I have compiled a list; I like compiling lists (I especially like ticking things off my lists). This is a list of lidos and open-water swimming areas in and around London. I sat and stared at Google Maps and did some TFL searching and found that lots of these pools/ponds are a bit of a trek and, as I want to swim when it’s quieter, I would prefer to fit it in to a school day. These limitations might mean some repeats and a bit of weekend early swimming. Last week I decided to visit somewhere I have heard about many times and have wanted to visit for ages, Oasis in Covent Garden. Now, in my head the pool is on a roof and I had visions of going up, up, up in a lift, stepping out and being greeted by an expanse of blue, over-looking the skyline of London. I was a tiny bit disappointed when I walked up the steps to the reception desk and there it was, ahead of me. It is still pretty special to have a public pool in the middle of a bustling shopping area, so I got over myself and headed down to the changing room (lockers 20p, not returned).
This pool is interesting because you have the option of heading outside to the heated lido, or staying inside and swimming in a parallel pool, under cover. I was straight outside of course! It’s a funny one, narrow, with just a few lanes, so I walked over to the fast lane and found that the steps were taped off because they were broken – I do like to enter a pool with some degree of elegance, I’m really not a jumper. This meant I sat demurely at the edge for a bit, dangling my toes in and taking a deep breath before immersing myself with far more suddenness than I would prefer. Of all the lidos I have visited so far, this is definitely the warmest, so it wasn’t such a shock to the system. In my lane were a few other swimmers, one in a tri-suit, I waited my turn and headed out into the traffic. I have noticed a subtle shift in the short space of time I’ve been swimming ‘outdoors’. On my first couple of visits I would gasp and pant for a while and certainly wouldn’t put my face in the water until I was well and truly acclimatised, but here I found myself confidently cutting through the water and breathing normally…
…until I reached half-way and the floor appeared to fall away from me. The deep end is incredibly deep! There is no gentle slope from mid-way to deep end, just a sudden drop and, if you are scared of heights, it creates a very odd feeling in your tummy! My head came out of the water for a bit while I got used to it, and I would feel the drop each length until I had been swimming for quite some time and began to almost enjoy the sensation. I swam what I assumed to be a mile, but checked the length of the pool with the life-guard, who informed me it’s 27.5 metres long and the deep end is 3.5 metres deep! So I had managed a little further than I’ve ever swum before
Like the other lidos, I could sense that a lot of the swimmers are regulars, and what a lovely place this would be to pop to on your lunch break! I warmed up with a cup of tea in the cafe that overlooks the pool (not as nice as the Lido Cafe at Brockwell…) and noticed the edges of the pool filling up now with men in tight speedos, everything was getting a bit posey and a bit cruisey…so, unless you enjoy being watched as you swim, then get here early!
(thank you to Edward for this lovely photo he took when he was at a talk in an adjacent building. He was a bit surprised to see a pool outside!)