Lymington's Sea Water Baths, in Bath Road, is the oldest open air natural swimming pool in the UK. Dating back to 1833 the baths have historically gained national interest for their health giving waters and natural mud minerals. Today, young and old still swim in the waters and enjoy the stunning location with views over to the Isle of Wight.
The Sea Water Baths are generally open 7 days a week from the May half term until mid-September.
The Lymington Sea Water Baths is a fantastic place for all the family to enjoy - come rain or shine! Many local families take the attitude 'well, you're going to get wet anyway' and just pop on a wetsuit if the weather is a little chilly! Back in 2013, Chris Evans featured lidos on his Breakfast Show, after which the Lymington Sea Water Baths became known affectionately as Lymington Lido!
Whether you prefer to take a gentle swim, tackle the fabulous 120 metres of inflatable obstacle course, take up aqua jousting, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding or walk on water in the zorbs, there is something for everyone. Younger children have a splash pool and sandpit and of course the kiosk/café is open throughout the season.
The Sea Water Baths have disabled access and facilities, toilets, changing rooms and showers, first aid room and bike racks. It is also possible to hire buoyancy aids and wetsuits.
You can also hire Lymington's Sea Water Baths for private parties. Get in touch with Hugo Ambrose to find out more...
In 2016, the baths were extensively renovated by Lymington and Pennington Town Council to ensure their longevity. "The Sea Water Baths are owned by the town council and we have a management arrangement in place to manage the service, but the town council is still responsible for its upkeep and its structure," said Town Clerk, Caroline Godfrey. "We're hoping it opens up ready for the bank holiday. The town council wishes to see it succeed and extend its life as long as we can."
The base layer membrane had deteriorated and needed to be replaced, then covered with 200 tonnes of stones. Other parts of the structure have also been refurbished, such as new doors and roof on the building and the pump has been repaired. The pool is now in the process of being refilled - it takes the best part of a week to fill it as its almost the size of an Olympic pool along the width! Then it's topped up from the sea. After that the chlorination process is started and water quality is tested.
Meanwhile if you've forgotten or never even discovered the pleasure of swimming, do read Clare Poynter's lovely feature article about the benefits of swimming, whether in open or enclosed water, indoors or out!
The first records of bathing in the Lymington district date from the late 18th century. At this time people mostly bathed in sea water for its health-giving qualities. The drawing by Thomas Rowlandson shows Mrs Beeston’s baths (the building on the right) in 1784.
Mrs Beeston, who took over the baths in November 1872 following her husband’s death, capitalized on the growing public health interest in sea water and mud by using an inlet from the Salterns and advertising her “strengthening sea baths”.
In 1825 the charges were: “For a warm bath: 3s. 6d; shower ditto, 2s. 0d; cold water bath with guide: 1s. od; without guide, 6d. Every care and attention to the comforts of the invalid and the convalescent will be found strictly observed.” The male guide kept bathers afloat with the use of a rope.
The baths gained in popularity with customers coming from all over England to bath in the health strengthening waters and mud. In 1833 a larger building was funded by shares and donations (£6000 in total) under the Lymington Bath and Improvement Co. to house hot, cold and vapour baths with separate wings for ladies and gentlemen and large swimming baths at the western extremity.
Further mud flat areas were taken over for pastimes such as archery, rifle shooting and even a 12- hole golf course in 1893, all below sea level. With a membership of 200 in 1916 and a ladies club, the course was flooded and then again in 1937. With the onset of the Second World War the course was closed.
After various owners the local Corporation acquired the Lymington Sea Water Baths in 1929. The sea water baths are now owned by Lymington and Pennington Town Council, and as of July 2013 leased to a private company Lynx Sports Management to manage them.