during a class

Pilates instructor, Charlotte Hopkinson during a class - Credit: Archant

Not one to linger, Tony told his fellow directors at the textile business that he was off and wouldn’t be back. Instead, he qualified as a psychotherapist and travelled the world, discovering as much about alternative therapies as possible before establishing the Sanctuary of Healing in the grounds of what was once known as The Langho Colony in the Ribble Valley.

It had been a place where people suffering from epilepsy would enjoy life in the countryside but when Tony discovered it, the building had been empty for over 20 years and was derelict. That wasn’t enough to deter him and he set to work making it a state-of-the-art facility.

The Sanctuary, a registered charitable trust, is now celebrating its tenth birthday. In that time, it has established a national reputation for providing an impressive range of alternative health treatments from counselling and acupuncture to electro-magnetic therapy and infra-red sauna detox. Yet few people know of its existence.

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‘I didn’t bring my family to see it before making an offer on the site as it was very likely that they might have said a resounding no!’ he says. ‘Looking back, it did cost more to restore than knocking it down and building a totally new building.’

Sonia Garrod (Head Therapist) and Julie Canipa (Head Receptionist)

Sonia Garrod (Head Therapist) and Julie Canipa (Head Receptionist) - Credit: Archant

The centre covers 10,000 square feet and is set in 25 acres. Most are still surprised when they find it for the first time. There are no advertising hoardings or signposts, with almost everyone finding out about it through word of mouth or social media.

‘One client used to travel to America to use electro-magnetic machines but started to find the cost of monthly plane tickets prohibitive,’ adds Tony. ‘She asked them if there was somewhere nearer to Lancashire, even Europe would do, where she might find similar treatments. She was in need of good old fashioned smelling salts when they told her that the nearest and best one was us and we were less than a mile from her front door! In fact, we were the ones who had provided initial training to the Americans.’

Once people have found it they tend to become regulars. The first thing everyone comments on is the sense of calm that prevails. Everything is painted in neutral colours and, if you really must, you can even lick the paint – it’s totally non-toxic and, yes, it has been tested on humans.

Of course, if you want something a bit more substantial than a lick of paint, then the Sanctuary of Healing Café is the place to go but don’t expect to be confronted with a lonely lukewarm lentil or a wilting stick of celery. The delicious food, including gorgeous cakes, is all organic and all prepared by a team of in-house chefs. The extra pure water also merits a mention. It’s free, comes from a plant beneath the Sanctuary and it has been ‘magically’ energised.

‘It is the café that attracts many people for the first time. We’ve even had to make recipe cards available on our website! It’s become a destination in its own right, including with ladies who lunch and no, you don’t have to have a treatment or be even remotely interested in what we do in order to enjoy it,’ he says.

That may be so but many people do take advantage of the treatments on offer. All the staff are highly qualified, such as Charlotte Hopkinson, who runs pilates classes but is perhaps better known as an international horse rider. Treatments such as Chakra Balancing and Electro-Magnetic therapy work alongside conventional medicine for illnesses such as cancer and M.E. and clients claim remarkable results.

Sue Barsby would agree. Her GP husband died at a young age and Sue found The Sanctuary of Healing to be a huge help in coming to terms with her grief as a young widow. Now, she is chairman of the trustees, has undertaken high level courses in Reiki, a Japanese system for healing and stress reduction, and nutrition. She also runs a bereavement group for young widows, which has been known to be pretty raucous on their nights out!

‘I’m proud of the many groups that are run here, many by people like Sue who first came for help. We have quiet rooms where people can come in from the street to just quietly meditate and grab a few minutes of peace,’ says Tony. ‘We don’t jump on them or hassle anyone because healing on all levels, spiritual and physical, is what we exist for. We are The Sanctuary of Healing, after all.’ w

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