We need space to swim

Hundreds have signed a petition demanding a new outdoor pool for Waltham Forest

Brockwell Park Lido

Brockwell Park Lido in Brixton is one of the outdoor pools still open in London (credit David Sim/Wikimedia Commons)

The borough is getting behind a petition for a new outdoor pool or natural swimming pond, launched by Walthamstow Open Water Swimmers.

We are a diverse and welcoming group of swimmers who use Facebook to share tips and arrange the occasional meet up for outdoor swims. Our group is growing rapidly, and the popularity of the outdoor swimming society shows that there is an ever-increasing appetite for all-year outdoor swimming – be it for people enjoying the adventure and pure pleasure a dip under the open sky brings, or for competitive races such as triathlons.

We feel that the whole borough would benefit tremendously from an outdoor pool or swimming pond. It could be like a new commons, where people meet – a truly inclusive place accessible to all.

The health benefits of swimming in cool water are well documented, from improved circulation to a boosted immune system, but there is now more and more evidence that swimming outdoors can also significantly improve mental health and even make people more creative.

Especially with hot summers on the rise, and 12,000 new homes being built in the borough (mostly flats without gardens or parking), there is a real need for local recreational facilities that allow people to enjoy the outdoors in summer and to cool down on a hot day.

Our online petition was greeted with a hugely enthusiastic response, gaining 500 signatures on the first day. At the time of writing it has risen to over 1,500 and is still going strong. The Facebook post spread widely and prompted long-term residents to reminisce about fun summer days spent at the now demolished Hollow Pond and Larkswood lidos, while local parents wished they didn’t have to ferry their children half-way across London to queue at an overcrowded lido.

I also spoke to people about this petition at the recent Waltham Forest Pride event – many had enjoyed swimming in the natural ponds in Hampstead and were hugely enthusiastic about the possibility of having one in this borough.

A few people raised the cost of building a lido, which is considerable. Establishing a natural swimming pond would only be a fraction of the cost. In these, the water is cleaned by reed beds, which are very cost-effective to build, staff, maintain, and are environmentally friendly.

Our neighbours on the continent are ahead of us when it comes to reaping the benefits of outdoor swimming. For example, in Germany and Austria, many natural swimming ponds are established, and the swimming in lakes and rivers is encouraged and supported by the government.

But there is a renaissance of outdoor swimming in this country. Lewisham is even going to get a natural swimming lake next year. If you would also like to bring outdoor swimming to Waltham Forest, please sign our petition!

Sign the petition for an outdoor swimming pool in Waltham Forest:

Visit tinyurl.com/outdoorswim