The Lido Guide

By Janet Wilkinson and Emma Pusill

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

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

The weather outside is Beastly...

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 all day. I've also swum at Parliament Hill, Portishead, Clevedon Marine Lake, Wiveliscombe and Buckfastleigh in the last few months. But we've also been busy on dry land, part of which has been beginning to sort and shortlist photographs for the book. It's been a pleasure, in an odd sort of way, to sit in front of a roaring fire looking at summery images of outdoor pools up and down the country. I could feel the sun on my bones, and it has helped to build some excitement about spring arriving and the impending summer season.

But, if you've glanced out of your window in the last couple of days, you'll have noticed that we have one final winter mountain to climb before we can safely begin to think about shedding layers and digging out the sunscreen.

The Beast From The East.

Not ideal outdoor swimming weather, many people would assume. But many people would be wrong about that. Swimming while snow blankets the ground is such a rare experience in the UK that you would do well to snatch the chance while you can. Every sound is muffled, the air is brittle and the reflected light is simply brilliant. 

If you've never swum in the snow before an outdoor pool is the ideal venue, being supervised and with easy access to covered changing and hot showers. The habits of swimmers are revealed by the footmarks in the snow and at cold water pools there is a particularly perverse pleasure to be had from wading into water that, while still finger pinchingly cold, is warmer than the air you breathe.

But you don't have to like cold water to enjoy a swim in the cold. Here's a run down of pools I would most like to swim at in the snow, some of them heated.


This is, quite possibly, the pool most likely to feature snowfall during its winter timetable thanks to its relatively northerly and elevated position. Hathersage boasts the longest heated season outside of London, and if you want a snowy dip it is likely to be a strong contender this weekend. As an added bonus, they've had the boilers on and expect the water to be warm. Gazing on a snow covered bandstand and hills, made misty by the dragon's breath rising from the water, would be ethereal and beautiful. Get there if you can.


The sea pool at Walpole Bay is enormous, and Kent is already in the Beast's clutches. If you can travel to the pool safely I can't imagine a much more life affirming experience than floating in an expanse of crisply ascerbic salt water, looking back at a coastline dressed in white. 


It's a close call, for me, between Brockwell and Parliament Hill for a London based snowy dip. But Parliament Hill's stainless steel liner tips the scales for the sensation of swimming inside a glacier. When there is even a light dusting of snow on the ground the light bouncing around inside that big silver box makes you feel like a knife-thrower's assistant dodging the sharpened edges. And the poolside sauna, after your swim, takes the edge off the ice in your lungs and veins.


Chesham is blessed with amazing sunrise colours, when conditions are right. An early swim, with snow on the ground and the dragon's breath lifting into a burnished orange, ever lightening, sky must be a very fine thing indeed. The water is heated, and it's but a hop and a skip from the changing rooms to the water; a bonus for the heat seeking missile swimmers amongst you. 

If you plump for a cold water lido dip in the snow, and you're not used to it, please do make sure you keep it brief, talk to the lifeguards, listen to their advice and take every single item of clothing you own along to put on afterwards. But most of all, enjoy it.

And take pictures, lots of pictures! Tweet us @lidoguide, we'd love to see them and if we really like it we might even ask to feature it in the book. We don't want it to be all about brilliant blue days in summer - lidos are a year round pleasure in any weather and we will definitely be showcasing that. 

Stay safe and stay warm. Unless you're a cold water fan, in which case... get your chill on and see out the winter in style.


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John Peter Maughan
 John Peter Maughan says:

I hope you're including the two remaining open-air lidos that I used to frequent when living in London, Tooting Bec Lido (self-managed in the winter months by the South London Swimming Club) and Brockwell Lido. I'd be so disappointed to receive my copy and find they weren't covered. Unfortunately, Kennington Park Lido was filled in and made into a playing field.
Best regards,
Peter Maughan

posted 28th February 2018

Bob Holman
 Bob Holman says:

Hi Janet and Emma
Good luck on this wonderful project. Dave Pratten and I embarked on a successful quest to swim a mile in every UK lido (from the Jubilee Pool down in Penzance to Stonehaven in Scotland. In 2007/2008 we completed 99 pools and then went back to Wiveliscombe to make it 100 miles in a hundred lidos. We raised around £4,000 for Save the Children Fund. The diary that I kept was as much about the kind and wonderful people that we met on our journey as the pools themselves. Have fun!
All the best
Bob Holman

posted 28th February 2018

Luke Collins
 Luke Collins says:

Have just swum at Parliament Hill this morning at a toasty 2C in the water. It is at least as lovely as you say - looking over the back wall of the Lido as I swam I could see the snow settling on the hill and the trees gradually disappearing as the downfall got heavier. And it's so quiet! Delightful.

posted 28th February 2018

Emma Pusill (Plum Duff)
 Emma Pusill (Plum Duff) says:

Hi John, fear not! Those pools will very definitely be included. We believe we have every publicly accessible lido in the country covered, and certainly no guide would be complete with mention of Brockwell and Tooting. They are gems.

We join you, also, in grieving for those pools that have been lost. Amongst the London pools I think my personal biggest regret is that Larkswood was long gone before I ever had any opportunity to swim there. It looked fabulous.

Thanks so much for the support, and sorry for the delay in replying. We can’t get notifications of comments on these updates, so sometimes miss them when they are left.


posted 17th March 2018

Emma Pusill (Plum Duff)
 Emma Pusill (Plum Duff) says:

Hi Bob, I have heard a great deal about your project! Your fame for it has spread ripples widely. It must have been an incredible experience.

Janet has swum in every pool we know of, but by comparison with both of you I am a rank amateur having only swum in seventy or so. I particularly love that you closed the circle by coming back to Wivey Pool to finish where you had begun.

I love Wivey Pool. The fact that pools like that continue to exist in small communities such as Wiveliscombe pleases me greatly for all sorts of reasons.

Thanks so much for getting in touch. I am genuinely thrilled that someone who has such a marvellous lido journey under their belt supports this project.


posted 17th March 2018

Emma Pusill (Plum Duff)
 Emma Pusill (Plum Duff) says:

Hi Luke, that sounds like a simply magical swim.

I’ve never had a lacklustre swim at PHL, but I do particularly love it in the dead of winter. I’ve swum there while snow was drifting down, and what amazes me about that pool is that even on the greyest day the depth of the blue underwater is staggering thanks to the steel tank.

I’m a great fan of a shiny bottom ;-)


posted 17th March 2018

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