Going for a swim in the UK


There are public heated indoor and outdoor swimming pools in most towns, many located in leisure centres. You can also swim at numerous beaches. British beaches have for long had a doubtful reputation as far as cleanliness is concerned, but they’re definitely improving.

A survey in 2001 by the Marine Conservation Society established that a third of them met the very highest standards while 11 per cent failed to meet minimum water quality standards. Sixty more beaches than were monitored during the previous survey passed the test. Details are given in the M.C.S.’s Good Beach Guide (www.goodbeachguide.co.uk ), which includes surveys of over 800 beaches. Those which failed were often polluted by sewage, it must be added. There are even aturist and no-smoking beaches in some resorts.

The temperature of indoor pools is generally maintained at 23 to 30 C (74 to 80 F). Many centres have a main pool and a teaching pool, often with a waterslide (jet slide, water chute), flumes, wave machine, whirlpool or waterfall -great fun for kids, young and old. Some centres provide diving boards at certain times and paddling pools for toddlers. Many also have sunbeds, saunas, solaria and Jacuzzis. Separate sessions are arranged for various groups and ages, focussing on early morning swimming, lane swimming, diving, senior citizens, mums and babies, over 25s, school holidays and aqua-aerobics. Aqua-natal sessions for expectant or post-natal mothers are also a possibility.

Pools are usually very busy at weekends and on public holidays and it’s best to go during the week if you can. If you’re going along for a general swim, check in advance whether the pool has been booked for a special session. The cost is usually from £2 to £3 for adults and £1 to £2 for juniors under 16 and senior citizens. There are generally reduced rates for family groups. Most centres provide annual season tickets, for around £70 to £120 a year, allowing you to swim at any time. Often swimming season tickets can be combined with another sport, e.g. squash. Some swimming sessions are reserved for members of a leisure centre and some public pools provide closed weekly sessions for naturists and those who cannot afford bathing costumes.

Before entrusting your children to the care of some swimming pools, you should check the safety standards, as they vary considerably and some are unsafe (public pools must have adequate lifeguard cover). This also applies to beaches, many of which fail to meet basic safety standards owing to a lack of emergency equipment, lifeguards and warning flags. Most leisure centres provide swimming lessons (all levels from beginner to fish) and run ‘improver’ and life-saving courses. Swimming courses for children are usually held during term times or at weekends.

This article is an extract from Living and working in Britain. Click here to get a copy now.

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