- On 11/12/2017 Blacktown's name has its origins in the Stolen Generation as there was a 'Native Institution' here in the 19th century. My experience in the pool Blacktown Aquatic Centre has one of those outdoor swimming pools that look so tempting when you speed past in the train. When I spotted it over the tracks, it looked pristine, with sky blue tiles looking magnificent... Continue Reading
- On 06/12/2017 Ballina probably has both Irish and Aboriginal connections linguistically My experience in the pool Ballina Information Centre at first shook their heads when I asked about the whereabouts of the ocean pool in town. "Well, there's a local campaign to have a new ocean pool built in Ballina," they said, "but there isn't one yet".. When I pressed them and mentioned a... Continue Reading
- On 30/11/2017 Yamba is an Aboriginal word for either shellfish or headland. My experience in the pool Yamba Ocean Pool is the most northerly of the real ocean baths along the NSW coast. It may well also be the most recently built - constructed in the 1960s - though it may also be the more modern building methods and materials that made it more vulnerable... Continue Reading
- On 28/11/2017 Mr Sawtell was a local landlord in the early 1900s. My experience in the pool Sawtell Memorial Rock Pool sits at the northern end of a beautiful sandy beach, which we reached at low tide. The pool lay empty when we turned up early on a Friday afternoon in November, and from the cliff top where we parked it looked at first... Continue Reading
- On 23/11/2017 My experience in the pool Petersham Pool, in Sydney’s inner west, had its name changed a few years ago to Fanny Durack Aquatic Centre. Now, the great thing about the pool in Petersham is that, if you’re like me and went, “Fanny who?”, they provide a potted history of her swimming achievements on little information plaques that line the wall outside... Continue Reading
- On 19/11/2017 My experience in the pool All the blogs I've read about getting to Figure of Eight Pool talk of how tough the route is to get to the spot, and many emphasise the need for energy to get back up the cliff afterwards. The estimate in the Garawarra Farm Car Park, which is the nearest place to leave your car, is... Continue Reading
I’m a recent arrival in Australia from the north of England.
Before emigrating at the end of 2014, I embarked on a tour of the UK’s open air swimming pools, most of which are inland, chlorinated pools which are only open in the summer months from May-September. There are a few remaining ocean baths (though we Brits don’t tend to call them that), most notably at the two opposite ends of the country: some in Scotland and some in the far south west of England.
Even at the height of summer, you’re better off wearing a wet suit to swim in those Scottish pools, but it’s the most exhilarating experience to do so, I’m guessing on a par with how Scandinavians feel coming out of the sauna and diving into an icy bath, though I prefer the swimming pool option any day.
I only managed about 25 of those UK pools before my wife and I set off for Australia but loved the variety of pools I found, the sense of community around them, and the local history attached to each pool, whether built in the 19th century, or in the other waves (no pun intended) of swimming enthusiasm in the 1920s and 1960s.
The great thing about living on the NSW coast is that there are over 100 tidal baths, rock pools or ocean baths, and I imagine even in the depths of an Australian winter, the water temperatures will be warmer than what we experienced off the coast at Wick in north east Scotland.
So, I couldn’t resist the challenge of swimming in all those NSW tidal baths and recording both my own experience and that of others I meet along the way.
Since I also write and maintain a regular blog and website on coffee and tea, it’s an easy add-on for this website to include pointers of where to go for a warming coffee or tea after your swim, or a cooling milkshake if it’s really hot outside the pool.
I have a bit of a history of turning this sort of tour into a book, having published A Cathedrals, Coffee and Tea Tour in the UK, and Fancy a Cuppa, North Yorkshire, which found great coffee and tea in every town of the county we moved from when we came to Australia. We’ll see if there’s a book in this tour, too; but for now I’m happy just to do the swimming, the drinking and the writing, hoping it ends up being a resource that others will find as useful as I probably will myself…