Anyone who knows me will know that ‘natural’ (aka disgusting) outdoor swimming, or more sharing swimming space with Canada geese, is not really my bag. I can deal with swimming in the sea but freak out if a piece of seaweed touches me. In this buoyed off area of the lake, I don’t think it would be anything as clean as seaweed that you’d need to dodge.
The setting is beautiful. As you approach the entrance right by the Lido Cafe full of posh people enjoying their lunch in the sun it does feel very special. It is only £4.80 to get in, and after you’ve got your fluorescent wristband, it’s off to the very minimal changing rooms (there are 2 cubicles and some toilets, not exactly much to shout about) and then back out to head over the bridge. There is a very pretty area around the kid’s pool, that is all very quaint and lively, and clean looking.
Then, over the metal staircase you arrive at the concrete beach. There is a grassy bank along the edge to plonk your stuff and sunbathe, we went to the far end as there was a bit more space. At this point, it is important to mention that you should really take flip flops with you. There is goose poop everywhere. I used to go to university in York and the one thing that I found unbearable was the bird crap all over the floor. The environment is very similar here. I very ungracefully tiptoed up the bank to put my stuff down, trying to touch as little of the ground as possible. Now time to wriggle back down the bank and into the water.
There are 3 main ‘railed’ places to get it, with non-slip mats on the floor to get you walking in for about 5m. The water was also really warm, which is totally expected on such a scorchio day, and it just added to the grossness. Something about cold water makes it at least seem a bit fresh. At the end of the rail/mat there is a little step into the sludge on the bottom of the lake. This is freak-out point. If there’s anything to make you get in quicker, it’s the ability to take your feet off the floor and pretend the sludge isn’t there. And swim straight to the deeper side so that you can’t put your feet on the floor even if you wanted to. Be calm, and breathe.
The 100m stretch doesn’t feel as long as that, maybe because there was no chance of me picking up a pace and risk getting my face in the water. There is an awful lot of algae in the water, it looks filthy and very green. I’ve tried to look to see if the water is stagnant, I don’t think it is, but it really does seem quite dirty. Outside the pool I was reading about something called ‘swimmers itch’ which some people get when it’s hot from parasites that live in snails. EURGH. I’ve done more research into this today, and I’m glad I looked into it post-swim: http://environment.data.gov.uk/bwq/profiles/profile.html?site=uki1106-11940
Anyway, erm the swimming experience, yes, there were people in wetsuits and hats and hitting it hard, respect to them. There were a few teenagers chucking gunk at each other towards the shallow beach area, and then a few people pootling along. It was quite relaxing once you get over the filth element. The only thing cornering you off from the pedalos is a single row of buoys, you can happily lean on those if you want a rest and an arm covering of algae. There is nothing between you and the geese though, and they will swim at you unless you splash water at them. It was a great feeling to be out swimming towards the middle of the lake.
After swimming for a lot longer than I realised, I started to get crinkly fingers so time to exit. I swam right up to the blue mat so to not have to put my feet down and climbed out and headed over to one of the 2 showers available. Yes, that’s right, 2 cold water showers which had hardly any pressure behind them. Once we’d dried off in the sun I asked if there were other showers anywhere. There aren’t. That news didn’t go down well.
As I was getting changed in the toilets as the 2 cubicles were taken and peeled off my cossie, I was green all over. YUCK. I managed a bit of a wash at the sinks, but did feel very swampy.
Overall, very glad to have done this. Not particularly keen to return unless I need to work on my tolerance of gross things and can go straight home to shower. Fun none the less.