Sunday, 2 July 2017

Swimmy June 1: A weekend in London

June 2017 was an excellent swimming month, with three major events. First, a weekend in London: Sid to explore significant Beatles and Dylan places with his Bob Dylan group and me to do some swimming.  I discovered Jenny Landreth’s book on pools in London and selected a few that sounded good, unusual and not too difficult to get to using public transport. All of the pools I visited had a history.  Alas, some spots in Landreth’s book are not open to the public. And some are expensive. I wanted to go to the  RAC club’s fabulous Grecian-inspired pool in Pall Mall and the Virgin Club’s pool overlooking Canary Wharf but these are only open to members.
Jenny Landreth: Swimming London
Arrived on Friday and managed a swim in the Serpentine in Hyde Park - an iconic swimming spot, lots of geese, ducks and swans, rather soupy but lovely all the same. The lido is a roped- off section of the Serpentine about 100 metres long  with two single changing cabins and a single COLD shower outside.

Serpentine Lido

After a nice swim here I headed off to the Oasis Sports Centre between Holborn and Covent Garden. The entrance is from busy Endell Street. The pools were built on a bombsite after the war, but there has been a public swimming pool on this site since the 17000s. Now there are two heated pools. The outdoor pool is an unusual 27 metres in length and the indoor one 25 metres. Both pools have fast, medium and slow lanes and lane etiquette was excellent 

Oasis outdoor pool
Oasis indoor pool

On the Saturday I visited two large unheated lidos: Tooting Bec Lido and Brockwell Park Lido. The well-known Tooting Bec is Europe’s largest lido at 91 metres by 33 metres. Opened in 1930s. it is well known for its changing cubicles with colourful doors. This was the coolest water I swam in over the weekend, although supposedly 19 degrees. The changing rooms are large and have showers but there are no lockers. People just leave their stuff in a cubicle or on a square of concrete pool surround. Valuables can be left at reception though. It was quite busy poolside but the water was much less so. The pool is big so there’s plenty of room for everyone to do what they like. There were head-up breast strokers, bikini clad swimmers, doggy paddlers, kids in armbands, bombing boys and wetsuited triathletes. But, thankfully, there was no congestion and no arguments.
The café serves good sandwiches and wraps at reasonable prices.

Tooting Bec Lido

After a halloumi and salad wrap and feeling like another lido experience I went to Brockwell Park in Brixton. Built in the 1930s, its 50 m and unheated although it felt warmer than the other lidos. Landreth comments on the choppiness of the water because of the steep drop off to the deep end and indeed I did feel there was a slight swell in the pool as I swam. The pool has lanes and a messing-around section. This play area was very busy as it was a lovely afternoon but it was spacious enough to do lap swimming. The changing room is small but has excellent showers. I had to give up with the lockers as they are too small to accommodate an average swimming bag. 

Brockwell Lido

Sunday saw me opting for two historic indoor pools, Marshal Street Baths and Iron Monger Row. Marshal is marvellous. Built in 1851 and modernised over the decades, it retains its historic charm. In the 1600s it was where plague victims lived, died and were buried. The pool is peaceful and elegant - marble with a bronze sculpture at one end. I managed a quick snap of this one before being chastised by staff! Despite being quite a small pool it was not busy and I managed to get in a decent swim.
Marshal Street Baths

After the Marvellous Marshal Street,  I headed off to another historic city centre baths, Iron Monger Row Baths. The building and entrance to the pool are impressive. The 33-metre pool has been renovated to an infinity pool and is very pleasant to swim in. What impressed me was a spectator gallery that looks as though it is made of church pews. The Turkish Baths downstairs have been reinterpreted as a modern spa. I felt some of the charm has been lost by making the place into a leisure centre with its necessary signs, rules and warnings. I was unable to get a snap of this pool or have a good look at the building as I was nabbed by staff immediately. No photos! No wandering!. 
Ironmonger Row Baths

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