Sandford Park Lido

Sandford Parks Lido Plaque
Sandford Parks Lido Plaque. Photo by samwebster, licensed under CC BY 2.0
We have been pulling out the old bathing suits and swimming goggles in anticipation of a trip to Sandford Parks Lido. We were all set for the opening day at the beginning of May but its been a bit chilly for us so far, although of course if we had not wimped out, we could have been training up to join in one of the aquatic adventures happening over the summer time. Quite frankly, we are more of the “dip a toe in the water” type swimmers so roll on some sunny days for a dip, ice cream and bask in the sun.

Following a successful refurbishment of the main pool and surrounds in 2006 to 2007, the Sandford Parks Lido in Cheltenham was restored to its full glory, taking its place in history alongside other lidos in the UK.

Sandford Parks Lido

Sandford Parks Lido was originally opened in 1935. The pool was unique in that it was heated – one of the few at that time. The heating was via a coal fire boiler that kept many a stoker in work. The advent of indoor swimming pools and leisure facilities saw many lidos fade away into ruin and disuse. With poor summers not encouraging visitors, 1982 saw the Lido at Sandford Parks struggling for survival. However, the Lido proved more popular with the locals than thought and a public petition ensured the pool was protected through the next years.

The next threat came when a council survey revealed the pools were set upon unstable ground and repairs undertaken had failed. A poor prognosis of ten years was given to this historic unique heated pool.

The formation of a charitable trust in 1996 Friends of the Lido took over operations and after a few setbacks, restored the pool to the former glory it deserved and it has been a swimming hot spot ever since with slightly more modern heating facilities.

Popularity of Lidos

The word lido in the UK and other countries means outdoor swimming pool and associated facilities, but is in fact an Italian word meaning beach. The term lido used first in London in 1935 is most likely named after Lido di Venezia a popular spot in Italy for sea bathing. The golden age of lidos was in the 1930’s when swimming in all its forms became popular. Lidos were always more than just swimming pools; they had their own culture and were often built on a theatrical scale. There are usually decks for sunbathing, and cafeterias to while away the day reading, sunning and swimming. The modern Art Deco style lent beauty to the epic constructions and many had fountains for bathers to cool off. Sandford Parks is blessed by a fountain that is a great attraction. More than 169 lidos were built across the UK by councils as leisure facilities during the hey day of the lido. They remained popular until indoor facilities came along. There are some famous saltwater lidos in coastal resorts namely Saltdean near Brighton and Penzance.

If you fancy a dip, then fear not because Cooks Green Cottage is tantalisingly close if you wish to cool off on a hot summer’s day. We would highly recommend a trip to this beautifully renovated lido in Cheltenham where you can soak up the sun as well as the history.

Events at Sandford Parks Lido

There are various sporting events open to all at the lido but for the less sporty, the lido is the perfect backdrop to outdoor theatre productions showing throughout the summer months. For 2013, be sure to see “Around the World in 80 Days” in July and Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors in August. This month also sees outdoor cinema with a showing of “The Kid with a Bike”.

The lido is one attraction we encourage all our summer visitors to see. It is so convenient to the holiday cottage and is ideal for a relaxing summer day. The Friends of the Lido have collated a fascinating history that may be seen including old photographs, documents and other memorabilia.

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