After a vociferous campaign by Hackney residents, London Fields Lido was restored following decades of neglect and reopened in spring 2007. As London’s only Olympic-sized heated outdoor pool, it attracts swimmers from as far away as Kent.
Such is its popularity, during weekends at the height of summer, visitors should arrive early to guarantee even being able to squeeze in alongside all the other families splashing around. But in winter, as steam gently rises from the water’s surface, more often than not it is only stalwart locals ploughing up and down the fifty-metre pool. Don’t be put off from visiting at this time of the year, as the water is heated to a comfortable 25–27°C. When the weather is exceptionally cold, extra lifeguards are on duty, peering through the swirling fog to keep everybody in view. Swimming courses are available for various age groups, as are women-only sessions. The attitude of the enthusiastic staff reflects the pride that the local community takes in the lido’s services. All staff receive disability awareness training every six months and – while most disabled visitors arrive with any assistance they might need anyway – they are happy to lend a hand. Staff know many swimmers by name and have developed a good rapport with them, understanding their needs and their disability.
There is no Blue Badge parking available, so many disabled visitors park in nearby roads (metered) or use cab services. London Fields is the nearest rail station, five minutes’ walk across the park, and there are several buses running within ten minutes of the site; ring ahead and ask for advice on the best routes. The lobby is well lit with automatic doors, part of the reception desk is low-level and a gate alongside the turnstile admits wheelchair users. There are two disabled changing rooms, one at each end of the pool, with two “spares”, which are opened up if there are lots of people needing to use them. The changing room at the shallow (one-metre) end is equipped with an electric hoist. Lockers are mounted outside for improved security and the disabled changing rooms can be locked. A wheeled shower-chair provides aided access to the shallow end via a ramp, while a hand-powered hoist offers another method of entry. There is a hearing loop at the front desk and one wheelchair on-site. One staff member has been trained in BSL and some changing room lockers have Braille instructions. The public areas are spacious and well lit and staff are always eager to help.
Food & drink: The Park Terrace Café, otherwise known as the The Hoxton Beach Café, serves visitors in and outside the lido. It offers homemade snacks, including “the best falafel wraps in Hackney”, hearty soups and authentic porridge – just the ticket after a swim outdoors in typical British weather.