I spent the last weekend in September in London with a close friend. We live on opposite sides of the country, and have got into the habit of meeting up somewhere in the autumn. This year I proposed London, and the deal was firstly that I would show her a different side of the noisy busy city, and secondly that we would swim somewhere different each day.
I asked two keen London-based swimmers for their top three tips, and the same names kept coming up: London Fields Lido; the Olympic Aquatic Centre; the Oasis centre. There were others, but these three fitted well with my other plans.
We walked a lot on those three days. Staying in Limehouse, we walked first along the Regent’s Canal to London Fields. We swam in warm sunshine and a (heated) 50m outdoor pool. Then we walked back again. There were no cars, but plenty of people – walking, running, cycling, fishing, and just being.
The next day, Sunday, we took a bus to Trafalgar Square, where we spent several hours at the National Gallery enjoying the wonderful collection of mediaeval art. We are so very fortunate to have such an amazing art collection available to us free of charge. She is very knowledgeable about this period of art, and was able to introduce me to a host of saints and a new understanding of what I was looking at. Such a pleasure.
Then we walked north through Covent Garden to Holborn, and our next swim. The Oasis centre, offering a 25m indoor pool and a similar sized outdoor pool. We used both, and emerged reinvigorated and refreshed. We walked back along the north bank of the Thames – much less busy and congested than walking along the south bank these days.
The third day was our last, and we just had the morning together. Our swim in the competition pool at the Aquatic Centre (built for the 2012 London Olympics) was to be the highlight of our time together, and we weren’t disappointed. A bus ride, through mostly quiet streets, and we were in the Queen Elizabeth Park, with time to explore and then to swim.
Being able to swim in this beautiful space for just the cost of a local leisure centre swim – amazing! If you happen to live in or visit London, this really is a great London Olympics legacy.
Along the way we came across a celebration of Japanese culture in Trafalgar Square, a demonstration of up cycling craft at a community centre in Limehouse, and a city farm in Hackney (sadly closed that day, but I’ve since had the opportunity to visit and enjoy).
And the thing is, this happened to be London, but I think you could do something similar (but of course different) in just about any UK city you happen to live in, near, or visit. Just by searching out the green spaces and the waterways, the quiet back streets, the road ‘less travelled’. And finding out about local amenities.
Do please share your stories.