Johanna Payton takes a dip in Hampton outdoor pool and picnics are on the cards there for the summer months
At Feet on the Ground, we’re always looking for that delicious, exotic feeling of escapism. The sense that you are far away from normal life, free of the daily drudge, doing something special and different.
Swimming outdoors is one way to achieve that sensation. At the right temperature, it provides that wonderful sense of freedom…shivering, however, does not.
Down the road from my south London home is a gorgeous heated pool, warm enough to swim in 365 days a year
One thing the UK hasn’t always (or often) got is warm enough weather for outdoor swimming. And, even if you do take that plane to sunnier climes, how many times have you dived into the hotel pool only to be met by breath-taking, crippling, ice cold water? Blue lips can really take the edge off the glamour.
Apart from places like Nashville and Vegas, where they know what luxury really means, I’ve rarely found heated pools at holiday destinations; how wonderful, then, that just down the road from my south London home, there is a gorgeous heated pool, warm enough to swim in 365 days a year.
Hampton Pool is in a picturesque location right next to Bushy Park and a few minutes drive from Hampton Court Palace. Hampton train station is a stones-throw away and there’s a car park on site, with places to park on local side roads if the car park is full.
The main pool is roomy at 36 metres, with lane swimming available at all times, and there’s a learner pool that’s perfect for younger kids.
Much as I like Tooting Bec Lido, a 20-minute walk from home, there are only about two days in the year I can bear to get into the water. Call me a wimp, but the icy impact of that pool does not sit well with my constitution. At Hampton, however, the water is warm: I’m not talking “bearable”, I’m talking an enjoyable, enveloping temperature.
I last swam there for my son’s birthday on 16 May. The weather was pleasant, with long sunny spells, but by no means steamy. After a slightly chilly dash to the pool steps in my costume, I got straight into the water. There’s no need to gingerly ease yourself in – it’s pretty much a giant bath.
As the evening sun peeped out from behind a cloud, that wonderful feeling of freedom sank in. The pool wasn’t particularly busy and 30 lengths were easily achieved, dance music from the spin class – which had moved poolside in the spring sunshine – tinkling across the ripples.
With the sun on my face and that lovely warm water lapping around my shoulders, I can only describe the experience as blissful.
And it gets better.
To celebrate summer, Hampton Pool hosts a series of unique summer picnics. I last went to one of these annual live events when my son was a toddler, and we’ve always promised ourselves a return trip.
You rock up around 7pm, take one of those delectable warm dips, then dry off and lay out your picnic. If you don’t have time to prepare your own sandwiches, the pool’s Sun Deck Café will have a barbecue on the go, or try something a little more exotic from the tagine stall.
An ice cream kisok will be on hand if the weather’s up to scratch and boozers can partake of the bar (the only things you’re not allowed to bring into the event are glasses and alcohol).
Luckily, this year, we’ve snagged tickets to see The Zombies and The Pretty Things on 15 July (given my predilection for the 1960s, this is quite the night out). Tickets always sell-out super-fast, so we’re delighted – and if you’re quick, you could be joining us.
How to get to Hampton pool without flying
Hampton Pool is on Hampton High Street, on the edge of Bushy Park, between Hampton, Teddington and Hampton Wick. if you’re driving, it’s just off the A308 which provides direct access to the M3.
Hampton station is a 3/4 mile walk away: there, you can pick up direct services to and from Wimbledon, Waterloo and Clapham Junction.
Bus routes from Kingston, Richmond and Hammersmith stop within walking distance of the pool.
Words: Johanna Payton for Feet on the Ground
Images: Hampton Pool