By: Blonde Two
If it is one of the duties of the walking blogger to find walking routes to tell you about, then it is surely also the duty of an outdoor swimmer to find outdoor swimming opportunities and tell you about those too (even on a blog called Two Blondes Walking it is possible to find One Blonde Swimming!) Earlier this week I found myself having a great time staying with friends up in Cheltenham. By an amazing coincidence (if you believe that you’ll believe anything) I had arrived during the Cheltenham Beer Festival and to help counteract the heady, evening consumption of beer and cheese I thought that it might be a good idea to do a bit of swimming, so I went looking for outdoor swimming options.
Copyright Ordnance Survey 2017 (OS Maps)
Like most towns, Cheltenham has a river. I wasn’t convinced when I was first told that it is called the Chelt, but it is. The Chelt is not easy to find (unless you have a guide as I did) mainly because it has been banished underground across most of the town, but also because it has done a very good job of disguising itself as a stream.
I decided that swimming the Chelt was not really going to be a viable option because a) swimming requires a water level that goes at least up to your knees, and b) I don’t have a waterproof swimming torch (imagine what an adventure swimming the Chelt culvert would be!
Luckily for me, my guide had pointed out the proximity of the Chelt to the much-feted Sandford Parks Lido. This turned out to be a far superior swimming experience (sorry Chelt) and brought back some very happy teenage memories of summers at the Malvern Lido (no longer in existence) that involved wearing bikinis, lying around on towels (the sun always shone then) and staring at boys. These days I am far more focused on swimming than staring at boys, which meant that, with a 50 metre, 22 degree temperature, outdoor pool the Cheltenham Lido was perfect.
After all of the sea and river swimming I have been doing, I had wondered if I would enjoy a return to the man-made experience but I definitely did. The people were friendly, it was great being able to measure my performance again (I have almost halved my 50 metre swim time) and I had the benefit of a current-free, wave-free and jellyfish-free swim.
Would I choose to move back inland and rely on lidos for my swimming outings? Definitely not, you would have to drag me screaming and kicking out of Devon. There is something of an adventure in every single open water swim and even the best pool can’t provide that. I will, however, be taking opportunities in the future to investigate more of the UK’s lidos and their communities. These little gems of swimming history provide a much-needed opportunity for people to swim outside and are definitely worth exploring!
Thanks, by the way, to ‘Naked-in-the-Shower-Lady’ who wowed me with her enthusiasm for lidos and gave me lots of ideas as to where to visit next.