13 Nov 2012

Westminster Lodge: clean, but could do better

The new Westminster Lodge leisure centre opened at the weekend, and I took my first dip in the pool today.

As a twice-a-week visitor to the old pool, I've been looking forward to this new one opening, and watched with interest as it rose from the muddy building site (now the old centre is a building site - see picture).

It's all up and running (except the spa - teething problems apparently) and everything smells of fresh paint. But the first thing to say is, IT'S CLEAN. Thank goodness. The old Lodge became increasingly decrepit and filthy over the last few years, so much so that you could hardly bear to look at the bottom of the pool as you swam along. The new one is very clean, at least for now. Let's hope they keep it that way.

The swimming experience, at least today, was a bit disappointing however. The pool was split in half width-ways, with an exercise class at the shallow end, which later turned in to a general swim area. In the 'deep' end (which is only 2 metres), four lanes were marked out with ropes, but these too were strung width-ways, so the lane swimmers were doing widths instead of lengths.

For most swimmers that means you're only going for a few seconds before you have to turn round. It also means you have no points of reference as you swim along - you are crossing over the length-ways lane markings instead of swimming with them - so people kept wandering out of line and crashing in to other swimmers.

Just as annoyingly, the lanes were not wide enough. There was barely enough room for swimmers to pass each other up and down the lane, and definitely no overtaking.

As a result, the whole experience felt extremely cramped. That's pretty ironic, after the long campaign to get a 10-lane pool built instead of the original 8-lane plan.

There's no indication on the published timetable as to when lane swimming is available, or what orientation the lanes will be.

I'll be directing these comments to the management, in the hope that they make some adjustments and improve the experience for what I'm sure they hope will become their regular swimmers. After all, they're the ones that are going to keep this place 'afloat'.

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