Short of winning the lottery and being able to afford countless trips with SwimTrek every year, outdoor swimming remains a bit of a challenge for me in the UK – too cold, rain, wet suits, buddies –you name it, the excuses are endless!!
A chance remark by one of my pals at the end of our last trip to Oman left us with an exciting proposal- how about a tour of as many London lidos as we could manage within a week? This sounded like a lot of fun so we made a tentative date, opened the invitation up to several others in our little group and asked Chris Enyon for any advice he could give us.
We were soon planning our trips- none of us had swum in London before, so we researched and read up and planned!
As we were travelling from various parts of the country- Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Derby and the South Coast, we decided to meet at Kings Cross Pond for our first dip on the Monday afternoon. We were excited to meet up again – myself, Lesley, Lorraine and Sara. Lots of bravado ensued - who dared to be the first to get in? The water temperature showed 17.2 degrees- colder than anywhere I have swum before, with or without a wetsuit!! Plenty of squealing ensued as we slowly got used to the water- then we managed about twenty minutes of pootling about before a spot of sunbathing and catching up. We all had another dip before we said our goodbyes to Sara as she headed back up north.This was a gentle start to what was about to follow in the next few days!!
Tuesday dawned and we were excited about our day. The weather was great- bright sunshine and warm so we were bound to be sunning ourselves and lolling about or so we thought! We made our way to Kentish Town on the train and waited for Parliament Hill Fields Lido to open after the early bird session. We were quite staggered by the sight of this amazing pool- silver bottomed , big and nearly empty, save for a couple of friendly ducks. The water temperature showed 18 degrees – warmer than the pond, but a much larger body of water so it felt much colder. Again, a slow entry before we ventured forth. We managed about half an hour, continually swimming and getting acclimatised. I thought it was beautiful and the only reason I had to get out was that my finger ends were beginning to tingle!! A hot shower followed by coffee and home made cake soon rectified that – we even managed to dry our kit out as we chatted to other swimmers and contemplated our next swim.
We were on the doorstep of Hampstead Heath, so it seemed churlish to not at least go and look at the ladies’ pond. A bit of a nightmare navigation- map reading is obviously not on our skill list!!!- and we came across the pond. The weather had turned by then so it didn’t actually make any difference whether we were in or out of the water. The changing facilities have recently been re furbished and include lovely hot showers and bright and airy changing rooms. The pond was beautiful- cold, obviously, but so peaceful and tranquil. There were about a dozen ladies enjoying the cold water, chatting and like us, doing heads up breastroke. We were joined by more ducks, including a majestic looking mandarin. Sadly we didn’t see any king fishers, but believe they are common visitors. I loved it in here and for two pounds, it was great value for money. Sadly, the weather turned and after hearing thunder, we beat a hasty retreat to the café on the common and enjoyed a really good lunch-and more cake!
Wednesday saw us heading to Tooting Bec - if that is the only lido you visit, then make it this one!! 91 m long, 33 m wide - massive!! Heads up breastroke doing widths did not interfere with front crawl lengths so vast is it. Not busy, but a few hardy souls, many wet suit clad were ploughing up and down. We were skins again and at 17 degrees this felt icy cold. There was no time for chatting at the end of lengths- just keep going!! More chatting in the showers to other swimmers - lots of cyclists combining training with a swim thrown in. I loved it in here , but we had to leave to make our way to Brockwell. A short train ride and we were there- again, unheated, but as it is a smaller pool it didn’t feel quite so cold. It was quite busy- a few brave mums with their toddlers trying to encourage them in the shallow end and a handful of swimmers doing laps. There was also a sauna in a wooden caravan which we didn’t find until after we had got out. Shame, as it would have helped warm us up! Again, the weather let us down as it started to rain- luckily we had finished by then , so a late lunch in the very busy café was timed just right.
Thursday was our last swim and the only heated pool of the week. We made our way to London Fields Lido in Hackney. It was very busy, but the lanes are like motorways so there was ample room for overtaking and little chance of being bumped. It was a comfortable 23 degrees so not too warm for serious swimmers, but significantly warmer than the rest of the water we had been in.
I discovered that I really like the cold water and preferred the unheated to the heated pool at the end. This week has given us just a taste of some of the magnificent pools in the capital-what it also did was show us just how inclusive swimmers are. We chatted to lots of people who were generous with their time , tips and info. They were interested in our adventure and recommended other places to visit. These have been banked for a future trip, hopefully in September. I feel lucky to be part of such a lovely group of people and hopefully will meet up with some of the lovely people we chatted to during the week.
That wasn’t the end of my swimming though! We all headed to our respective homes early on Friday then I drove with another friend early on Saturday morning up to the lakes to take part in the Great North Swim! Water temperature here was 20 degrees and wet suits were compulsory!! Ugh!!! Struggling into one in the clammy changing area was very unpleasant- I would have loved to have gone without, but rules are rules!!
The swim was great and it rounded off a fairly intense week of swimming for me. I have loved every minute of it and feel slightly – correct, very- jealous of anyone who has easy access to one or more of these beautiful lidos. This seemed like a good plan to try and shorten the time between Swim Trek holidays-I will definitely be doing this again!
Thanks to Lesley and Lorraine for making this such fun- we laughed a lot, swam a lot and ate cake…..a lot!!