Next month I'm taking on a new long distance swim challenge – swimming a full running marathon distance of 42.2km in my local Lido. That’s 26.1miles or 844 laps of the 50m swimming pool! The aim is to raise awareness and funds for the historic Sandford Parks Lido that provides the residents of Cheltenham with a historic and truly wonderful swimming facility.
The Sandford Lido was opened in 1935 and like many traditional Lidos it hasn’t always enjoyed the popularity or patronage it deserves. By the 1990s it was losing money and the local Borough Council who ran the pool considered shutting it down due to high maintenance costs and the refurbishment work that needed to be done. In 1996 a charitable trust was set up to manage the Lido and not only did it survive but over £370,000 was raised along with government grants to refurbish the pool and fix many of the longstanding problems. It continues to provide an unrivaled swimming experience to the local community and is not only a mecca of activity on the occasional hot sunny summer’s day but is popular with local triathlon, swimming and water polo clubs.
Like all outdoor pools in this country the fickle English weather has a significant say in how successful the season will be. This year the first 4 weeks the Lido was open saw a £4000 blow out of the heating budget due to unseasonably cold weather. In the past the council used to keep the Lido only minimally heated to save costs but this would result in an understandable down turn in popularity and a cycle of poor patronage and income would result. The Charitable trust that now oversee the running of the Lido are made up of volunteers passionate about maintaining and preserving the historical Lido for the local community. They have eschewed the narrow-minded approach that drove people away and keep the Lido well heated and well managed for the community.
Unfortunately there is still a perception that the Lido is cold and uninviting, only for cooling off on a scorching hot summer’s day, I’m hoping to raise people’s awareness about how lucky they are to have a pool like the Sandford Parks Lido on their doorstep, if it isn’t used it will one day be gone and that would be a real tragedy. Hopefully the swim will raise some money to continue to fund the Lido and encourage others to make the most of this amazing place. After all if I can swim 844 laps in one go maybe a few people will think they can come down and swim a couple.
The swim will take place on Sunday the 15th of July at the Sandford Parks Lido in Cheltenham starting at 6am and continuing for as long as it takes! You can sponsor me at www.justgiving.com/lido42kmswim or turn up on the day to swim a few laps with me.