Pools prove popular as outdoor swimming returns

Indoor facilities must remain closed for another fortnight.

Coronavirus – Sat Jul 11, 2020
Coronavirus – Sat Jul 11, 2020

Swimmers returned to some outdoor pools on Saturday after further changes to Government coronavirus guidelines were made last week.

On Thursday, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said outdoor pools would be able to reopen from Saturday, to be followed by indoor pools, gyms and other sports facilities from July 25.

Charlton Lido in south-east London was one of the venues which welcomed a small number of swimmers on Saturday, with new measures in place including new signs, cleaning routines and online booking.

Jessica Walker and Nicola Foster were two of the swimmers happy to be back at the lido – and the came prepared wearing floral swimming caps and pearls, and each carrying an inflatable floating flamingo.

Ms Walker told the PA news agency she was “overjoyed” to be back after their last swim on March 20 and said the new safety process had worked smoothly.

“We’ve been heartbroken ever since because we swam every single morning and we were just in a very good place psychically and mentally, and then lockdown happened,” she said.

“There are no two happier women here today. It’s been so good to be back – it’s been better than I imagined.”

Coronavirus – Sat Jul 11, 2020
Nicola Foster (left) and Jessica Walker were glad to be back in the water (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Ms Foster added: “We have been quite giddy with excitement, actually.”

However, the pair were disappointed outdoor pools had reopened after other businesses, particularly pubs, with Ms Walker adding: “It has been very hazy and disappointing for us because I don’t see how you can socially distance in a pub and not in a swimming pool.”

Paul Johnston, another swimmer at Charlton Lido, said he was glad to be back in the pool because he is training for a triathlon.

He told PA: “I cycled in from Crystal Palace. There are some lidos more local to Crystal Palace but this was the only one I could find that was open today.

Coronavirus – Sat Jul 11, 2020
Swimmers were reminded to keep their distance (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

“I’ve been desperate to swim so it was a bit of a no-brainer to be honest.

“It’s good to just be back to something resembling normality.”

Hampstead Heath’s four outdoor swimming facilities also reopened on Saturday morning, with swimmers taking to the ladies’, men’s and mixed ponds in the north-London park, as well as the Parliament Hill lido.

Swimmers saw several changes, with 85 people allowed in Parliament Hill lido at a time, and only 20 to 30 swimmers per session in the heath’s other pools due to their smaller size.

Coronavirus – Sat Jul 11, 2020
A swimmer in the Hampstead Heath mixed bathing pond in London (Aaron Chown/PA)

Staggered sessions are also in place to allow time for cleaning between groups.

Access to the heath’s pools was also via online-booking, with some people complaining they were unable to access the website to book slots.

City of London Corporation said lifeguards working on Hampstead Heath have received specialist training with adaptations to allow them to maintain social distancing if they need to assist swimmers in the water.

Anne Fairweather, chair of the City of London Corporation’s Hampstead Heath, told PA: “I love swimming outdoors and it’s been really hard these last few months, especially with such glorious weather.

Coronavirus – Sat Jul 11, 2020
A lifeguard watches on from a kayak (Aaron Chown/PA)

“With the announcement at 5 o’clock on Thursday, we really rushed to get this out and get going.

“The website has been really popular, as you can imagine, so we’re just testing out those facilities, making sure we’re happy with the way it’s running and then we can easily add in more sessions.”

However, many other outdoor pools did not reopen on Saturday despite the easing of restrictions.

Everyone Active, which manages five outdoor pools on behalf of local authorities in Plymouth, Hemel Hempstead, Stroud and Ashby-de-la-Zouche, said its facilities will remain shut in the meanwhile.

The Serpentine lido in London’s Hyde Park, which reopened this week to members of the Serpentine swimming club, will remain closed to the public.

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