Last Thursday afternoon, two of our lido swimmers, Jeanne and Irene and an ex Lido ‘Friend ‘Kay who is temporarily exiled in London had researched another of their ‘Other Lido trips’ This time they were off to the West Reservoir at Stoke Newington in North East London Borough of Hackney. The reservoirs East and West were constructed in 1833 to provide fresh clean water to the expanding Metropolis. The imposing entrance to the West Reservoir was once the Water Boards Pumping Station. It was designed by William Chadwell Mylne and built to look like a towering Scottish Castle. In 2003 a Lottery Grant helped to transform the Pumphouse into the Leisure Centre it is today. The Building has a Climbing Centre and a ‘Better’ chain gym. The expansive body of water known as the West reservoir is now a facility for sailing, canoeing and swimming. On the Western edge stand the former filter house that is now set out as a Visitors center with a cafe.
This is reservoir offers real open water swimming but without the pollution worries of rivers or the vagaries of the sea tides. Swim times are limited and have to be booked. This is a place for serious open water swimmers. The water’s deep, unheated and therefore cold. Wetsuits are mandatory when the water temperature drops below a certain level. Brightly coloured swim hat is another a requirement so lifeguards can pick out swimmers positions.
Safety is foremost and Forms have to be filled out before a swim. After a safety briefing, our trio of swimmers went to the water, a wetsuit is usually mandatory but as the water was so warm. 19degrees centigrade, it was ok to swim without one. We were just asked to wear a brightly coloured hat. The ramp to the swim areas was very slippery on entering after you acclimatised to the water before you had to do an 85meter swim so they knew you were a competent swimmer then it was off on your own.
There were three courses a 200m, 500m and 750m depending on you’re swimming ability. After about an hour and a half in the water, which was cold but energizing, the sun was setting, it was time to get out. The light was fading as we dried in the heated changing rooms. Unfortunately, the cafe had closed by so unable to refuel we made our way back to Kings Cross found an eating place and caught the train back to Peterborough.