- On 05/03/2018 Thanks to website reader Kathryn Butler for alerting me to the February 2018 edition of Pittwater Life magazine, which had a fantastic feature article on all the northern beaches rock pools and the people who swim in them. The article covers an amazing 10 pages, with some wonderful shots of all the ocean pools and some great stories on the people... Continue Reading
- On 26/12/2017 Bruce Steer was a local personality at the heart of Bermagui's community in the post-war years. My experience in the pool Bruce Steer Pool in Bermagui doesn't get as much publicity as the Blue Pool over the headland, but actually on the right day this is a fantastic spot for a protected swim. The first time I came to Bermagui (to swim in... Continue Reading
- On 22/12/2017 Berry was named after the first family of white settlers in the area. My experience in the pool Berry Village Pool is one of those charming little 20m pools most villages in Australia seem to have. Yes, if you're a Pom, you heard that right: a village pool. Back in the UK, I can think of only one area where a set... Continue Reading
- On 19/12/2017 Epping was named after the east London/Essex town of the same name. My experience in the pool Epping Aquatic Centre sits surrounded by bush in this leafy northern suburb of Sydney. It's a wonderful place to swim, with those tall gum trees towering over on all sides, and the bush inhabitants squawking or cooing as you plough up and down your laps. I... Continue Reading
- 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
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…