CLEVEDON MARINE LAKE, SOMERSET

13th August 2016

When it comes to being a lido twitcher, the sort of person who will dash off at the drop of a hat to swim in a newly discovered pool like Tintinhull, tidal pools and marine lakes surely represent a species all their own. Where more manicured manmade pools, with their chlorinated water, shiny bottoms and serried ranks of changing cubicles, might be peacocks strutting across the finely cut lawns of the swimming landscape sea pools are surely the corvids. Big and bold, they tame the environment rather than being tamed by it. They have few airs and graces, and you approach them with some respect if you want to discover what they have to offer.

And they have so much to offer. Clevedon marine lake is a fine example of the species. Recently renovated as a result of a tireless campaign the concrete tank is now crisp and watertight. If you swim alongside the sea wall, which is the deep side, you are treated to infinity pool views of the handsome Victorian pier beyond. The pier was also rebuilt and restored thanks to community efforts; Clevedon is clearly a town that knows a good thing when it sees it and will fight to preserve its heritage.

Then main pool is over 200m long, and there is a rapidly growing group of swimmers who use it to train for big distance swims. I had gone down to have a little fun with fly, with Vicky; she was adamant she couldn’t swim fly. But she approached it with her trademark infectious good cheer, and within 20 minutes she’d nailed it. We swam at the end of the lake under the cliffs, the end favoured by swimmers. There are no changing facilities, so it helps if you’re a dab hand with juggling a towel, and at high tide it will pay you to stash your clothes up on the rocks, rather than leaving them on the deck, to avoid the risk of them washing out to sea. If the tide is breaking heavily over the sea wall it would be wise to avoid swimming, but if it laps over gently you’ll be fine — just give the wall itself a wide berth.

While we swam there were adults lounging in the sun and chatting, teenagers hurling themselves in like cannonballs, smaller children crab fishing, toddlers splashing in the small toddler pool, folk of all ages jumping off the diving platform and a handful of kayaks on the lake; it is big enough to accomodate them all. Many people choose to wear little beach shoes; this isn’t a sea pool with a shiny white painted bottom, like Shoalstone, or the pea shingle of Lymington. The bottom at Clevedon is made of silt, and having that squish between your toes isn’t to everybody’s taste. The silt is what gives the water its distinctive brown hue. Don’t be mislead into thinking the water is dirty, though. The silt is a natural feature of the Bristol Channel, and it actually settles out a little in the marine lake so the water in there can be clearer than the water in the sea.

Clevedon marine lake is a vital resource in a seaside town with the second highest tidal range in the world. The currents in the sea are incredibly powerful, and only those who know them well should swim in the sea here; so having the lake free to use, year round, is incredibly important and I am so glad that it has been brought back to its former glory by MARLENS, the voluntary body who look after it. And after your swim nobody would blame you if you decided to stroll along the pretty seafront to the pier, and treat yourself to an ice cream while soaking up the spectacular view of the Bristol Channel and Wales beyond.

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