Going Swimmingly: The Revival Of The UK’s Outdoor Pools

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Over the past decade, the UK has enjoyed a revival of its outdoor swimming pools and ponds. The 1920s and 30s saw the construction of hundreds of open-air pools, known as lidos, as interest grew in leisure activities and health and fitness across all sections of society.

However, many of these national treasures were left to decline as indoor leisure centres with heated pools were constructed during the 1960s. The accessibility of affordable foreign holidays also dampened the appetite for taking a dip in the UK’s decidedly chilly waters.

Despite the beautiful Art Deco architectural style of many urban lidos, the majority fell into a state of disrepair in the latter half of the 20th century, and some were sold off and built over by developers. However, the past couple of decades have seen a welcome renaissance of the British lido, from both an architectural and a health perspective.

Several neglected outdoor pools have now been restored, such as the Saltdean Lido in Brighton, the Thames Lido in Reading, and the Ponty Lido in south Wales. The cost of restoring some of these beautiful pools has run into millions of pounds, especially in the case of listed structures such as the Saltdean Lido.

This means that there may not be enough funds to restore changing rooms, or to build new facilities if none were originally built. Mobile changing rooms in the form of portable cabins or modular buildings are a cost-effective and convenient way to meet the needs of today’s swimmers, without intruding on the historic integrity of the site.

The mobile cabins can be quickly and easily installed on any area of flat land near to the pool, and removed or relocated as required. For example, the changing rooms may only be needed during the summer months when the pool is available for public use. They provide a safe and comfortable place for swimmers to change, with minimal environmental impact.

The changing rooms can of course be used in a variety of other temporary settings, such as open water swimming events that are regularly held in the UK’s lakes, rivers, seas and harbours, particularly during the summer months.

Cold water swimming has surged in popularity in recent years. Once seen as the preserve of a handful of eccentric Boxing Day dippers, it is now widely embraced for both its mental and physical health benefits.

The invigorating effects of plunging into cold water are backed up by scientific evidence: the body has to work harder to maintain its core temperature, and this boosts circulation and the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the vital organs. This not only enhances physical performance, but can ease muscle stiffness and reduce recovery times from injuries.

The shock of entering cold water also triggers the release of hormones known as endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers. This can lead to a euphoric feeling known as the ‘swimmer’s high’, and repeated cold water sessions help the mind and body to develop a healthy resistance to other stressful situations.

The cold water swimming community has a reputation for being supportive, welcoming and friendly, and there are hundreds of informal and organised groups up and down the country. Many of these groups benefit from temporary changing facilities, either for popular outdoor swimming spots during the peak season, or for one-off events such as triathlons.

The benefits of cold water swimming are so highly regarded by some people that they use it as a method of managing mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, and stress. However, it’s important to observe health and safety best practices, especially when entering cold water for the first time.

Ideally, swimmers should wear a wetsuit for buoyancy and insulation in the water, and also a brightly coloured cap for visibility. Never enter the water alone, especially for the first time, and do not jump or rush in, but let the body acclimatise slowly.

Entry and exit points should be planned in advance, and the swimmer should keep an eye on the weather forecast for adverse conditions. At first, spend no longer than 20 minutes in the water, and get out if you are shaking or feel overly shocked by the cold. Have a change of warm dry clothes to hand, and get dry and dressed as soon as you get out of the water.

Categories: Portable Cabins,
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