Whatever happened to Norfolk’s outdoor public pools?

A heatwave in 1959 meant lots of people headed for Gorleston outdoor pool.

A heatwave in 1959 meant lots of people headed for Gorleston outdoor pool.

After the blistering heat of the past few weeks, the urge to seek out a soul-lifting combination of water, sunlight and space has been almost overwhelming.

The pool at Lakenham has long since closed.

The pool at Lakenham has long since closed.

Many of us have headed to our beautiful coastline, but in the past, this was a quenching combination which could be found much closer to home at the region's numerous lidos.

The river at Earlham Park was dammed and made into a swimming pool.

The river at Earlham Park was dammed and made into a swimming pool.

Combining exercise with community, lidos offer open-air swimmers the chance to dive out of the heat and into the water under an ever-changing sky.

In our region, only two public open-air lidos remain: one at Beccles and another at Halesworth.

Beccles Lido, which reopened in August 2010, is at the wonderfully-named Puddingmoor and is a 33m by 16m heated outdoor pool built in 1959 and now run by the Friends of Beccles Open Air Pool.

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The Halesworth Outdoor Swimming Pool is a traditional, outdoor heated pool near Halesworth playing field, a 25m by 8.5m lido with a grass and seated spectator area.

Then there are the lost lidos of Norfolk, long-since disappeared but still fondly remembered by the generations of county folk that splashed under the open skies.

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Gorleston's Lido opened in 1939 with 2,000 people flocking to the Floral Hall for the opening ceremony which featured a swimming exhibition by The Johnson Girls and a diving demonstration from the local Lads' Club.

Lined with green tiling, the 150ft by 48ft pool boasted heated sea water, five diving boards and floodlit bathing at night.

Rambling roses covered the changing cubicles and colourful flower beds surrounded the Lido, which fell into disuse in the late 1980s and was bulldozed away in 1993.

On a hot sunny day in Norwich, there was only one place to be: the Costa del Lakenham which closed just over 20 years ago when the plug was pulled on decades of open-air swimming.

The original 80-yard pool was built in 1908 when part of the River Yare was sealed off.

By the 1920s, swimming galas were held there, which attracted swimmers from across the region.

By the end of the 1992 season, after 12 sun-soaked weeks, the pool welcomed its last visitors: the necessary improvements to keep the Lido safe would have cost £100,000 and, with no funds forthcoming, the pool closed.

In Great Yarmouth, the Marina Centre covers what was the town's outdoor sea water pool which opened in 1922 – a massive 300ft by 75ft, it included 100 dressing boxes and seating accommodation for 1,000 spectators, while in King's Lynn, an open-air pool used to attract swimmers at The Walks.

There were also pools at Earlham Park in Norwich, Pakefield and Diss, but sadly, funds drained away and the lidos that once delighted thousands of water worshippers are no longer.

But many remember the days spent splashing in open-air public pools and their popularity is on the increase, so who knows...?

Perhaps we can look forward to a lido renaissance.

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