Archive for cool swims

Lido Song by Chris Stanton and the Big Splash

Posted in London Pools, News, Tooting lido with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2012 by Rejoice & Be Cleansed

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Something to warm the cockles this Yuletide. Click on this link to hear the wonderful Lido Song performed by Chris Stanton and the Big Splash (feat. The Dive-in Belles) at Tooting Bec Lido. Photography by Kat Robinson & Sue Brearley. Audio & visual production by Tom Robinson. Hilarious.

While we’re at it, don’t forget to put 26 January 2013 into your diary. The South London Swimming Club will be hosting the 5th UK Cold Water Swimming Championships at Tooting Bec Lido. This biennial event has become a must for cold water swimmers, attracting both the experienced cold water swimmer and people who are trying it for the first time. Age and ability is no barrier as, with water temperatures as low as 3°C, jumping in for the 30 yard races is a challenge in itself.

The UK Cold Water Swimmimg Championships at Tooting Bec lido

The Cold Water Swimming Championships celebrates the fun and camaraderie of cold water swimming and the competiton is often just friendly but can also be fierce. There are a variety of races this year, from the traditonal “head-up” breaststroke, the freestyle dash and relays to the 450 metre challenge for the really fool hardy. To help the competitors recover there will be a Finnish sauna available after the races as well as good food, a host of stalls and entertainment going on throughout the day.

Click here for a little preview film. See you there.

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Golden Lane Sport & Leisure

Posted in London Pools, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 22, 2012 by Rejoice & Be Cleansed

One day in the distant future when the kids have grown up and ‘er indoors and I retire, we have decided we will move to the Barbican in London EC1. Grade II listed in 2001, the complex is one of London’s principal examples of concrete Brutalist architecture and considered a landmark. We both love it, although I think if we sell our house we might just be able to afford one of the studios there. Looks like the kids will have to fend for themselves.

Right next to the Barbican is the Golden Lane Estate a 1950s council housing complex in the City of London built in an area devastated by bombing during World War II.

The competition for designs was announced in 1951, and at a time when post WW II recovery was still slow, the opportunity to design such an estate attracted a lot of interest among architects. The competition and entries to it were covered in the architectural and popular press. Golden Lane Estate is important as the first work of the partnership formed when Geoffry Powell won the competition to build the estate on 26 February 1952. The three partners-to-be of Chamberlin, Powell and Bon (who later designed the Barbican) were all lecturers in architecture Kingston School of Art and had entered into an agreement that if any one of them won, they would share the commission. The estate included leisure facilities, including the recently restored Grade II listed swimming pool.

I have been visiting the Barbican for years and had never even heard of the pool. I am so pleased that I made the effort to go and find it.  Golden Lane Fitness is not only a delightful pool to enjoy a few turns, but the staff are excellent, and the surroundings and view through the glass paneled walls make it worth every single penny. Although amazingly this time it didn’t cost me a bean. Arriving straight from a thoroughly tedious meeting, soaking wet having been caught in a sudden down pour, I arrived at the leisure centre without any cash. To top it off the centre’s card machine didn’t work. No matter said the incredibly welcoming chap behind the desk: “Why don’t you just pay me next time you visit?” Really? This is unprecedented. I think you get so used to people being shitty about things – by you not having the right change, no padlock, etc etc – that when someone is pleasant it is a bit strange. Not only that, when I point out that I didn’t have any change for the locker, he lends me a quid. Brilliant.

The Grade II Listed pool is located at the heart of the celebrated Estate. The ‘L’ shaped Centre is wrapped around a quadrangle and is the conglomeration of two formerly separated buildings; the two storey swimming pool and badminton court and the single storey club rooms. A key aim of the recent refurbishment was to provide a wide range of fitness options for residents and visitors, encouraging greater use of the leisure centre, generating greater income and modernising it to a standard that allows it to serve the community for years to come.

To achieve this, refurbishment has also included the badminton court and changing rooms, added a new gym and dance studio and created a new, fully accessible, reception area and circulation routes. It really works
Occasionally it is used as a venue for other activities. A couple of years ago the pool was used by Sky+HD for a special screening of the film Titanic
People turned up in Victorian costume and sat through the film in rowing boats for the screening. It transformed the Golden Lane swimming pool in London back to the high seas of 1912. Incredible.

Anyway, get yourself down there if you get the opportunity. It really is a wonderful pool. I am going to go again today, if nothing more than to repay my debt to the chap on reception.

An Oasis in the heart of London’s Covent Garden?

Posted in London Pools with tags , , , , , , , , on August 10, 2012 by Rejoice & Be Cleansed

Do the shoppers in Covent Garden Piazza realise that just ten minutes away, they could be swimming outdoors? Most of them probably don’t.

I have been meaning to write about GLL’s Oasis outdoor pool for sometime now. As my work tends to be in the west end of London it is an easy place to get to, come rain or shine, before or after a day’s toil. The sports centre it is based in has the usual choice of facilities, squash courts, gym, group exercise studios and sauna and a 25 metre indoor pool. The centre is extremely spacious and has a really friendly atmosphere to match any within the industry – GLL does most things really well.

The most popular of all of the facilities the centre has on offer is 27.5 metre heated outdoor pool and sun terrace. It really is a lovely place to swim, particularly in the winter when the steam is rising from the pool and when there is a chill in the air. You are surrounded by shabby council flats and disheveled offices, the noises you hear permeate from Covent Garden shoppers, and it feels and sounds amazing. Proper urban swimming.

It does have a bit of a reputation. According to one blog: “the gents changing room is historically a gay cruising zone, although I have never noticed it.” Really? It can’t really have been any more blatant. Another blog, imaginatively called Cruising Gays.com says: “This place is very popular. Because it’s cheap, there’s a decent supply of hot young dudes. Also, the outdoor pool is very cool for London: warm even in winter! There is also a smaller indoor pool, gym and sauna. This is a very cruisy place. It will hit you instantly. Homoeroticism is everywhere.” Make you own mind up!

Anyway if you can get over that trifling point, the Oasis open-air heated pool, and sun terrace is a central London revelation to the uninitiated. Swimming is free for Camden residents aged 55 and over between 9am and noon Monday to Friday. There really is something for everyone, but best swam in when the winds are blowing, the snow or rain is falling.

Walpole Bay Pool and The Lido, Margate, Kent

Posted in Around the UK, Margate with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 6, 2012 by Rejoice & Be Cleansed

“The sun set long ago on the heyday of Britain’s seawater swimming-pools, but they retain their mysterious allure” Ken Worpole

I don’t know about you, but whenever I think about Margate I just don’t seem to be able to get the 1989 Only Fools & Horses: Jolly Boys Outing out of my head. It’s the one where the Trotters join other Nag’s Head regulars – Boycie, Trigger, Mike, Denzil et al – on a day trip to Margate. Kiss me quick hats, too much shellfish, the great Raymondo, the Villa Bella, and the trip to the infamous fun fair Dreamland (where you can see Denzil clearly shouting “f**k” as he goes upside down on one of the rides). Brilliant stuff. Comedy genius.

Twenty-odd years later we are going to spend a couple of days in Margate, firstly to go and see the amazing looking David Chipperfield designed Turner Contemporary gallery, as well as to try and get a swim somewhere in the historic town.

The construction of the Turner Contemporary gallery on the harbour is part of an attempt to attract higher quality shops (and punters) to the old part of the town, the project also forms part of a plan to relaunch Margate through the arts and its social history. Dreamland is also set to reopen by 2012 to help attract day visitors back from London, and get a bit of a buzz back to this ghost town (once referred to by The Times as a “Dump”) which seems to be dominated by boarded up shops, decay and a complete lack of local government funding.

But while many of Britain’s faded resorts see art and architecture as the path to renewed prosperity, why do so few of them open their eyes to the architectural swimming gems? In Margate’s case its now derelict Lido and the stunning Walpole Bay Pool.

We checked in at the wonderful Walpole Bay Hotel to be as near to the sea, and the Walpole Bay Pool as possible. This historic Margate hotel was built for discerning guests in 1914, extended in 1927 and is now being lovingly restored to her former glory by the Bishop family. Apparently it’s where Tracey Emin stays when she visits the home of her birth – but don’t let that put you off.

Anyway, off to see what the Walpole Bay Pool has to offer. Avoiding the sea of dog excrement we amble to down to the sea front in the cold drizzle much associated with the British seaside.

Legend has it that Walpole Bay got its name because of a ship named after Britain’s first prime minister Sir Robert Walpole. The vessel was wrecked by smugglers that had stolen the valuable cargo after the ship was driven ashore during a gale on 17 December 1808.

The tidal swimming pool that dates back to 1900 seems to be all but forgotten by the locals – although it is sometimes used by people learning how to dive. Like much of the town it has seen better days. Sadly the elegant art deco funicular that used to transport swimmers from the town (or those staying at the Walpole Bay Hotel) has been closed down. According to one of its lifeguards: “Even on hot days, I’d describe the atmosphere as sedate.” It is such a shame as it is stunning. Some locals say that despite is yearly ‘essential’ maintenance, there are rumours that it is soon to be refurbished as the town becomes increasingly gentrified, and tries to take on the like of Broadstairs as ‘must-go-to’ UK seaside destinations. Let’s hope so.

Meanwhile, in the 1920’s the Lido at Cliftonville was completed to cater for the popularity of sea bathing. The Lido was built on the existing Clifton Baths Estate, beneath which ran many passageways used by smugglers in previous centuries. The underground complex consisted of bars, cafes and an indoor warm sea water pool with nearby changing facilities.

The Lido was hugely popular from it’s construction right through to the 1960’s. A winter storm in January 1978 which destroyed Margate Pier also wreaked havoc with the Lido, particularly the outdoor pool. The last time it was used, it was the venue for a series of raves in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Reconstruction work has never even been considered, and even today the Lido faces almost certain demolition. Check out these shocking pictures of the state of the Lido as it ‘stands’:

Times are changing in Margate. You sense that the Turner Contemporary has breathed new life into the town. Let’s hope the locals reconsider the role of their wonderful seawater pools and use the town’s heritage of swimming to encourage locals to petition the local council for funding to save their swimming gems. We have lost too many seawater pools – here’s the chance to save two of the finest.

The Good Times: Get Wet

Posted in London Pools, Tooting lido with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2012 by Rejoice & Be Cleansed

“Feeling gloomy? There’s nothing quite like an invigorating swim to put you in a good mood, especially with the open sky above you. Simon Murie, founder of specialist swimming holiday operator SwimTrek, talks us through London’s best spots for an al fresco dip,” says The Good Times, a magazine designed to have steered us through the (official!) most depressing day of the year, Jan 16th. The Good Times is The Church of London’s (a Shoreditch-based creative agency) response to the January blues and the result of a week-long project to write, design and print a one-off newspaper which celebrated only good news.TCoL rallied writers, designers and illustrators together to produce a newspaper which exclusively featured ‘good news’ stories. Copies were distributed in London and available direct from the TCoL office on Leonard Street in east London. And seeing Tooting Bec Lido, The Serpentine, Hampstead Heath Lake, and London Fields Lido being written about as a natural antidote to the trials and tribulations that January did put a smile on my face. There is a link to the full text in the picture above. Enjoy!

Cool Hunting – Swimming Pools

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on May 1, 2011 by Rejoice & Be Cleansed

There’s some lovely pics on Coolhunting of some cracking swimming pools in people’s private homes around the world. One day …


Tooting Lido

Posted in London Pools with tags , , , , , on August 13, 2010 by Rejoice & Be Cleansed

For me Tooting Lido is one of the most incredible places in the UK. Not only is it huge (the pool measures 100 x 33 yards – a staggering 30,000 square feet of water), but swimming in the middle of one of London’s most beautiful commons, surrounded by trees, blackberry bushes, the multicoloured changing rooms (which are apparently listed) and the sound of bird song (as well as the clatter of the occasional train), is a joy to behold.

According to SLSC, it is is one of Britain’s oldest lidos: it was built in just four months in the spring of 1906. It did not become a ‘lido’ until the thirties – when the term became widely used – it was originally known as Tooting Bathing-Lake.The pool, at the eastern end of Tooting Common in south-west London, opened to the public on Saturday 28 July 1906. It was intended partly as a communal bath as very few homes in 1906 had their own bathrooms. It is now the biggest open-air pool in the country.

Back in 1906, the Rev. Anderson, the man behind the pool being built, said he hoped it would be ‘a benefit to the public for a long time to come.’ He can hardly have imagined that a hundred years later, people from south London and beyond, would still be swimming in his bathing-lake and delighting in it.

Anyway, although it is lovely when there are lots of people enjoying the vast expanse of water, it is at its best at about 7.00am in the morning, when the sun is out, and only a handful of people are taking the plunge. Here’s some shots at exactly that time of day. They are also taken before some b**tards stole the safety rail that used to surround the pool. Who would have thought that the recession and swimming could have collided in such a sad way?

A couple of hours later …