Can you imagine what public swimming pools were like in 1928? Well, thanks to Greenwich Council you don’t have to. On Saturday 22nd February I swam at the Arches Leisure Centre in Greenwich, which houses a swimming pool that is 86 years old.
It would appear that in 1928 pool technology was little more than “hollow out a really big breeze block and fill it with water”. My scratched knee is proof of such.
When I first got in the pool I questioned whether it had chlorine in it. I wouldn’t have been surprised to learn it was filled with local spring water, sanitised with salt and had a family of toads living in the filter system. The green/yellow-ish tinge didn’t help dispel such theories. I was expecting nothing less than to leave the pool with moss clung to me.
Changing facilities in 1928
It took me 20 minutes to figure out where I was supposed to change. At one point I gave serious thought to leaving. #NoJoke. Not only had Google Maps lied about just how far away the pool was from my house, an ancient locker had eaten my 20 pence, and, I swear to god, I got changed in and out of my swimming costume at least three times before entering the pool.
The difficulty was I could only find a changing room labelled “Dry Changing Room” and not one labelled “Wet Changing Room” that I imagined would be suitable for swimmers. In my novice ways I decided to just change in the Dry Changing Room and walk to the pool. However, doing that felt a bit odd. It meant I had to walk down a busy corridor in my swimming costume and there was no one else doing that! In fact, once changed into my swimming costume and standing in the corridor fighting the ancient locker I saw people entering the pool room with their clothes on! So I got changed back into my outdoor clothes and went to ask a staff member what to do. She said to change by the pool. Umm.. excuse me…where?…how?…. Obviously I didn’t believe her because who changes at the side of a swimming pool and where would I leave my belongings or shower afterwards? #Confused. So I went back to the Dry Changing Room and got changed back into my swimming costume again. Then, not feeling completely satisfied that it was the right place to change, I got changed back into my clothes and went off to find another member of staff. This one took me inside the pool room and showed me the individual cubicles running along the pool’s sides. That’s where I was meant to change! #Weird. To be honest though, whilst the system is dated it worked perfectly well…once you knew what it was!
Arches Leisure Centre has two swimming pools. One called the leisure pool and the other called the fitness pool. I swam in the fitness pool. Other than the inside of the pool impersonating a concrete cheese grater it was a dream. I had a lane to myself the whole time. #Heaven
The only downside was the pool is only 22.86 metres long. There I was swimming away thinking I was swimming really fast, then I got out, read the pool details on the notice board, and realised I’d been swimming in a shorter pool than usual. #Tear
I swam 21 lengths in 35 minutes. I wasn’t trying to break any records. I was fitting in a quick swim before catching a train to Wales. However, I did test breathing at different stoke intervals. I tested breathing every 5 strokes and then every 6. The experiment went well. However, I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing it in a busy pool just yet.
Another observation about pools from 1928 is that they like to place water jets in the middle of the pool’s walls. At one end of the lane I was in there was a water jet that generated a current that kept pushing me over to one side and I had to fight it every time I was swimming towards it. I felt like a fish swimming upstream!
Amazingly I am 93% of the way towards my fundraising target*!! Thank you to everyone who has sponsored me.
*UPDATE since publishing this post I have smashed my £300 target. Thank you to everyone who helped me reach it. I have now set a new target of £500 as I still have 18 days until the event.