BATHURST POOL, LYDNEY

5th August 2016

It isn’t difficult to see the outdoor pool community as a circular body. No two pools are identical and therefore none occupy exactly the same point on the circumference. Some are similar, nestling alongside one another like shades of blue on a colour wheel, and some are at opposite ends of the spectrum glowering at one another across an arid divide.

Bathurst is as far across that arid divide from Stratford Park as it is possible to be. Startford ekes out an existence, its potential stifled by its corporate parents’ lack of love, whereas you can smell the passion and pride that the Lydney community puts into running Bathurst the moment you step through the gate.

The site is a riot of colour and life. Every brick is ablaze with it, right down to the inside of the nostalgic poolside changing cubicles whose well ordered ranks reverberate with good, honest fun.

I met Bob as soon as I arrived, having been pointed in his direction as the authority on whether I could take pictures. He and his wife Sheila, who made me a fine cup of coffee in the well ordered tuck shop, put hours into this place, as do other volunteers and they, and the lifeguards, have breathed life into what was an under-utlised local authority facility. The community now owns the pool outright; ‘do you get any help at all from the council?’ I asked. ‘Well,’ said Bob, ‘they send someone round to strim the grass in the car park… and they did give us some CCTV cameras that they’d finished with’. And I got the feeling that Bathurst does very nicely standing on its own two feet, thank you very much.

Bob put the pride and passion down to the heritage of the pool. It was gifted, originally, by the Bathurst family. The same Bathurst family who gifted Cirencester open air pool to that town, the two pools having been opened within a lick and a spit of one another in the 1800s. These pools are side by side on the colour wheel, the shade of community pride that defines them is almost identical. Bathurst pool has been open so long that generations of local familes have swum here, and in Bob’s view that connection through time inspires people to take care of it.

The heritage is evident everywhere, from the photographs and swimming certificates on the office walls, to the original 1927 plant that continues to deliver crystal clear water into a clean and relatively recently re-lined pool tank. I have become the sort of woman who is very interested in those sorts of things, so I spent a very happy quarter of an hour comparing vintage filters, and pumps and strainer baskets with Bob. My 20 year old self would probably think I’ve been kidnapped by aliens and re-programmed. The filter at Bathurst is so regally large that I can’t help thinking it deserves a name. Perhaps it has one; I didn’t ask. I wish I had. Perfect excuse to go back.

But Bathurst is not lost in the past. The deck is covered with a mixture of modern rubber crumb and super soft astro turf that is plusher than my sitting room carpet. New sunshades and awnings have also been installed, lending a holiday air, and there are plans to extend the tuck shop and office and create a smarter entrance.

And the water? Oh my, the water. It is crisp, and clear and startlingly blue. And 34m long. There is a little solar powered heating, just enough to take the edge off. It was a fabulously cool 19c, about the same temperature as at Stratford Park, but the attitude at Bathurst was not the Stratford ‘good grief this is freezing’ attitude. Children ran, and jumped, and dived, and splashed, and floated about in and on inflatables. I heard not a single cold water shriek, and I saw not a single wetsuit; although the tuck shop sells them, just in case. ‘Do you get much call for them?’ I asked Sheila. ‘Maybe at the start of the season, it can be 16 then’ she explained. Bathurst neatly evidences what I have suspected for some time; water temperature is entirely a state of mind and if the welcome, and atmosphere, is warm enough swimmers largely have a fabulous time whatever the temperature.

You must visit Bathurst. Take a picnic. Take everyone you know. Take a warm heart and your most colourful togs. Take money for the tuck shop. Dive in, duck your head under the waterfalls. And say hello to Bob. You won’t regret it.

Pledge at https://unbound.com/books/lidoguide for a copy of the first ever user guide to publicly accessible outdoor pools across the UK. A practical, beautiful and inspiring book telling you all you need to know to plan your own lido road trips.