Make the most of summer with a day out at one of the west country’s outdoor swimming spots
Fundraising is underway to re-open Bath’s glorious historic baths, the Cleveland Pools, with much anticipation of enjoying outdoor swimming again in the city in future.
Cleveland Pools, which have been closed to swimmers for years, are now subject to a vigorous restoration campaign which needs to raise £600,000 in cash and pledges by November. To date the total stands at £238,500 and the army of volunteers who are behind the campaign are asking for Bathonians and enthusiastic outdoor swimmers to get in touch and pledge money to realise the dream to restore these historic baths, which are the oldest in the country. To help, contact appeal board chair, Kim De Morgan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, we have to travel a bit further afield to find an open air swimming spot. Some lidos are open throughout the year for hardy open air swimmers, others are only open for the summer. We advise you to phone and check opening times before visiting any of the lidos on our list. Here’s a pick of our favourite outdoor swimming spots…
Sandford Parks Lido, Cheltenham
Sandford Parks Lido in the spa town of Cheltenham was built in 1935 and is one of the largest outdoor swimming pools in the UK. It retains its quirky period charm with features such as the cascade fountain and slides. The lido consists of a 50 metre heated outdoor pool where two lanes are reserved most days, a children’s pool with a slide, paddling pool, playground and poolside café. There’s plenty of space in the four acres of gardens to spread out towels, put up parasols and enjoy picnics.
The main pool, which is the only officially measured 50 metre outdoor pool in the country, varies in depth from 0.9m in the shallow end to 2m in the deep end of the pool. All the pools are heated to over 70°F (21°C). Included on the site is also children’s play equipment, table tennis and basketball (bats and balls can be hired from the reception).
There’s a large car park and your admission ticket allows you to stay all day poolside. Please call or check the website for opening times.
Keynsham Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. GL53 7PU. Tel: 01242 524430, visit: sandfordparkslido.org.uk.
Portishead Open Air Pool
Portishead Open Air Pool is a 33m heated outdoor pool at the Lakegrounds in popular Portishead, with views of the Bristol Channel from the sun terraces. On a hot summer’s day this is as near as we’ll get to the Riviera, as the sun sparkles on the pool and the channel beyond.
There’s a paddling pool for toddlers, a separate lane in the main pool for serious swimmers, and after a dip, you can dry off on the terraces. This is a great place for posing, if you’ve a mind and there’s a community-run cafe for snacks and hot and cold drinks. The pool was saved by public appeal, making it an inspiration for our own lido restoration in Bath.
This summer it is hosting a series of evening swims by moonlight – the next one is on Saturday 16 July. Check the website for opening hours.
Cirencester open air pool
This is another Victorian legacy, a town pool which opened in 1869. It offers the chance to swim in natural spring water heated to an average 27°C (80°F). There is a 28-metre main pool with a slide, separate children’s paddling pool, separate male and female changing rooms with hot showers, sunbathing patio and snacks from the tuck shop, although picnics are also welcomed.
Open from May to September each year the pool offers facilities for families, parents and babies as well as serious swimmers. Whether it’s for a family day out, an aerobic swim or a long sunbathe followed by a dip, Cirencester Open Air Pool is a top place to go on a sunny day.
Cecily Hill, Cirencester GL7 2EF 01285. Tel: 01285 653947, visit: cirenopenair.co.uk.
Greenbank Pool, Street
Greenbank Pool was granted to the local people thanks to a trust set up on behalf of Alice Clark who wanted Street’s women and girls to be able to learn to swim. The men already swam naked in the River Brue, apparently. The pool opened in 1937 and still retains a lovely old-fashioned air, with some of the reassuringly traditional rules too, such as no bombing, ducking, splashing or heavy petting.
There’s a large main pool and a semi-circular children’s pool which are both heated, and a splash area with a slide, fountains and water jets. There are lawns for sunbathing or picnicking and you’ll find hot and cold drinks, sandwiches and sweets. The pool has a small car park; alternatively, being ideally located opposite Clark’s Village, you can park in the pay and display there. The season ends on 11 September.
Wilfrid Road, Street, Somerset BA16 OEU. Tel: 01458 442468, visit: greenbankpool.co.uk.
Wotton outdoor pool
The Wotton outdoor pool is 18m long, by 6m wide and the depths go from 1m to just over 2m and with the water heated to 28-30°C, it makes for a very pleasant swim indeed. A referendum was held in the town to save this popular community site and the townspeople voted overwhelmingly in favour of paying a little more council tax to keep it going.
In colder weather, a retractable roof pulled over the pool and drawn back for open air swimming when the weather is fine. There are separate male and female changing rooms, toilets and hot showers and a municipal car park close by. Please check opening information on the website.
Symm Lane, Wotton under Edge, Gloucestershire GL12 7BD. Tel: 01453 842086, visit: wottonpool.co.uk.
Clifton Lido, Bristol
Tucked away in the heart of Clifton, this refurbished Victorian outdoor heated pool reopened in December 2008 and features not only the pool, but a sauna, outdoor hot tub, steam room, spa treatments, restaurant and bar. The pool is open throughout the year and is heated to 22-25°C. It is largely a members only spa (£58 a month), but non-members are welcome Monday – Friday between 1pm and 4pm, for £20 for three hours use of the facilities.
The lido combines contemporary chic with Victorian heritage – the poolside changing facilities feature fun stripy coloured curtains and wooden cubicles. But when you make that self-conscious walk from changing to swim in the pool there’s very much the feeling that the diners behind the glass are able to check you out. This is very much a stylish place for grown-ups to come to relax and unwind.
Oakfield Place, Clifton, Bristol BS8 2BJ. Tel: 0117 933 9530, visit: lidobristol.com.
Wivey Pool, Somerset
Wiveliscombe open air pool is a heated open air facility with lane swimming and inflatable fun sessions with music. It can be found in the far corner of the recreation ground in Wiveliscombe and offers changing facilities and a new sundeck and eating area. It has been open from May to September since 1927.
Culverhay Lane, Wiveliscombe, Somerset. Tel: 01984 624720.
Bathurst open air pool
Given as a present to Lydney by the Bathurst family in 1920, Bathurst swimming pool is considered to be one of Gloucestershire’s best kept secrets. This 38-metre outdoor pool (fully supervised by qualified lifeguards) in the Forest of Dean is run by volunteers and open during the summer. There’s a shop selling refreshments, an area for picnics and sunbathing and toilets. Open daily until 3 September with free parking.
High Street, Lydney, Gloucestershire GL15 5DY. Tel: 01594 842625.
FARLEIGH AND DISTRICT SWIMMING CLUB
Not strictly a lido, the swimming club, founded in 1932, is one of the oldest wild swimming clubs in the country. It offers swimming in the silky waters of the River Frome at Farleigh Hungerford, with entry to the water just above an old stone weir.
The waters get very deep (eight feet) quite quickly so people are advised to only swim when other swimmers are present. There’s also a wooden diving platform with ropes for the more daring to hurl themselves from.
There’s plenty of parking in nearby meadows, there’s an open air changing stall and a Portaloo, but plenty of space on the sloping field to picnic. Dogs are not permitted. Membership is payable on arrival, if the gate is manned by a volunteer. It’s £10 a year for adults.