Image for The UK’s ‘lost’ lidos are being brought back from the dead

The UK’s ‘lost’ lidos are being brought back from the dead

A clutch of old lidos are reopening across the UK, as people rediscover the joys (and health benefits) of open-air swimming

A clutch of old lidos are reopening across the UK, as people rediscover the joys (and health benefits) of open-air swimming

The post-war trend for pulling the plug on the UK’s lidos has been in reverse in recent years amid surging interest in outdoor swimming. 

The UK’s open-air pools were built predominantly for working-class communities in the 1930s, but the second world war put paid to the fun, and in the years that followed lidos’ fortunes waned. As the 1960s made it easier access to the continent and its consistent sunshine, many pools closed. 

But in this Wim Hof epoch, lidos are having a moment again. Old ones are reopening – often thanks to the tireless efforts of local communities – and new ones are in the pipeline. The London borough of Waltham Forest is currently consulting residents about where to locate its proposed outdoor pool, and there’s even talk of a lido being built down the Old Kent Road. 

Others are nearer completion, among them Sea Lanes on Brighton seafront. It was given a June open date last week, and is one of a clutch of lidos preparing to welcome swimmers this summer. 

1. Cleveland Pools, Bath

The  UK’s oldest lido is preparing for its first summer season since it reopened following a £9.3m restoration project led by locals.

Cleveland first opened in 1815 with a single pool fed by waters diverted from the River Avon. The Georgian marvel was one of Bath’s prime social hubs until the early 1970s but closed in 1984 when it was turned into a trout farm.

It has taken the Cleveland Pools Trust, which bought the Grade II-listed site from Bath and North East Somerset council in 2003, two decades to realise its dream. A lucky few secured a swim when Cleveland opened for a brief autumn season last year, but spring will see a full reopening.

In a nod to their river origins, Cleveland’s pools will be warmed by a water-source heat pump fed by the Avon.

Image: Casey Ryder

2. Sea Lanes, Brighton

On the site of a dilapidated pre-war amusement park on Brighton seafront, the new Sea Lanes pool will be the UK’s first national open water swimming centre of excellence, with opening planned for May.

Developed by a group of Brighton-based open water swimming enthusiasts, Sea Lanes has a 50m heated pool and aims to bridge the gap between indoor swimming and the rigours of a chilly ocean, with an ‘endless pool’ training facility where you can test your crawl against a current.

The pool will host triathlons and lifeguard courses, and ultimately aims to revive competitive and recreational sea swimming on Brighton seafront by improving access to swimming for all.

Image: Sea Lanes

3. Albert Avenue, Hull

Hull swimmers are aflutter at the prospect of jumping into a (heated) lido that closed more than 30 years ago. 

Albert Avenue pool is located in one of the UK’s most deprived neighbourhoods and is currently undergoing a £10.5m redevelopment, scheduled for completion this summer. 

“This area has 60 per cent of homes that are technically classed as being within a deprivation category,” Hull city council leader Darren Hale told Hull Live on a recent visit to the site. “Once the project is completed, it will be a short walk or short bus ride for so many families.”

Image: Esteem

4. Tarlair, Aberdeenshire

This art deco gem sits pretty in one of the most stunning lido locations in the UK, perched between mountain and ocean at the base of a sea cliff amphitheatre on the Aberdeenshire coast.

Tarlair opened in 1932 and thrived in the glory days of British seaside holidays. The pool was fed by the bracing waters of the North Sea, with the main pool flushed clean at each high tide. It fell into neglect and closed entirely in the 1990s.

The Friends of Tarlair are leading a £1.8m project, backed by Aberdeenshire council, to restore the site’s art deco pavilion, with work expected to begin this year. The revived building will host a cafe and community space, and they plan to restore Tarlair’s swimming pools soon after.

Image: Tarlair
Main image: Casey Ryder

Help us break the bad news bias

Positive News is helping more people than ever to get a balanced and uplifting view of the world. While the doom and gloom of other news outlets becomes overwhelming, instead we’re here to support your wellbeing and empower you to make a difference towards a better future. And as Positive News’ audience and impact grows, we’re showing the rest of the media that good news matters.

But our solutions journalism has a cost and, as an independent, not-for-profit media organisation, we rely on the financial backing of our readers. If you value what we do and can afford to, please consider making a one-off or regular contribution as a Positive News supporter. From as little as £1 per month, you’ll be directly funding the production and sharing of our stories – helping them to benefit many more people.

Join our community today, and together, we’ll change the news for good.


Related articles