Here is the biggest swimming pool in England. An unheated Lido, that has been open for 110 years and sized at an epic 90m long. I have been looking forward to swimming here for a long time. A sunny Saturday morning was the best opportunity.
It’s set in Tooting Bec Common, which is beautiful and makes you feel like you are outside of London. The entrance fee is £6.95, but I think it was well worth it. It does differ from the £2 something that it costs at Parliament hill, but I still think it’s a great experience and will be going back.
There are tables near a little fountain at just inside the entrance, which are great to sit at, and leave your belongings whilst you swim. There are changing rooms if you need them, I couldn’t see if there were any lockers, but doubt you would need them.
The pool here is clearly the main event. It is massive. As we climbed down the ladder into the water, swearing like nobodies business as it was so fricking freezing. After standing still with the water at waist-height, it was time to be brave and plough head-first into the water. The pool doesn’t feel as long as 90m. It is quite shallow until half way, as at that point it is only 1.5m deep, so the swim does feel quite quick.
There were no lanes ropes in place, I’m not sure if there ever are any in use. This creates a bit of a challenge to swim lengths. I managed to find a line on the floor to follow, but everyone is doing the same, so on 2 occasions me and a stranger, and also me and my friend nearly took each other out. Everyone is a bit wayward with directions, so you need to keep a firm eye on the water surface to see who’s going to whack you in the head next. I do think putting lanes in would really help people to have a proper swim and build up speed. Swimming breaststroke was a bit more amusing as it was like watching a game, guessing when people would realise, and hoping they would manage to move out of each others’ way.
You are allowed to dive in the deep end (Hurrah!) but no one was, probably because it was so cold. The weather did deteriorate a bit, it was windy and the sky turned grey. After about 45 mins we had reached our cold tolerance limit. Time to get out.
The indoor changing areas are 2 separate little circular buildings for gents and ladies. These add to the charm of the whole experience. The inside is nicely decorated with blue tiles. There aren’t any changing cubicules, but a line of benches and pegs behind the wall to the showers. The showers are open, about 6 together, and I’m learning this is pretty standard at Lidos. The showers are really nice and warm. No one else was in there so I was perfectly happy getting showered and changed. There is a hairdryer in there, with one of those weird metallic mirrors that don’t really work as mirrors, but I can appreciate the effort. The floor was covered in puddles, so I wandered back outside to dry off my feet and costume in the (kind of) sunshine before putting my shoes on and heading off.
It was so nice being there, even when the weather turned. It was such a great place and felt like being on holiday. Compared to other Lido’s it felt a bit more relaxed, it wasn’t teaming with people training for triathlons, or too full of screaming kids. A lovely balance of both, and with the pool being of such huge proportions, everyone had space to do their own thing.