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A practical, beautiful, inspiring guide to the outdoor pools of the UK

We love open-air pools. We love the feeling of sheer joy, and the sense of abandon, that swimming outdoors brings us. We love the sense of community, the beauty of sunshine through water, the companionable solitude of the swim and the chat with other swimmers that seems to flow so much more readily when not constrained by a roof. And we love the cafes, tuck shops and cakes that so often go hand in hand with lidos. The UK has a surprisingly rich stock of open-air pools, from the grand art deco lidos to the more humble, but fiercely loved, community run pools in small towns and villages, to tidal sea pools that provide the swimmer sanctuary from the waves. Many lidos have been lost, but an increasing number are being rescued and there are active campaigns to rescue even more.

We want to provide a guide to all the public access open-air pools that continue to breathe life into the communities that surround them. We want to connect them to swimmers, by providing a guide that will inspire people to visit, and enable them to plan those visits.

Our aim is to cover every single open-air pool that survives in the UK, alongside those where there is a realistic chance that they may be saved. This is not a history of lidos past, it is very much a practical celebration of lidos present. We currently have researched information on over 100 pools, including some that are soon to reopen such as Saltdean and Kings Meadow.

Every pool will have its own entry summarising what makes it unique, what it’s like to swim there and all the information needed to enable swimmers to contact them, engage via social media and visit; if there are little individual quirks, like coin-operated showers, we’ll tell you about it. We’ll tell you whether they are run by volunteers, whether they are heated or unheated, whether they are salt or fresh water, and a great deal more besides. We’ll group the pools by county, so it will be easy to find pools that are near to you, and near to each other.

And there will be a multitude of photographs, because all of these pools are beautiful in their own way and we want to showcase that. First and foremost this book will be practical, but we also want it to be food for a swimmer’s ambitions; the sort of book you can curl up with on a winter evening and lose yourself in while you plan the adventures to come.

Emma Pusill (@saltwateritch & @lidoguide) is a lido enthusiast who is currently a trustee on the board of Portishead Open Air Pool Community Trust. She is a keen swimmer, who prefers the sun on her back when in the water, and she is fascinated by the individuality of outdoor pools.

Janet Wilkinson (@deliciousswim) is a dedicated lido swimmer who, over the course of several years, has swum in almost every open-air pool in the country. Her wealth of direct experience, and the passion for outdoor pools that drives it, is an essential feature of this book.

Janet and Emma are also organising the first ever national Lido Conference, on September 17th & 18th 2016. More details here

PORTISHEAD OPEN AIR POOL

Today’s Portishead open air pool is a vibrant butterfly, emerged from a muted 1960s chrysalis. A large photograph displayed in the foyer shows it in those early days– functional shades of blue and grey bordered in wicker fencing that doubtless made the teenage after hours dip an easily achievable rite of passage. It is plain from the number of swimmers in that photograph that the pool was popular, and the novel approach to heating the pool by tankering in hot water from a nearby factory, several times a day, is sure to have contributed to that popularity. This inventive use of a waste product provided swimmers with the luxury of swimming in 21°c water, at a time when the majority of outdoor pools were unheated. In 1969, when the factory closed and a less interesting, but more reliable, oil boiler was installed to keep swimmers warm it must have felt like the end of an era and the start of a brave new world. Not all that brave, however, when the iconic diving boards were closed due to changes in regulations. But they stand sentinel still, and cast a shadow over the deep end of the swimming lanes that can be a little unnerving if you’re not expecting it; akin to plunging into a cave. More than once I’ve pulled up short in surprise as the shadow lurched across my shoulders, goose-bumps prickling my skin despite the warmth of the water.

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Emma Pusill (Plum Duff) commented on this blog post.
Emma Pusill (Plum Duff) commented on this blog post.

Feeling the love

Monday, 10 April 2017

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Dearest pledgers,

Spring is upon us, and the sunshine reveals all. In my case that includes arms that are reminiscent of just set blancmange, thanks to very little actual swimming over the winter. But the sun also encourages the greenery that has been lying dormant in the countryside to show itself, and it encourages the seasonal lido lovers to show themselves.

Many seasonal pools are yet to…

Emma Pusill (Plum Duff) commented on this blog post.

If art reflects lidos, it does so with special mirrors.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

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Apologies to Bertold Brecht for the reworking of his fine words on art reflecting life, but I hope he wouldn't have minded. A man who wanted his audiences to think critically, to recognise social injustice and to leave the theatres and set about trying to effect change in the world might well have had some affinity for lidos given their early aims of providing opportunities to groups previously denied…

The only gala season that matters?

Thursday, 19 January 2017

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This is a exciting time of year for unheated lido lovers. Not only are there the teeth tightening, sub 5c swims under candy floss sunrise skies to look forward to there are galas galore. I'm not a competitive person, not where swimming is concerned anyway. Try me at scrabble though, that's a different story. I'd never think of entering a gala in an indoor pool, and very probably I'd baulk at the idea…

Emma Pusill (Plum Duff) answered a question on The Lido Guide.

A Year Of Possibilities

Thursday, 5 January 2017

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I'm not a spiritual or superstitious person. I don't really believe in fate in the sense of some unshakeable, arbitrary destiny being dished out by powers unseen and unknown. I do believe in luck however, both good and bad; sometimes events, things, or people happen along that hold the power to change our lives. Perhaps the best luck of all comes to those who are able to recognise these unexpected…

Emma Pusill (Plum Duff) answered a question on The Lido Guide.
Emma Pusill (Plum Duff) answered a question on The Lido Guide.
Emma Pusill (Plum Duff) answered a question on The Lido Guide.

Some like it cold

Monday, 14 November 2016

Dear pledger,

with autumn shuffling out the back door like a guilty lover, as winter rattles its keys on the front step, the swimming forums of the internet begin to fill with talk of temperature, shivers, flasks, (even more) cake, cold water galas and the wetsuit vs skins debate. I'm not about to get into that one - it's a broad church as far as I'm concerned, this cold water swimming lark and…

Emma Pusill (Plum Duff) answered a question on The Lido Guide.
Emma Pusill (Plum Duff) answered a question on The Lido Guide.
Emma Pusill (Plum Duff) answered a question on The Lido Guide.

Building a community

Friday, 7 October 2016

Hello lovely supporters, 

It really is a pleasure to see the number of pledgers continuing to grow despite the tailing off of the lido season in so many parts of the coutnry. Many pools are now closed for the winter, although London is well blessed with year round outdoor swimming opportunities those of us outside London are iften reconciled to moving back indoors to put in our hard yards over…

Emma Pusill (Plum Duff) answered a question on The Lido Guide.

36 hours of lido love

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Hello lovely pledgers,

Firstly, welcome and thankyou to our most recent pledgers - we are thrilled to have you on board. 

Things have been a bit quiet in the shed lately, mainly because Janet and I have been preparing for the inaugural Lido Conference. That took place last weekend, in Portishead, and we feel really pleased and enthused with the way it went. The feedback we've had was very positive…

Guest Lido Road Trip post from @indianabrambles

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Hello all,

Janet and I continue to be thrilled with the support that the Lido Guide is getting, and one of our staunchest supporters is Sarah Thelwall, or @indianabrambles as some of you will know her on twitter. She is also busily swimming her way round the lidos and sea pools of the UK (and beyond!) Given how grateful we are to her for her support it is a delight to have our very first guest…

10%!

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Ten percent funded in just 2 days! This is amazing news, and we are so very grateful to everybody who has pledged, shared and said lovely things about the concept of this book. 

It must be getting on for a couple of years since Janet and I first started talking about this book, and just generally nattering on for hours about lidos. So to see it beginning to take shape is quite something. 

Thanks…

Emma Pusill (Plum Duff) answered a question on The Lido Guide.
Alex Crawford
Alex Crawford asked:

Does Aldershot Lido feature in "The Lido Guide"?

Emma Pusill (Plum Duff)
Emma Pusill (Plum Duff) replied:

Hi Alex, it certainly will yes. Janet has already swum there, and I am expecting to swim there early next week sometime.

Janet and I are also hosting a national lido conference in September, so if you (or anybody else connected to Aldershot) would like to come along you can find more information here:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/national-lido-conference-tickets-23121541152

Thanks for your interest, Emma.

Shaun Crowley
Shaun Crowley asked:

Have you been to Beccles Lido yet?
Shaun@BecclesLido.com

Janet Wilkinson
Janet Wilkinson replied:

Shaun - hello. Yes, I've been to Beccles and I LOVED it. We had an early morning Sunday swim with you in the summer of 2015 and really enjoyed the pool, the location, the ambience and the sun loungers around the outside on a lovely sunny morning. I have lovely memories and was really glad to have made the effort to swim with you....I was going to swim in 2014 but ran out of summer...!!

Are you able to come to the lido conference in September? It would be great to see you there as I missed you the day I was at Beccles. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/national-lido-conference-tickets-23121541152

Thanks for your question and for bringing back the memory of a lovely swim, Janet

Shaun Crowley
Shaun Crowley asked:

hi again Janet - can't make the conference unfortunately as I have something on in Suffolk 18-Sep - will see if anyone else can - I had spotted it a while ago and looked interesting. Also, 17-Sep is our annual Lido-Locks river swim! You should try get up again as there is also a FB group "Norfolk & Suffolk Open Water Swimming" who swims sea, lakes, rivers nearby! Meantime, we did various improvements before we opened: new soft surface pool surround, outdoor exercise equipment and kiddies adventure play area and Beccles Lido is having a good season so far thanks to fine Summer Hols weather - although it's a bit gloomy today! Good luck with the conference and see you hopefully if you come by again. Rgds, Shaun

Janet Wilkinson
Janet Wilkinson replied:

I'll definitely be back...to talk to you more about the book and see all the work you've done for this season. Hoping for sunny weather for you now until you close at the end of the season. Best, Janet

Paul Goodwin
Paul Goodwin asked:

Hi Happy to provide details / pics of the Open Air Pool in Helmsley - the 2nd most northerly 25m in the country we think see facebook "Helmsley open air pool" thanks Paul

Janet Wilkinson
Janet Wilkinson replied:

Paul - hello. Thanks for your offer - I swam in Helmsley with my son last summer and we had such a lovely day at the pool and in the area. It was a lovely swim. We'd be delighted for you to provide details and pictures of the pool for the book - thank you for your offer. We'll be back in touch. Hope the pool has had a great summer so far. Best, Janet

John Weller
John Weller asked:

Hi there

Happy to help with photography. I am the photographer and co-author of Wild Swimming Spain.

Regards

Emma Pusill (Plum Duff)
Emma Pusill (Plum Duff) replied:

Hi John,

thank you so much for the kind offer of help. Perhaps you could email me on lidoguide@gmail.com to discuss?

Rgds

Emma.

Brett House
Brett House asked:

I can't wait to see this come out!

Janet Wilkinson
Janet Wilkinson replied:

Thank you. We can’t wait either. We have this vision of lots of people using it to swim in, enjoy and support all the open air pools up and down the UK by visiting them. Thanks for your enthusiasm!

Dee Keane
Dee Keane asked:

Hi Janet and Emma
Looking forward to seeing the book! I have 2 questions:
Have you included Hinksey Outdoor Pool (Oxford) in the book?
How will your book differ from/ build on Liquid Assets by Janet Smith?
Bests
Dee

Emma Pusill (Plum Duff)
Emma Pusill (Plum Duff) replied:

Hi Dee,

Thanks so much for pledging!

Hinksey will definitely feature, we both love that pool a lot and had great but very different swims there during the 2016 season.

In respect of how this book will differ from Liquid Assets the answer really is quite a lot. We have both read it (more than once) and still dip in and out of it. It's a very useful and inspirational book. But Liquid Assets isn't a user guide, really, which is what the Lido Guide will be. We want to be able to provide all the up to date practical information a swimmer will need to visit each pool, whereas where Janet Smith features an individual pool it is as a case study in the rise (and sadly often fall) of outdoor pools through the history of outdoor swimming. Because of that she also couldn't feature every pool still open to the public, and also featured a good number that are lost.

We will feature all remaining publicly accessible open air pools in the U.K., and will only be featuring lost pools where there is an active and realistic campaign to save or rebuild going on at present. And then the idea will be to try and inspire people to get involved with those campaigns.

I hope that answers your questions, please drop either of us a line if you need more information.

Thanks again, Emma.

Dee Keane
Dee Keane asked:

Hi Janet and Emma
Looking forward to the book. I have 2 questions:
Is Hinksey Outdoor Pool in Oxford featured in the book?
How will your book differ from/build on 'Liquid Assets' by Janet Smith (2005)?
Best wishes
Dee

Emma Pusill (Plum Duff)
Emma Pusill (Plum Duff) replied:

This is a duplicate question, see answer above.

Thanks, Emma

Dee Keane
Dee Keane asked:

Thanks Emma. (Apologies for duplicate posting - too keen by half!)
Maybe see you at Hinksey next year.
Bests
Dee

Emma Pusill (Plum Duff)
Emma Pusill (Plum Duff) replied:

We like lido-keen!

I'm sure I'll be back to Hinksey next year, I have family in the area. So I'll let you know when :-)

Samantha Curtis
Samantha Curtis asked:

Hi there,

This is such a wonderful and unique idea for a book!

Greenbank swimming pool in Street, Somerset, is a fantastic example of an outdoor lido which has stood the test of time (gifted to the residents of the UK's smallest village by Clarks Shoes whose birthplace is Street). I just wondered if you'll be including it? Do check it out if you haven't yet!

Best wishes
Sam

Emma Pusill (Plum Duff)
Emma Pusill (Plum Duff) replied:

Hi Sam, thanks for the kind words about the book.

We will definitely be including Greenbank. I live in North Somerset so know it well - I first took my daughter there when she was about 6 months old and she's 11 in a few weeks. I love it - not only for the social history (particularly that its initial aim was to provide somewhere for the women of the area to swim as decorum forbade them from swimming in the river) but also for the aesthetics of it and the sheer variety of what it offers.

It is definitely one of those pools where you can stay all day and not get bored.

Thanks for the support,

Emma.

Gail Shackley
Gail Shackley asked:

Does Woodhall Spa pool (Lincolnshire) feature in your book, where I swam in my first ever (and so far only) triathlon in July 2016?

Also, will you be featuring Tarlair pool up on the Moray Firth in Macduff - this pool is closed but a local group (Friends of Tarlair) are fundraising to restore it and bring it back into use, so far they have done quite a lot of work to the surrounding area and have got the boating pool adjacent back in use (model boats not sailing boats!)

Janet Wilkinson
Janet Wilkinson replied:

Hello Gail - Woodhall Spa will be in there for sure. What a lovely pool that is and I have memories of a couple of really nice, warm swims in the beautiful pool and its lovely surroundings.

I know of the Tarlair pool and it is possible that we might feature it in a section of ‘pools that might be on their way back’ - our focus for the moment is on including the ones that you can definitely swim in. Thank you - we’ll keep an eye on Tarlair and what they are doing - we’d love to feature as many as we know about and can find so that as many people as possible can enjoy them and help to keep them going.

Thanks for your question.

Janet

Philip Lewis
Philip Lewis asked:

Hi. Will Deganwy Lido North Wales be featured in the book?

Emma Pusill (Plum Duff)
Emma Pusill (Plum Duff) replied:

Hi, is that the pool that closed in the 50s that was known as West Shore? That's the only open air pool in that area that I know of.

Currently we are only planning to feature closed pools where there is an active and realistic campaign to save / reinstate the pool. I'm not aware of a campaign to reinstate this pool, but if there is one I'd love to hear about it - maybe you could email me any details to lidoguide@gmail.com?

Emma.

Pat Burgess
Pat Burgess asked:

Have you got these two? Both in Cumbria, just a few miles apart -
https://www.facebook.com/shapswimmingpool/?fref=ts
https://www.facebook.com/askhamswimmingpool.askham/?fref=ts

Emma Pusill (Plum Duff)
Emma Pusill (Plum Duff) replied:

Ho Pat,

we do indeed have both of those on the list - thanks so much for double checking.

Emma.

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