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Archive for the ‘Lido’ Category

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Having spent a fortnight touring France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland I am left with many questions about the disparity between European and British swimming culture. From my perspective as a swimmer, and as Brexit draws closer, I wonder if we were ever really part of Europe at all. Switzerland is bordered, and very much influenced by its neighbours. When it comes to swimming there is no need for an ‘Outdoor Swimming Society’ or a ‘Wild Swimming’ guide, because in every river and lake where swimming is possible, hot weather draws swimmers to the water in droves. Local authorities provide a huge number of bathing beaches, lakeside lidos, diving boards, changing rooms, BBQ facilities and even firewood with an axe to chop it up. But lifeguards are typically absent, with a swim, jump, or dive at ‘your own risk’ notice taking their place.

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In England, changing attitudes and perceived concerns have forced swimmers out of most rivers and lakes. The rules by which we live make us cautious in the extreme. Designated bathing areas at the seaside give us a sense of security. Lifeguards are seen as essential. We are constantly warned of the dangers of deep water and convinced that ‘cold water shock’ makes the risk of outdoor swimming seem to those unacquainted with its pleasures, foolhardy at best.

Basel River Swimming

Soon after landing at Basel airport my wife and I were drifting down the Rhine. The river police have earmarked specific bathing places to separate swimmers in the city from shipping. Even so, you have to navigate your way around cross-river ferries, bridge pillars and marker buoys. It’s a little like playing a slow motion game of ‘Space Invaders’, only in this version you have to avoid rather than intercept approaching targets. Swimmers and their dry bags line the riverbank; boys jump in and delight as they are swept along in the swift current. With thousands swimming every day in the cool deep fast flowing water there must be accidents surely? Surprisingly, Switzerland which encourages swimming at every opportunity, shares a similar safety record to that of the over cautious English, who feel duty bound to keep swimmers out of open water to reduce the risk of drowning and any chance of litigation. Yet if our drowning statistics are just the same as Switzerland’s, could it be that with a little education, open water swimming could be opened up in England, just as it is has always been in the rest of Europe?

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The same story unfolds wherever I travel. Take for example the Strandbad in Hard, Austria. Attracting 2,300 swimmers on a hot day, there are pontoons and springboards enticing huge numbers into the greenish waters of a huge lake. The entrance fee includes the use of lockers and changing rooms, and a beautiful chrome edged open air pool with flumes and excited children everywhere. But look for a lifeguard and you will be disappointed. In Austria the dolphin like children sport slender physiques and deep suntans in settings that echo Britain in the 1950’s. Can you imagine a paid attraction in the UK drawing such numbers with the focus on keeping the site clean and the café well staffed rather than on providing lifeguards? For Austrians the school holidays are spent by the river or lake, and swimming even for the very young is a happy and fulfilling way of life. Europe is in itself an outdoor swimming society; swimmers feel at one with the countryside, they enjoy being outdoors; cycling and swimming whenever possible. Could it be that after all these years as part of Europe we have simply not thought to look at the lessons that could be learned from those who swim, swim, swim?

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For how long will English outdoor swimmers be faced with the inevitable reaction to their activities; “They must need help, call 999”? 

Education is of cause the key, but it is not just potential swimmers that need educating, landowners and local authorities also have a lot to learn. Certainly much needs to be done if the swimming holes of the past are to be resurrected today. What I learned from my holiday is that swimming in deep cold water does not lead to certain death, but rather to a very happy life!

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The Guardian reports: In 1936, Sir Josiah Stamp, then Governor of the Bank of England, made a speech at the opening of the Morecambe open air baths. “When we get down to swimming” he said, “we get down to democracy.” That sense of importance was not misplaced. Some 80 years later, on a brilliant blue, baking hot Saturday, similar grand emotions were evoked, at the re-opening of Saltdean Lido.

Five miles east of Brighton, Saltdean is a coastal village with the lido sitting proudly right on the seafront. Built in the 1930s, the pool was a glamorous part of the Saltdean “offer”, its main building curved like a cruise liner. The story of it shutting is a familiar one to lido historians, full of benign neglect. The space was measured up by developers, but the community’s eyes were still on it. “As a keen swimmer, architectural heritage lover and local resident there was no way I was going to lose [it] to flats” said Rebecca Crook, director and cofounder of Saltdean Lido Community Interest Company. The company fought to get control of the pool, and won. And after seven years, thousands of dedicated volunteer hours and the raising of £3m, here we are. A sparkling main pool restored to its original 40-metre length, refurbished surroundings and a paddling pool. It felt absolutely ace to be there.

The restoration of Saltdean is part of a wider story – public interest in open-air swimming has boomed in the last decade or so. Jubilee Pool in Penzance reopened last year; Charlton Lido in south-east London has extended its opening hours; there are campaigns to restore lidos to Bath, Peckham and Reading; and to build a new one in the middle of the Thames in central London. These are exciting times for lido lovers, those who want to be outside but don’t have access to wild swimming locations. Who appreciate the actual value of sun on skin. Who want somewhere to learn, or practice, or make community. Who recognise these places, still, as classless and timeless, where status is irrelevant because no amount of cash will buy you a better swim. Those of us in cities and towns who just want a moment’s escape from air con or inside. more…

Discover the history of swimming in England

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The Telegraph reports: The National Trust is to open its first public swimming pool after gardeners restoring a spectacular Victorian property stumbled across a long forgotten lido.

Groundsmen working at Standen House in West Sussex  – the former home of celebrated horticulturist Margaret Beale – discovered the neglected pond when they nearly fell into it while clearing undergrowth.

The lido was built in the 1890s for the wealthy Beale family and their seven children to enjoy a dip in the heart of their 12 acre garden. But it was long forgotten after being hidden beneath decades of growth. It would be the first time a man-made pool had been opened to the public at one of its properties.

Letters and diary entries by Mrs Beale, housed at Standen, reveal how the children spent happy summer in the pool. They would compete for the right to swim in the deep end by testing how long they could remain dunked underwater, and would dare one another to jump in rather than descend the steps. Read more…

 

 

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The Londonist reports: Uxbridge Lido — or Hillingdon Sports and Leisure Complex, as it’s now called — is one of London’s great resurrection stories. Thanks to a campaign to bring the lido back to life, it was reborn again in 2010…

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The pavilion’s been modernised and extended, but vitally retains its 1930s sass. Sun loungers add a further touch of vintage glamour, meaning you can dip in and out of magazines/the pool over the course of an afternoon. The whole experience feels less leisure centre, more holiday resort. More…

See: Lidos Open – Rivers Close

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Jenny Landreth of the Telegraph reports: The joy of swimming in lidos – and what they tell us about ourselves. There are people for whom the notion of a lido …is not appealing at all.  Some people would only consider dipping their toe into an outdoor pool on a Mediterranean summer holiday where the temperatures barely drop below 30 degrees. Some of course would prefer not to share with anyone outside immediate family. Some swimmers need a roof. And for ‘wild’ swimmers, lidos are restrictive boxes of chemically-treated water, offering none of the freedoms that being outdoors should bring…

The Blue Lagoon Bristol 1937

…To my mind, lidos offer three very particular things: freedom, equality, and community. If all that sounds suspiciously French, it’s merely a happy coincidence because the nostalgia that surrounds them feels particularly British. Something in the solidly unpretentious architecture, and something in the water. Something cold. Maybe it should be part of our nationality exam: if you can get in freezing water then turn to your companions and say through gritted teeth ‘it’s fine once you get in’ you are British. There’s nothing, except maybe cake, we do as well as stoicism.

Swimming History in Leicester

When the then Governor of the Bank of England, Sir Josiah Stamp, opened the Morecambe Lido in 1936 he said: ‘When we get down to swimming’ he said ‘we get down to democracy’.  He was right: we are all equal in a swimming cap…  Everywhere else, we’re prodded and pushed, cossetted and coddled, shouted at and sold to, from screens on the buses, in post office queues, up every escalator, and on our phones. Swimming in a lido puts all of that temporarily on hold. It may be a 90metre artificial box of bright blue tucked in a corner of Tooting Common, but when you get into the water you can be right at the heart of your day, feeling whatever it has to chuck at you. The freedom of solitude and the ability to forget quite where you are, while simultaneously celebrating it. These are simple pleasures. The joy of feeling free, and alive.More…

Did you know – The Lido is responsible for seismic shift in the nations attitude towards swimming. Read chapter 5 of the book: Hung Out to Dry – Swimming and British Culture; Lido’s Open, Rivers Close.

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The Observer reports: Swimmers across Britain will greet the longest day by plunging into a pool tomorrow. Many will take that summer solstice dip amid the splendour of a restored public lido or municipal baths as the national appetite for preserving historic leisure facilities grows.

In Penzance, the Jubilee Pool reopened last month following a £3m repair project after storm damage in 2014. The pool, built in 1935, was first reopened in 1994 after falling into disrepair.

The new lido movement, driven by a fresh impulse to swim in the open air, has notched up a series of successful rescues. Among the star sites are south London’s Brockwell Lido, for years threatened with closure, the lido in High Wycombe, shut down in 2010, and one in Charlton, which reopened after a £2m refurbishment in 2013. In Reading, Berkshire, the team behind the restoration of Bristol’s chic Grade II-listed open-air pool at Clifton are doing extensive work on the former King’s Meadow pool, built in 1902 for women and initially fed by Thames water. It has been closed for 42 years. On the south coast, Saltdean Lido, near Brighton, was visited by communities and local government secretary Greg Clark this month to herald its restoration by 2017. Six years ago the pool was due to be filled in. More…

 

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The Guardian reports: You think it’s cold out? Try going to Tampere, Finland, where temperatures can hit -25C in winter (-5C is considered a warm day). Now hold that thought – and imagine going for a swim in a frozen lake in those conditions. This is what locals in this inland city like to do each day, warming up in a sauna before taking a dip in breathtakingly cold water. Finnish born photographer Markku Lahdesmaki spent some time documenting this magical ritual at one of the lakes near Tampere; producing a short film that captures people of all ages calmly stepping into the hole in the ice. Far too casually in our minds. With winter swimming festivals happening around the world right now, this lot truly are an inspiration. 

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