Recreating a unique swim – a day in London’s pools

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Eight years ago I wrote a piece for The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2002/jul/06/london.unitedkingdom.guardiansat… which described how I had spent one glorious day swimming in every London Lido.

At the time things looked pretty grim for London’s swimmers. Councils had been consistently closing Lidos since the 80s and there were only ten open air pools left in London.

Tomorrow I am going to recreate that swim – more for my own amusement than anything else – with a twist. The difference is that I am going to tackle four pools that weren’t actually open in 2002.

In the last decade things have changed. Under pressure from local groups, as well as organisations like the London Pools Campaign (which I think has now disbanded) councils and private groups have built new pools and reopened pools that had been in mothballs and earmarked for closure.

The jewel of them all used to be the gorgeous London Fields Lido, re-opened after some vigorous campaigning in the mid 90s. Now it has some serious competition with the Victorian/Edwardian splendour of the revamped Marshall Street baths http://ashleynorris.posterous.com/marshall-street-baths-sohos-iconic-swimming-p and Kentish Town Baths http://ashleynorris.posterous.com/londons-other-great-indoor-swimming-pool-re-o .

I’ll be swimming in both of these pools along with my local Clissold pool, which was reopened in 2007. Along the way I’ll be popping into Parliament Hill Lido, and I’ll be finishing with a dip in the Serpentine.

It is fantastic too to see Uxbridge Lido back in business and Tooting and Brockwell Park continuing to thrive.

Back in 2002 there was a very real concern that London could become a third world country in terms of its swimming pools. Tomorrow I’ll be celebrating the fact that, for the moment, things looks a lot rosier.

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