Swimmin’ in the rain

On Sunday morning I went swimming in Tooting Bec Lido for the first time. I possibly didn’t see it at it’s best – the rain ranged between drizzle and torrential – but it’s still a beautiful pool with its colourful changing booths. It’s also massive: the biggest open air pool in the UK.

Tooting Bec Lido by Vapour Trail on Flickr
Let’s just say it wasn’t quite this sunny… (Tooting Bec Lido by Vapour Trail on Flickr)

Swimming in the rain is one of those little unimportant but enriching experiences: there’s something special about comfortably swimming through the droplets. The water was a tolerable 17 degrees – slightly colder than the Serpentine Lido on a sunny day a couple of weeks ago, but vastly warmer than the mixed pond at Hampstead Heath on a baking day in April (slightly magical, teeth-chatteringly cold).

At the Chap Olympiad the day before I was heartened to see such an excellent turnout braving the dreadful weather [*]. I was slightly sad for those who decided not to come: they missed the glorious hours in which the urban woodland grove which is Bedford Square was beautifully lit up by the sun which, in true chap style, had emerged sluggishly in the late afternoon.

I think the British summer sun is all the more beautiful for its scarcity. Perhaps it’s my Scottish ancestry, but I find dazzlingly bright, baking hot days rather unpleasant and overwhelming. A pleasant British summers day should be warm but breezy, slightly overcast but punctuated with lances of golden sunlight: all the more appreciated for their rarity.

After a couple of lengths the sun emerged, briefly infusing the scene with a Mediterranean glow and casting dancing wave patterns on the white pool floor. I found a dead bee amidst the dead foliage floating on the water. By the time I got out it was raining again, but I was soaked anyway, so it didn’t matter.

Have you swum in a Lido yet this summer? Time Out have produced an excellent guide to London’s extensive range of outdoor swimming opportunitie. My advice? Don’t be put off by the rain!

[*] I put my faith in the adage that there is no such thing as bad weather – only inadequate clothing and was entirely comfortable in my red Hunter wellies, black brolly and tan mac.

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