On a relatively sunny day, I thought I’d head south of the river to visit some friends and either go to Brixton Rec pool or Brockwell Park Lido. After the long cycle I was pretty warm so thought I’d brave the unheated pool. The 50 metre giant paddling pool. I’ve always heard really good reviews from others and thought it must be worth a shot.
When I arrived, I met the least friendly receptionist probably ever grunted at me. Should I not ask “to swim please?”, maybe it is stating the obvious, so I was quite rude and asked him for directions, locker costs (£1, but totally unnecessary) and made a big effort with conversation until I eventually prompted a whole phrase as a response. Great start.
The changing rooms are quite small, and you do not have any personal space. There are no changing cubicles, and although it has been nicely decorated and looks quite clean, the wooden benches and hooks just made me feel like I was in a school changing room. Quickly getting changed (I think the adrenaline was kicking in) I took my stuff out to find some lockers, just no need at all. There is a block of about 12, but you can just leave your stuff wherever as there is plenty of space, and sunbathing areas, and people getting changed into wetsuits.
Right, let’s do this. I headed straight for the steps and just waded on in. To be honest I’m kind of glad I did this trip solo (more reasons later), otherwise I would have shrieked and made a right meal of it. Without anyone to play up to I would’ve looked feeble. At about waist deep I decided that I couldn’t stick my head under straightaway. I stayed in the open half of the pool as I didn’t feel ready to commit to a lane and did a couple of lengths of breaststroke. My body did not like this! I could feel my heart pounding and struggled with my breath. I must have done one length of the most frantic breaststroke of my life before I felt confident to relax into a swim, still freezing at the end of length 2, it was time to swim properly.
In the medium lane there was one other person, in the fast lane one as well, but wetsuited. I plumped for the middle, pushed off and shut my eyes to power through the ice-cream headache. After a couple of lengths I found my stride and really enjoyed the swim. The water felt clean and swimming in the open space was great. There was so much room, and there was hardly anyone there. The pool doesn’t get particularly deep, and it looks grotty at the bottom, but it’s outside and old so I’m not going to complain. There is a weird step/seat at the deep end which I guess provides the opportunity for a bit or basking on a sunny day, certainly not today, and this was quite annoying if you are turning and kicking off from the wall.
There seemed to be a great sense of community here, a couple arrived and as they were swimming greeted about 4 other people. More ladies in wetsuits arrived and were discussing their technique, and them more people arrived wearing triathlon swimming hats. It was clear that people are really passionate about being there. The vibe is very similar to at Parliament Hill Lido, I think that the pools which pose the biggest challenge are the ones where people have the most respect for the water and each other.
As I went to gather my stuff and head to get showered, I was instantly warmer and felt like I’d had a good workout, much more wholesome than a lot of the 25m indoor pools that I have been to recently. Back in the changing rooms, there are 3 showers in a cornered off area. No cubicles. If you have read any of my others posts you’ll know this makes me feel uncomfortable. I was fortunate that noone else wanted to shower until I was just leaving, so I grabbed my towel and left them to it. The showers are great, they have a sensor/button (not really sure I just kept pressing the panel) and also a heat control which did have a bit of a mind of it own. I did like the big slate grey tiles, and it was a bit like showering in a wet room.
Getting changed again, two ladies came in and were chatting about their marathon running experiences, then they showered and were just wandering around naked. In some ways I was pleased to be sharing my swimming experiences with the athletically elite, but in others I could really have done with even the crappiest mouldy screen between us. Honestly I cannot think of anything worse than showering and getting changed with my friends. Again, so glad I was on my own for this one.