Britannia Leisure Centre is frustratingly close to me, but I’ve not been able to go as it’s opening hours don’t fit someone with a demanding job. It only opens at 8am 3 days per week. This should have raised my suspicions far more. Who goes swimming at that time? Old load of territorial old ladies, that’s who. But, if I was retired and given a children’s giant play area to use, I’d join them too.
This pool is unlike any other I’ve been to. The edges of the tiny tiles are the only straight lines, and the swirly slide, uneven pool floor and circled off areas had me feeling out of my depth. The way the pool has been decorated looks lovely, the differing blue colours of the tiles in the pool and the green ones outside create a nice landscape image, like you are at a (non-London) very quintessentially English Lido. and with chairs set out to overlook the pool a lot of thought has gone into making this pool look the part. It was really nice and warm and just like a pool you would find in a holiday resort.
After wading in to 40cm deep water, I guessed the longest straight line across the pool is about 25m. If anything it was good for technique to swim breaststroke, keeping my joints free from scraping along the bottom in such a restricted vertical space. Back and forth I went, and watched the group of old ladies grow from 3 to 6 to 8. they were all gathered in the Deep End (1.7m) which was squared off (yep, I lied about the straight lines) underneath the slide, and had it as a sloping canopy. They were doing various exercises mostly punching underneath the water or doing pull-ups on the side, but all speaking to each other and clearly this was their thing. After about half an hour of swimming breaststroke I got bored and decided to try some front crawl. I don’t consider myself to be a particularly splashy swimmer, but I obviously caused enough of a disturbance as a few of them started sculling towards me! right across my path, head first, and I’m sure looking back at the rest of the flock to say they had warned me off.
So I just went back to swimming breaststroke again, but as I started watching them, I realised that the pool time to these ladies (and there was a lot of it, I was in there for an hour and they were still there after I’d got changed) was really good social time. They all chatted to each other and started doing exercises and it was just really sweet to see. I do moan about awkward situations, particularly in changing rooms, with other people, but I am grateful for the social aspect of my swimming time. Which is partly why I started to write this blog, to let people know about pools that might be good for them to visit. Also, more people are coming out of the woodwork as swimmers and ultimately I want to encourage more people to do it. With clubs popping up like Swim Dem Crew (who rejected my application based on my favourite ice cream flavour not being what they were looking for) I think there is a more social side to swimming and I want to highlight that.
Anyway, back to Britannia pool, I had to get off to work. I went to open my locker (20p, pointless as I should’ve taken my stuff to poolside, I will never learn) and I searched everywhere I could in the communal mixed changing rooms for a shower with a door, no joy. One shower area, 6 showers, 0 privacy. Now, I’ve only experienced this is one other place where the changing rooms are mixed (King’s Hall Leisure Centre will be reviewed soon) and my experience was pretty horrific. I genuinely don’t think pools should be allowed to have this set-up. When I got to the shower there was a guy in there who was at least wearing shorts, so I went to the shower as far out of his view as possible. I don’t know what other people might think, but you need to have a proper shower after a swim because of all of the chlorine. I am now thinking that this could also contribute to the pools opening hours as there’s no way anyone would come here for a pre-work swim. Anyway, he left and a lady wandered in and stripped. I was awkwardly trying to wriggle different limbs out of my costume and just felt uncomfortable. I cannot wait to get to her age and just not give a fuck.
Anyway the changing area is really nice, you have to take your shoes off on the way in, which keeps it clean, the showers are warm and there’s good water pressure. There is a sign on the wall asking you to hire the pool for children’s parties and I genuinely think it would be an amazing place to do this! Excellent pool if you want to spend more time in the water with a part of your body touching the floor, and all parts of your body exposed.