London has a wide selection of open-air pools, but a number of factors have led to me returning to the same one three times. London Fields Lido is open later than the others – until 9pm each night – and is heated, which when added to its convenient location means I’ve been back time again.
My first visit to this lido was at the height of the 2018 summer heatwave on a Saturday. To say it was busy would be an understatement, with queues to get in snaking out the door and nearly out the gate into the adjacent park. For times like this I would definitely recommend booking in advance, which can be done easily online.
Despite how absolutely packed the pool was, there was still some semblance of order. In fact, the valiant lifeguards were doing a fantastic job of making sure that those swimming in the lanes were actually swimming. On hot, sunny says it’s not surprising that everyone is tempted by the pool, with plenty of people simply wanting to cool off and splash about.
The challenge is to ensure that the swimmers can still get on with their lengths undisturbed and there are three separate lanes at London Fields for this. After having started off in the slow lane (an approach I often take to make sure I’m gauging my relative speed to other swimmers properly) I switched over to the medium lane, which on this occasion suited me perfectly.
What’s great about the lanes at London Fields Lido is they’re nice and wide. I’ve never known an instance where everyone in a lane swims at the same speed – it must be almost impossible to achieve – so it’s great to be able to overtake easily without having to worry about swimmers coming at you from the opposite direction.
Every swimmer dreams of an empty pool, or as it’s dubbed at my local, ‘millionaire’s pool’, but we all know that public pools with just one swimmer in them aren’t great for bringing in much-needed revenue. It was wonderful, therefore, to see so many people making use of the lido on that hot summer’s day, with some people doing lengths, others splashing about and a good smattering of sunbathers too.
This must have been what it was like every summer in the 1930s, when lidos were in their heyday and whole communities decamped to the facilities for the day. So pleased to see life being breathed back into these wonderful places. Let’s hope for another hot summer to continue the trend.
The next time I visited London Fields Lido it was on a Sunday evening in November. It couldn’t have been much more different, with only a few other swimmers in the pool, taking advantage of the heated water, late opening times and tranquility. Unfortunately, the pool closed an hour early due to a lifeguard being sick, so I wasn’t able to finish the 30 lengths I had prescribed for myself (because it’s a 50-metre pool, I was intending to do half my usual tally).
Luckily, I was in London again the following weekend and could rectify this and complete a full set of lengths. Again, it was a late evening swim and the warm water under a dark sky was absolutely magic. There weren’t many swimmers, but enough to realise what a wonderful thing it is to be able to swim outdoors at night in the UK in November.
London Fields Lido is well-equipped with changing rooms, lockers, hot showers and water fountains. Being a 50-metre pool means having to do fewer turns to get your distance covered. It’s easily accessible from London Fields Overground station and sits at the side of a pleasant park. There’s two cafes within the pool complex, one of which only opens during the summer, so refreshments are available if you build up an appetite during your swim. I walked to Dalston Junction after one of my visits and had a tasty meal there instead.