Community Featured

Cleveland Lido: UK’s Oldest Lido Reopens

Discover Bath’s secret history during a day out at Cleveland Lido

It’s another victory for open water swimming enthusiasts, as the beautiful Cleveland Pools has reopened to the general public after a 40-year battle against the local authorities. “It’s like swimming through history,” says one ecstatic swimmer to the Independent. Despite the hefty price tag, the lido is proof that the only way is up for the UK’s outdoors swimming boom.

Cleveland Lido
The lido (Outdoor Swimming Soceity)

Many campaigners believe that the restoration will add immense value to Bath’s local economy. But, the lido will need to have a lot of visitors considering the mammoth 9.3-million-pound restoration bill – which is set to rise even higher when further developments get underway next year.

The Cleveland Lido is steeped with history, and so is Bath. The Georgian pools were originally built over 200 years ago, with the original purpose of stopping men from swimming naked in the nearby river: the river Avon. The pools were therefore a more private and relaxed way to enjoy swimming, due to the high walls that engulf the water. “The Avon at Bathwick was always popular for bathing for Bath’s ordinary working people,” says the lido’s architect, Barnes, to the Financial Times. “But people swimming in the river didn’t suit polite Georgian society.”

The smooth and sandy walls are impeccably restored to their authentic beauty, thanks to the generous crowdfunding effort that was supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Cleveland pools originally included a Ladies’ Pool, which has now been converted into a tiny, but state-of-the-art museum. It’s also equipped with modern showers and a spacious changing facility, filled with hairdryers and lockers.

Cleveland Lido
The lido back in the day (

But, there are mixed emotions among the local residents after learning that the pools will be unheated. “How did this city come to build a cold-water lido? After all, Bath is bursting with natural hot springs,” says one visitor to the Financial Times. The irony is that Bath is famous for its natural hot water springs, following the Roman’s declaring the city as a spa in the 1st century AD.

Architect Barnes approached the sensitive restoration with caution. On one hand, he wanted to make sure that the lidos were fit for purpose and could host large numbers of visitors. But, conversely, he wanted to respect the originality of Cleveland Lido, by not changing its iconic crescent aesthetic that so many Bath residents adore. “And we wanted to keep that connection with the river,” says Barnes, who made sure that the pools opened up onto the Avon.

For now, the lido will be Cold Water only. However, for those fearful of the cold, it’s good news, as next year operators hope to install a hot water pump. Althoughnothing is guaranteed as of yet. For now, head down to Bath for an authentic cold-water Georgian experience.

Community Featured

The Historic Serpentine Lido Opens to Public

Don’t miss out on this perfect summer activity!

As Britain bakes in an unprecedented 40-degree plus heat, the Royal Parks open up the Serpentine Lido to an overheated public. So, grab your speedos and head down to Hyde Park for a refreshing swim in the UK’s most iconic and exclusive open water swimming venue.

Serpentine Lido
The Serpentine Lido in the Summer (

The Lido is home to the Serpentine Swimming Club – the oldest in the country. Each day, without fail, the club members descend to the central London lido for their early morning swim. Christmas Day, snowstorms, or iced surfaces won’t deter these committed cold-water swimmers, as members attend all year round. For most of the year, the lido is closed off to the public, but this summer anyone is allowed in for a dip. You have until September to book your slot.

The lido is situated in a man-made ‘ornamental lake’, that dates back to 1730. Queen Caroline, the wife of George 2nd came up with the idea of building a spectacular body of water that would further enhance the park’s beauty. Since then, it has been a recreational landmark that is only used for swimming and boating.

The most famous event in the Serpentine happens each year on Christmas day. While most people are tucked away in the warmth of their homes, these wild swimmers head down to the lido, to jump in the freezing water and compete in the iconic Peter Pan Cup. The cup has taken place each year since 1864 and consists of a swimming race of a distance of 110 yards, which is roughly 2 lengths of an Olympic size swimming pool – quite a feat considering the bitterly cold water temperatures. Each year hundreds of members take part in the race, with hundreds more spectating from the bridges and cafes. The current record is held by Nick Adams, who completed the fastest swim at 57 seconds.

Serpentine Lido Christmas Day race
Christmas Day Race at the Serpentine (BBC)

But now, the lido boasts a tepid 20-degree temperature. Perfect for an all-around family activity. Whether you intend to build up your fitness or cool off in the heat, the Serpentine is a perfect summer swim that’s steeped in history and natural beauty.

Information regarding booking can be found on the website.

Featured Self Care

The Lido Ladies: In Conversation

Does anyone fancy a dip?

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, Brits have had to become accustomed to stay-cations and making the most of the outdoor spaces their towns and cities have to offer. And, in that, the London lidos have been given a new life. 

It seems, since people have been forced to reduce their travel and outdoor activities resumed, people have discovered they can have just as much fun lounging by the lido as they can on the beaches of Spain – who’d have thought? 

But, no one found more love for these outdoor pools than Jessica Walker and Nicola Foster, the Lido Ladies. 

A family tragedy left Jessica suffering from chronic anxiety until she found an oasis of calm in the form of her local Lido. After years away, she returned to the pool and, what started as a quick dip, became almost a daily meditation. Nicola was a competitive swimmer in her youth but, after behind a corporate desk, her joints began to creak. Following some encouragement and persuasion from Jessica, Nicola got back into the water and as the Lido warmed up, so did she. The pair haven’t looked back since. 

And, while the Lido Ladies are, at the crux of it, just enjoying the fun and relaxation lidos can provide, they also offer a more meaningful message, “We have a passion for life, lidos, swimming and having fun. We want to continue to inspire others, especially women of our age, to move more, embrace themselves and reap the benefits of a quiet moment in a busy world. Let us take you on an adventure and a dip in an outdoor pool. You’ll be surprised at what you discover as you experience the romance of the La Dolce Vita era and the joy of British waters!”

So, as the UK summer temperatures rise, Chapter Z sat down with Jessica and Nicola to find out what really makes the Lido Ladies tick. 

The Lido Ladies
The Lido Ladies

In Conversation: The Lido Ladies

Hi Jessica and Nicola, great to speak with you both and thanks for your time! Tell me what the foundations of the Lido Ladies were built on. Why do you do what you do?

Nicola: It was built on a love of swimming. We head to the pool every day at 6 am without fail. 

Jessica: It’s a daily prayer that helps me manage my anxiety and stress

Nicola: It helps me fit into my clothes and keeps me mobile!


Where’s your favourite place to take a swim?

Charlton Lido, it’s our ‘home’.

How/why do you think swimming is good for mental health?

It’s like a meditation, the cool calm of the water, the sound and the rhythm of the strokes; it gels the mind, body and soul as one.


What positive changes to your overall health have you personally noticed since you started swimming again?

We are very much more toned and a lot stronger. But, what we notice most is our energy levels – we are full of beans! 


The Lido Ladies
The Lido Ladies

Why do you think once women hit their late forties and fifties that they become reluctant to engage in activities such as swimming and visiting their local lido?

I think there is a definite reluctance to put on a swimsuit in public. So many women, especially those approaching menopause,, start to have poor body image and lack self-confidence.  

Thinking about how women see themselves/limit themselves once they reach a particular age, what do you think is the most important thing we can do to rewrite the rhetoric for women and show them there’s no age cap on beauty or fabulousness?

 I think it’s all about confidence and embracing each decade with grace and positivity. Women are beautiful when they are in touch with who they are and recognise their self-worth.


Let’s talk about the hats and outfits – they’re amazing! Where do you get them – who makes them?

They were inspired by my Italian aunty who wore them on the beach in Italy when I was a child. She was incredibly glamorous and left a lasting impression on me. We make them and I am always on the hunt for flowers and trims. It’s so much fun.

And finally, what’s next for the Lido Ladies, do you have any big plans to help spread your message far and wide?

We would love to make a tv show, travel to as many lidos as possible, pop our heads into the changing rooms and chat to fellow swimmers. We want to share our passion and stories and investigate the provenance of these lidos, the history, fashions and passion around them.

And, finally, we would love to spread our message to as many women as possible, “start to love yourself, put on a swimsuit and jump in – the water’s lovely.“

Community Featured

5 London Lidos to Enjoy This Summer

London Lidos: A few hidden gems

Believe it or not, London is a great city for outdoor swimming and there are 17 lidos dotted around the city, So, take your pick from one of these London Lidos for some relaxation this summer.

London Fields Lido from the Nudge

In the UK and London, outdoor lido swimming became a hot trend in the 1930s. At its peak, there were a total of 169 facilities. At first, it became an affordable recreational activity for the entire family to enjoy. The amount of lido’s meant that there was great accessibility, especially for those who didn’t have much money. However, over the years, transport links were developed and holidays were made cheaper, meaning many turned to more long-haul trips to enjoy a bit of H2O.

Nowadays, London, in particular, has seen a spike in memberships for outdoor lido swimming. The Outdoor Swimming Society – which is an online community of swimming enthusiasts – has reported a huge increase in its membership. In 2008 there were only 300 signed up to the site, fast forward to 2022 and they now boast of 25,000 budding backstrokers. This surge of interest is likely down to a more health-conscious Britain, following the pandemic, which saw hundreds of thousands of people lose their life, in the UK alone. As a nation, we are ready to take charge of our own health, and there’s no better way to do it than a relaxing dip in a beautiful historic (sometimes heated) lido.

  1. Brockwell Lido, Herne Hill
Brockwell Lido
Brockwell Lido by Croydon News

Brockwell Lido is the gem of South London swimming. Opening in 1937, it tragically closed in 1990. But, after a local campaign, it re-opened in 1994. Part of Brockwell’s appeal is the beautiful ‘moderne’ and art deco style architecture that wraps around the pool. The facility, designed by Harry Rowbotham and T. L. Smithson, became Grade II listed by the National Heritage List for England in July 2003.

The pool is a bit on the chilly side as there is no heating, however, this is part of the appeal. Just a few years ago, Cold Water Swimming was a niche. But now, many brave enough to take the plunge are enjoying the countless health benefits that come from prolonged exposure to cold water. And, for those who are a little hesitant about dipping in the sea or river, this safe and regulated pool could be the perfect starting point for your cold-water adventure.

  1. Oasis Sports Centre, Covent Garden
A London Lido
Oasis Sports Centre from Culture Whisper

Incredibly, not many people know about the Oasis pool that is sandwiched between Soho and Covent Garden. It is also one of the few outdoor heated pools in London, complete with an elevated sunbathing platform, for those who wish to work on their tan.

The pool has a surprisingly long history, despite the modern building that it lives in. Built in 1728, the pool was first known as the ‘Bagnio’ – a Turkish bath. The Turkish bath then closed in 1840 but was reopened in 1852 by local parishes, with the new name: Bloomsbury Baths and Washhouses. However, the Oasis centre that we all know and love today came shortly after the war, hence its signature brutalist architectural surroundings.

  1. Hackney Lido, London Fields
Hackney Lido
London Fields Lido from Secret LDN

Hackney Lido is another heated pool on the list and is the perfect facility for those who want to prioritise fitness over relaxation. The pool boasts 50m in length and is wide enough to accommodate a large number of swimmers at one given time. Perfect if you want to power through those lengths without needing to overtake.

The lido opened in 1931 but was sadly abandoned in the 1980s, following Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s attacks on the Greater London Council, which rid London of many of its great lido’s. Following a lengthy campaign, it was finally reopened in 2006.

The Olympic-sized pool is also extremely accessible. Being part of the Better Gym Group, it boasts competitive prices and long opening hours, meaning you can swim first thing in the morning or late into the night.

  1. Tooting Bec Lido, Tooting
Lido in London
Tooting Bec Lido from Hidden London

Probably the lesser known lido on the list, Tooting Bec Lido has a lot to offer. It is in fact Europe’s largest outdoor pool, with 90 meters of water. “It feels more like swimming across a lake than a pool,” says Isabel Choat, in the Guardian.

The lido is also somewhat of a local celebrity. The iconic bright red, yellow and green changing room doors have been the star of many movies and advertisement campaigns, including Brad Pitt’s boxing pool scene in Snatch.

Opened in 1906, it’s one of the UK’s oldest open-air pools. Holding one million gallons of water, Tooting Bec Lido is probably the safest choice if you want to avoid those busy summer crowds.

  1. Park Road Lido, Crouch End
London Lidos
Park Road Lido from Historic Pools

In 2019, Park Road Lido celebrated its 90th birthday and it has lots to celebrate. Opened in 1929, the lido is one of the oldest open-air lidos in this part of London. It was immediately adored by locals and became a place for leisurely swimming for the entire family. Katy Ferguson, from the Park Road Lido User Group, told the local paper Ham High that “It was about there being somewhere to swim for everyone, not just the people in the posh houses. It was about somewhere kids could learn to swim, even now it serves that purpose.”

Katy added, “There was a tearoom and a pavilion and, of course, there’s the unusual feature of leylandii surrounding the lido, which remains just lovely. It’s a place that has a lovely ambience about it.”

Nowadays, the lido has state of the art facilities which will ensure that the pool is accessible to all, no matter your ability or disability.