Sunshine and open-air swimming

Hathersage Swimming Pool 2014: Dan Blaylock takes a dive
Hathersage Swimming Pool 2014: Dan Blaylock takes a dive

Birthday for community pool where swimmers first dipped into unheated conditions in 1936, while looking out at the splendors of the Peak District

“There’s nothing like this in Manchester,” says Dan Blaylock, before launching himself into Hathersage swimming pool alongside his son, Isaac.

Hathersage Swimming Pool 2014: The Charlton family practice their backstroke: ltor -Kev, Freya (8), Olivia (11) and Ruth

Hathersage Swimming Pool 2014: The Charlton family practice their backstroke: ltor -Kev, Freya (8), Olivia (11) and Ruth

“It’s a great place to come for a day out.”

Equally, there’s nothing of the kind in Wooten Bassett, notes Laura Leighfield, holidaying in Derbyshire from the Wiltshire town. “I think it’s brilliant.” Sheffielder Tony Ellingham was relaxing with a novel as his family swam, and reveals he hadn’t been to the pool since his own childhood.

“Nothing much has changed as far as I can see,” he notes.

Last Friday was the 78th birthday of Hathersage swimming pool, says assistant pool manager George Foy. Opened in 1936, the celebrations then included displays by the Sheffield City Police diving team into a pool little deeper than the height of the 1936 diving board.

Hathersage Swimming Pool 2014: Open session

Hathersage Swimming Pool 2014: Open session

The pool and adjoining playing fields, tennis courts and bandstand were given to the village by local razor blade maker and philanthropist, George Lawrence, who ran a factory in Sheffield.

Swimmers were happy to swim in unheated conditions in 1936, but the pool’s 28 degree summer temperature is a big plus for visitors, who describe the effect of like being in a warm bath looking out at the Peak District countryside with butterflies flying overhead.

“The Guardian said we were one of the top 10 outdoor pools in the world a few years ago,” says pool supervisor Rob Machon, “and last year The Times said we were the best in the UK. It’s all great to get attention.”

The result is that in the busiest school summer holiday period, the pool often reaches capacity at 120 swimmers and spectators, with an average of 4,000 visitors a week.

“On busy days when the weather is good, there are usually queues so you need to get down early,” says George Foy. “We regularly have to operate the one out one in policy on summer afternoons.”

The pool has special sessions for season ticket holders, and the 6.30am Tues and Thursday morning sessions are still popular with locals taking a dip before catching the commuter trains to Sheffield.

Keeping the pool running was a concern a few years ago, says George, but support from local councils (especially owners Hathersage Parish Council) and increased social marketing and new fundraising ideas have enabled new toilets and changing rooms to be installed along with improvements to the pool itself.

The next step is a £450,000 project to improve the ‘verandah’ area and special events like all night swims and monthly evening swim and music sessions are helping to build funds.

“After seeing the article about the world’s best pools, we had some visitors from Australia,” says Rob Machon. “They’d been to the one that looks out at Sydney harbour bridge, and they really liked it. Hathersage wasn’t better than Sydney, they said, but it was different.”