80. Open-air swimming pools
People in both the north and the south of the Cotswolds are fortunate to have access to lovely open-air swimming pools during the summer months.
Cirencester Open Air Swimming Pool, built in 1869, is Britain's oldest open air swimming pool and is unique in that it offers the chance to swim in natural spring water heated to an average 27°C (80°F).
Located on the edge of Cirencester Park, there is a 28-metre main pool with slide and a separate children's paddling pool, along with a sunbathing patio. Hot and cold refreshments are available and picnics are welcome.
The pool is open from late May to early September each year, offering facilities for families, parents and babies as well as serious swimmers. Over the past couple of decades the pool has been managed by volunteers and the introduction of heated water, lifeguard training and swimming lessons makes it a popular place for all ages during the summer months.
Another well-loved open-air swimming pool in the Cotswolds is Chipping Norton Lido which opened in Fox Close in 1970.
With its heated 25m pool and toddler pool, slide and café, the Lido is an oasis in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds, whether you’re a serious early-morning swimmer or a family looking for an afternoon’s outdoor fun. The Lido Café serves lovely homecooked food.
The story of Chipping Norton Lido reflects the town's extraordinary community spirit. In 1963 local people began a fundraising campaign to build a swimming pool and after more than £20,000 was raised in just seven years, the Lido was opened.
When Chippy's new leisure centre opened in July 2002, West Oxfordshire District Council, which then ran the Lido, announced it was to close. A campaign by the Keep Our Pool Open (KOPO) group gained huge support and, backed by the town council, they achieved a one-year reprieve.
Late in 2004 the district council announced the withdrawal of their subsidy and the KOPO committee formed a company to manage The Lido, Chipping Norton Lido Ltd, and registered for charitable status. Without any public funding other than a small grant from the town council each year, the Lido has been run by local people as a charity since 2004 and describes itself as a "pool with a social conscience".
In 2010 the Lido's new eco-efficient energy system became fully operational. Solar electricity is now generated from 60 photovoltaic panels on the roof.
The Lido's big fundraising event of the year is its auction of promises which has received huge support from Jeremy Clarkson, the journalist, author and broadcaster who lives locally. At the September 2013 auction, the Top Gear presenter, helped by generous bidders, ensured that £14,155 was raised to help keep the Lido afloat for another year.
Sandford Parks Lido is a famous landmark in Cheltenham, on the edge of the Cotswolds. The lido is a children's paradise with a heated Olympic-sized 50m main pool, slides, children's pool and a paddling pool. The pool is also an ideal place to train and two lanes are reserved most days.
The historic lido, built in 1935, is set in four acres of landscaped grounds and is open 'rain or shine' from early May to the end of September. A variety of sporting events are held at the lido throughout the year and there's also a cafe serving a range of food throughout the day.
Down in Wotton-under-Edge in the south Cotswolds, Wotton Pool is a hugely popular local facility that has received fantastic support from townsfolk over the years.
Construction of the pool began in 1959 by a group of pupils and teachers from Wotton-under-edge County Secondary School, and local engineers. Despite its often chilly waters, the pool's popularity grew and in the 1970s a solar panel heating system was developed. In 1998 Wotton Pool thwarted the weather with the installation of the retractable roof which can be pulled away on warm sunny days.
In 2010, loss of council funding threatened the pool's future, and a referendum was held to decide whether Wotton taxpayers would agree to a rise in council tax to cover the pool's running costs. The people of Wotton overwhelmingly voted yes (1,082 for, 102 against), the pool is now run by a special type of company.
Over the Oxfordshire border, Woodstock Open Air Pool is open from April to September for the enjoyment of all the community.
Whatever the weather, the heated pool is open to the public for morning, afternoon and evening swimming. Surrounded by a large grassed area, the pool is ideal for relaxing and picnics on a sunny day.
Cirencester Open Air Swimming Pool
01285 653947 (during opening times)
Chipping Norton Lido
Sandford Parks Lido
Wotton under Edge
Woodstock Open Air Pool