Trustees and supporters of the Cleveland Pools – the UK’s last surviving open air Georgian Lido – were delighted to be breaking records during the recent Open Days week-end which saw a total of 1,358 people taking a look at the unique venue and learning about plans for its restoration.
That’s nearly three times last year’s attendance figures for those who came down to the site on the bank of the River Avon at Bathwick.
Visitors were generous too. They donated just over one thousand pounds which will go towards the all-important landing pontoon planned for the riverside and hopefully in place early next year.
The following report has been given to the Virtual Museum by trustee and publicity officer Sally Helvey. The visual images are hers also!
“There must have been something in the water last weekend…..a total of 1,358 people turned up at the Cleveland Pools by the river in Bathwick to see what delights they had in store, and no-one was disappointed.
Bath’s Mayor, Cllr Cherry Beath came along with the Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for Bath, Steve Bradley, and they chatted to members of the Gray family whose father Ron Gray was discovered through a Chronicle report recently to be the mysterious ‘Handstand Man’.
Ron was pictured on the end of the diving board in a 1960 photograph donated, amongst others, by the Wessex Water Historical Archives. Dennis Toogood, the President of the Bath Dolphin Swimming Club, was on hand to present the eldest sibling Alan Gray with a print of Ron produced by print specialists Souter & Stanley from Portishead, and next day John Dagger – Bath’s legendary swimming instructor and latterly Superintendent of the Bath Sports & Leisure Centre – presented the youngest sibling Emma with the same gift.
A local amateur film-maker David Hallett, from Lansdown, interviewed former swimmers for a “Before, During & After the Restoration” film archive he is working on for the Cleveland Pools Trust, whilst children were shown how to make water-related Origami shapes, have their faces painted by skilled volunteers, or attempt to throw swim-rings over a pole to win sweets.
There was also plenty for adults, including individual exhibits from seven of Bath’s ’44AD Artspace’ artists who each took over a cubicle, and display boards prepared by volunteers Jill Coles and Chris Venables which highlighted both the history of this 200 year old Georgian lido and the recent press the Trust has been enjoying since August 11th this year when it was awarded ear-marked funding of £4.1million from the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the pool and buildings.
The Cleveland Pools ‘guardian’ Keith Williams, a keen river swimmer who lives opposite in Kensington gave scything demonstrations. He also opened the river gate to two river swimmers who wanted to join in the fun, Graham Kehily and Benji Bartlett. Trustees and volunteers were on hand to answer questions about the restoration plans and hundreds of people there expressed huge support and delight for the project, and congratulations for the work done so far.
New volunteer Alison Haley from Widcombe says: “It was an excellent event and turnout. There was so much enthusiasm from the visitors who cannot wait for the opening, it made it a pleasure to steward”.
Other visitors included Bath Heritage Watchdog’s Jim Warren, ‘Bath Walks’ tour guide and author Kirsten Elliott, Cllr Bryan Chalker, the Heritage Champion for B&NES, and a retired admiral, Sir Robert Hill, who suggested that the Cleveland Pools might be a good place for Bath University’s engineering students to trial their human-powered entries for the Euopean International Submarine Races held every two years. Now that’s one idea the Cleveland Pools Trustees haven’t yet come up with !
The weekend at the Cleveland Pools ended with a flourish on the Sunday when eight promenades from the Jane Austen Festival arrived in all their finery to ‘take a turn’ around the Pool and meet the Trust’s chairman Ann Dunlop, but they were late arriving….. Ann says “We were beginning to lose hope that at they would get to us as we knew they were held up at the Holburne Museum, but they made their way before we closed and we were delighted to show them around.
It is very poignant that these Regency promenaders pay us a visit on our Heritage Open Days each year because the Cleveland Pools were built in Jane Austen’s hay-day”.
Now the Cleveland Pools Trust has to concentrate its efforts in appointing a Project Director for the development phase, and begin raising the £450,00 they need in match funding to earn the £4.1million.
They raised just over £1,000 at this event which will go towards the all-important landing pontoon on the riverside, enabling the Bath Boating Station’s river cruise boats to drop passengers at the Pools.
It is hoped that this will be done by March next year in readiness for the Bicentenary celebrations being planned over eight months of 2015. Ann adds: “People were very good at following our advice about no parking at the Pools last weekend and once they were on site they soon appreciated the fact that a boat ride will enhance the whole experience of a visit to the Pools, whether for swimming in the future or simply a visit to this historic gem”.
The trustees had to leave the site clear on Sunday for an autumn Fashion Shoot that was being held next day for a local magazine. They are now getting other bookings, and it has been recently confirmed that the Avon Fire & Rescue Service will carry out water safety training in future.
If anyone missed the open days, you can grab the opportunity of doing a Cleveland Pools Tour instead. Trustee Sally Helvey is also a tour guide, and offers a circuitous walking tour to the Pools every Tuesday at 11am, starting and ending at Abbey Green.
The £6 ticket can be bought at the Bath Visitor Centre in Abbey Churchyard. All proceeds go towards the Cleveland Pools Trust.
If you wish to donate direct to the river landing pontoon, or want to find out more about booking the Pools for your own event, look up their website here: www.clevelandpools.org.uk”