Come on in to - Lymington Lido. It’s so bracing!
Whilst we look forward to the re-opening of the Seawater Baths, meanwhile some musings about seaside holidays and sea water
By Mark Symons with cartoon by Hugh Lohan
"Do you remember the days when you went as a family to Cornwall? A small hotel perhaps or a cliffside chalet? I do. My family used to holiday there every year without fail and I remember the beaches of Whitsands Bay so clearly. When I was a schoolboy the steep cliff path was a doddle but, back then I was whip thin, agile and darted amongst the barnacled shoreline rocks as if they were my natural home. Time and cider have taken their toll though and when I re-visited the bay two years ago the cliff path was, shall we say, a little more challenging. The air ambulance crew were very sympathetic.
But here’s the thing, it was the sea! After all, you can’t go to the beach and not swim! It would be like going to Lymington market and returning with nothing, simply not the done thing!"
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"Imagine you are on holiday in Cornwall, hand in hand with your youngest you have walked the two hundred metres to the sea (it’s easily that far at low tide). Then your toes are caressed by the freezing cold water and they curl involuntarily. Your youngest tugs impatiently saying “Come on mummy!”
You are dragged a few more steps. The sand which, ten feet previously, was dry, fluffy and warm but is now ferociously cold and as hard as iron. You eye with trepidation the incoming waves which are about to strike your white, trembling legs. So far, so terrible, but then, the torture ratchets up from unpleasant to agonising. The next enormous wave of, ooh, three inches in height, completely submerges your ankles. The pain is a throbbing unpleasantness and for a moment you consider running, sobbing, back to the safety of the beach towels and wind breaks that Hugh has carefully arranged, not forgetting the carefully prepared white wine spritzer concealed in the thermos flask at the bottom of the picnic bag. You look back with yearning, praying for succour as the fresh sea breeze cuts through your thin swimsuit. Hugh waves from his windless idyll, how helpful. Suddenly you realise that your daughter has let go of your hand and walked two paces further, she is practically knee deep, and, horror of horrors, she is smiling gaily! For a moment you had dreamed that this would end quickly, that your daughter would scream at the first touch of the cold water and run back to sanctuary but no, it continues. You set your chin and bravely and selflessly follow your giggling and happy child into the depths where soon you are holding hands again, she is up to her tummy and you are up to your knees. Naturally you quickly acclimatise to the change and you too begin to grin and, like your daughter, splash and laugh.
Time moves on and so does leisure
Once, when we were there in our clifftop chalet it rained almost incessantly for the whole two weeks. It’s a wet county, Cornwall. My dear departed mother swore she would never holiday there again, and we didn’t. We might take a moment to remember though that the luxury of paid holiday time is relatively new. These days we think nothing of flying away for a holiday, or two, or for some, three! Perhaps we might take a moment to think back a mere ninety years when the idea of going abroad for a holiday was as outlandish as the idea of a woman Prime Minister. Thankfully times have moved on. Now, we head for the sun, the Med, warm seas, foreign food, ice cold beer and interesting wine. Before we took whatever the English weather hurled at us, braced ourselves against freezing cold seas, ate fish and chips and drank warm beer. Perhaps we have become a little soft?
Safety and salt water at Lymington's seawater baths
Beaches, certainly the shallow sloping ones, can be treacherous, especially on an ebb tide. Many have lifeguards who do all they can to try to keep us out of danger and well away from dangerous rip tides.
Imagine then being able to take the family to a sea pool? A pool filled with filtered sea water, a pool with a constant level, with no waves or tides. Added to this the convenience of male and female changing rooms, good food from an on-site café, toilets and sunbathing facilities.
Perhaps this might go some way to explaining the incredible popularity of the Lido in the thirties, they were packed! There was one thing that didn’t change and that was (shudder) the water temperature. Heating water is expensive and, generally, it simply didn’t happen.
A bumper year for Lymington Lido?
There is a lot of talk in the media at the moment concerning holidays. Many have lost sizeable sums of money through cancellations and there are many more yet who are likely to suffer the same fate. In addition, the recent problems might have given us all a bit of a shake-up. The next pay cheque might not be guaranteed. Flights might not always be a certainty. Things might not always be as we expect them to be tomorrow. I wonder if people are going to be more cautious in 2021 and possibly for a few years more? Instead of living for today and possibly extending credit a little in order to buy that lovely Joules jacket today instead of next month, I wonder if recent events will make us more cautious? I wonder if we will now perhaps count our blessings instead of our credit card debts and look towards holidays in this country? The incredible Uffa Fox, the Isle of Wight based sailing boat designer and racer used to scorn foreign holidays saying that we knew far too little about our own island to go gallivanting off to some foreign shore.
With this in mind I predict a bumper year for our Lymington Sea Water Swimming Baths!
Who pulled the plug?
We could also consider a recent innovation that might make the experience a little less toe curling. A wet suit! Loads of people wear them!
Take care and mind the goose bumps."