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.
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.Read more...
This is the year it all happens...
Friday, 11 January 2019
A slightly belated happy new year to all our pledgers. We hope you managed some festive fun in the water over the Christmas break.
One of our pledgers reminded me, yesterday, that there hadn't been a project update for a while. This was a very fair point, well made. That's primarily because it's been a busy old time at LIdo Guide HQ. As well as all the 'real life' that continues to tick along entirely…
Friday, 26 October 2018
Things are beginning to happen apace, here at Lido Guide HQ.
Janet and I have been busy beavering away providing feedback to Unbound on the first of the layouts for the book. It's an amazing feeling to hold something in your hands that actually looks like it's going to be a real book. And it's not often we get given carte blanche to make liberal use of a red pen, so naturally we seized that opportunity…
Comings and goings, toings and froings
Thursday, 27 September 2018
Earlier in the week, when we showed you all our lovely book cover, I promised a round up of one or two lido happenings towards the end of the week. And here we are, at the end of the week. But first, shall we just have another little look at our gorgeous cover? Shall we? Just because we can?
Oh, alright then - you talked me into it.
It's still smashing, isn't it?
Anyway - in other news…
It's going to be a real book!
Monday, 24 September 2018
We have got some very exciting news, and after a period of comparative quiet because we've been busy swooping in and out of pools to take any remaining images needed for the book it is great to be able to share this for our first update of the off-season.
The lovely people at Unbound have been beavering away with design samples and the whole thing is looking fabulous. Seeing…
Water, water everywhere - and all the queues to stand in
Friday, 3 August 2018
With the book now fully funded, and pre-orders continuing to come in, it's all hands to the pumps at Lido HQ and Unbound as we busy ourselves getting the book ready for print.
At Unbound the focus has been on the design work to date, and the sample designs look good enough to eat... we'll let you have a sneak preview just as soon as possible. The manuscript was delivered some months ago, and we…
Monday, 18 June 2018
When we started crowdfunding for this book, almost 2 years ago, I imagined that this would be the easiest project update to write; that I'd sit down and it would flow from my fingers. But crafting an update to let you all know that we are finally at the magic 100% funded, and that this book will now certainly become a reality, is one of the hardest things I've ever done.
Perhaps it's becasue I…
Monday, 11 June 2018
Some things happen like clockwork in the annual lido calendar. One of them, almost wearisome in its inevitability, is the flush of lido lists that appear in the media. You know the sort of thing...
MUST HAVE LIDOS FOR 2018!
TOP TWELVE LIDOS TO SWIM IN BEFORE IT STARTS RAINING AGAIN!!
OMG SHE WENT TO THESE TEN OUTDOOR POOLS AND YOU'LL NEVER GUESS WHAT SHE DID THERE!!!
That sort of thing…
Doing the homework
Sunday, 20 May 2018
A good guidebook is, really, all about the homework. That's what gives the authors the credentials to be taken seriously; the painstaking hours of research, of walking the walk, of going, doing, seeing and living the thing you want to tell others about.
Janet, in particular, has been grafting at this for a long time.
Since at least 1973, it seems, when she was so looking forward to a holiday…
The BIG Weekend
Thursday, 17 May 2018
Well folks, we are less than 10 days away from the biggie - the late May Bank Holiday weekend when the majority of pools open once more for the season.
It's really gratifying to see so many more pools now extending their season. Hathersage have been a trail blazer in that respect, and I'm always grateful for Topsham's early season opening. Pells Pool is also one to watch - they trialled extending…
Feast follows famine
Friday, 20 April 2018
After what has felt like the longest, hardest winter for some time I sit here bathed in sunshine that is actually warm. Just a month or so ago we were in the grip of Storm Emma here in the UK but now we're in the grip of an undoubtedly brief, but nevertheless very welcome, harbinger of summer. I can feel my bones relaxing under skin no longer swaddled against the elements.
It's timely, then, that…
Don't mention the pool cover... I did once, but I think I got away with it.
Tuesday, 20 March 2018
There's been quite the buzz around The Lido, a debut novel by Libby Page due out on April 19th.
The story of its publication could readily be a novel in its own right. Girl writes book alongside full time marketing job. Girl spends a year sending manuscript, fruitlessly, to publishers. Girl gets close to giving up. Girl approaches co-founder of new agency. Girl gets signed, secures six figure…
Emerging from hibernation
Thursday, 15 March 2018
With the daffodils, birdsong and longer days come other unmistakable sounds of spring...
The priming of pumps, the scrubbing of pool tanks, the hum of boilers and the pleasing splatter of water flowing full bore to fill the beckoning void. Seasonal pools are coming out of hibernation up and down the land, and we are emerging with them.
Our social media is getting busier, so we thought it was…
The weather outside is Beastly...
Tuesday, 27 February 2018
I've been very neglectful of posting updates on the project lately, and I apologise. There has been much going on behind the scenes at Lido Guide HQ in the dead of winter; we had a joint lido train trip to luxurious Thames Lido, featuring a very pleasurable and enlightening lengthy lido chat with the manager mark. It's always such fun to be in the company of someone else who could happily talk lidos…
Wednesday, 22 November 2017
All lidos need surgery from time to time. A nip and tuck here, a bit of grafting there. It's a rolling process keeping them looking their best. They are, quite literally, high maintenance.
Over the years so many have been lost for lack of that maintenance. Some, like the superbly named Morecambe Super Swimming Stadium, fell victim to poor quality concrete that quickly made ongoing maintenance rather…
Jubilee Pool, Penzance; Poetry competition winning entries
Monday, 23 October 2017
I found myself with a spare day on my hands last Friday, and a desire to beat the southward bound half-term traffic. So I made an early start and whistled down to Penzance for the day, determined to have an autumnal swim before they close their doors at the end of October.
The swim was a mixed bag. The water was 14c, pretty much my favourite temperature, and I had the pool entirely to myself. Maybe…
The F Word
Tuesday, 3 October 2017
Last weekend saw the big shut down, with the majority of seasonal pools turning off the plant and hanging up the keys until next spring.
So my thoughts naturally turn to cold water swimming. By way of a bit of variety I thought I'd share a short story I wrote about cold water swimming. It's loosely based on an encounter I had at Clevedon Marine Lake, and I wrote it for an event at Lido Brynaman…
Thursday, 14 September 2017
*Taps on screen*
I wouldn't blame you if you didn't. I have been shamefully quiet for the last few months. This is largely on account of gorging myself on seasonal lidos while I've had the opportunity. Making hay while the sun shines, and all that. You can read about my various lido road trips here. Scotland was a particularly epic, high mileage jolly around the outdoor…
Feeling the love
Monday, 10 April 2017
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…
If art reflects lidos, it does so with special mirrors.
Saturday, 25 February 2017
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
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…
A Year Of Possibilities
Thursday, 5 January 2017
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…
Some like it cold
Monday, 14 November 2016
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…
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…
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
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…
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.
These people are helping to fund The Lido Guide.