All the swimming pools I’ve been in since April 2015 – the Tameside, Greater Manchester edition
Yes, such was the success of the London Edition of ‘All the swimming pools I’ve been in since April 2015‘, I had to follow it up with part 2 – the Tameside, Greater Manchester edition.
I know. Crazy eh?
At the end of March 2016 I moved – with the family – from London to Greater Manchester. And that meant a whole heap of new swimming pools to explore. Although not all of them were new.
In fact many of them I’d been to as a child, and a lot of them with my Grandad Tom.
Many of my childhood memories of my Grandad involve swimming. He’d take my sister and myself off once or twice a week for a dunk in the pool, followed by a trip to the park or even a pub lunch. Revisiting these places for the first time in 25-30 years brought back some old memories. Inevitably some are mentioned below.
Grandad Tom himself was a big swimmer – and ballroom dancer – until his mid to late eighties. He died last year at the grand old age of 101.
I grew up in the Metropolitan Borough of Tameside. My parents still live in Tameside. The in-laws live in Tameside. And for a few months, when we returned to the north, we lived in Tameside.
Specifically we lived with the in-laws whilst we sold our own house, and tried to find a new house for ourselves.
And so when I went swimming, I ended up swimming back in the same pools I’d used when growing up in the area. And it was interesting to see how they’d changed. Or indeed hadn’t.
All the pools I visited in Tameside were owned by the council, and operated by the local sports trust, Active Tameside. Let’s go in alphabetical order.
Active Ashton, Ashton-under-Lyne
Given as a child I went to almost every council pool in Tameside, I don’t recall going to Ashton baths much. Probably because of it’s location. See the baths have a prime spot in the centre of town. And that can only mean one thing. You have to pay for parking. Yes, you can get a refund on your parking (although not the full amount – you end up paying 10p.) But it was probably just easier for everyone to go somewhere with a free car park.
So going in there in 2015, I had no expectations. And I came out on a high. It was a nice pool, with lovely changing rooms. The original single gender changing facilities had been knocked through to make a mixed changing village, furbished to a high standard.
In the water you get a six lane 25m long pool, and it has a little innovation at the deep end. A little ledge to rest your feet on. Why doesn’t every pool have this? It makes a lot of sense! Instead of just hanging on to the side with your hands, you can rest your feet as well. It is a great idea. Yet I’ve never seen it anywhere else.
The pool was opened in 1975, replacing an old Victorian baths nearby. Opened around 1870, Ashton’s first pool was in a grand, imposing building, and deserves a mention here too. For after closing in 1975 the place remained closed, and derelict for forty years until it was refurbished into offices. A three story steel-framed ‘pod’ was built inside the building, and the place opened up to small and medium sized businesses. It looks very impressive. They sometimes do tours. I’m so very tempted.
The future of the current pool though is a little uncertain. Whilst it looked pretty good to me, according to the council it needs a full refurbishment if it’s to continue to operate, especially equipment and electrics. At one point there were plans – now shelved – to close the place entirely. It remains to be seen what the future holds for it. Maybe Ashton will get its third public pool, probably in a slightly less convenient location. Although one with free parking.
Active Copley, Stalybridge
Now here’s a pool I remember visiting a lot with my Grandad. And we’d often go swimming then pop to the now closed Millbrook pub up the road for some lunch. It was probably the second most visited pool, behind the grand Victorian baths of Glossop.
Copley baths were a bit newer though. Co-sited with a secondary school, they opened in 1979 so would have been pretty new when I first visited them. Like many in the area, it’s a six lane 25m pool, with a smaller teaching pool. As with Ashton, the changing rooms had been wonderfully refurbished to a very similar standard, although the pool area itself felt a little weary and perhaps in need of a little love and attention. Not bad. But not the best
Active Denton, Denton
Denton Pool was where I had swimming lessons. It was one of the pools I regularly went to during school holidays with my grandad – it was the closest to his house. I was a member of a swimming club that met there. I had memories of that place.
Many of the memories consisted of broken windows. See, Denton Pool is next to a park. And the local yobs seemed to delight in smashing the tall plate glass windows that looked out onto the neighbouring park. When I went back decades later in 2015, I noticed the council had worked round that problem.
They’d bricked the windows up. Instead of having these lovely 3m or so tall windows, now only a narrow bit at the top remained.
I can’t blame them for doing it. But it was a real shame that a bunch of arseholes led to that happening.
When I first went there you had to put your belongings on a metal cage with a hook that you passed to an attendant. But that requires staff so at some point lockers had been installed. The gents changing rooms had been clumsily re-organised with dividing walls removed. But other than that it hadn’t changed much. Apart from looking shabbier.
Apart from the windows and a bit of demolition, the place probably hadn’t changed much since it opened in 1975, a year after the council was formed. I swam at Denton several times. It was always busy. But it looked tired. Worn out. On its last legs. Knackered.
It was well overdue some love, care and attention. Not that it will be getting it. This five lane 25m long pool – and its smaller teaching pool – has been deemed beyond economical repair. So Tameside council decided to invest in a new £14m facility nearby. When done, locals will get access to a state of the art eight lane pool, a 17m learner pool, gym, bowling alley, soft play centre, and more. And then the current pool will be closed for good.
When that day comes, I can’t say I’d be disappointed.
Active Dukinfield, Dukinfield
Opened by the Municipal Borough of Dukinfield, it was originally named for William Andrew Swimming Baths after Alderman William Andrew who had spent many years trying to get a pool opened in the town. His goal was to get a safe place for local children to swim in, rather than the murky ponds and canals they used before. The pool opened in 1965.
And to be honest, when I went in 2015, it didn’t look like it had changed much since.
Even when I was a child in the 1980s, Ducky Baths looked a bit forgotten. A little shabby. Even though it was close to our house, my mum never liked taking us there, preferring the more modern facilities of Denton instead.
20 odd years later, the place looked even worse. The bright blue walls on the side of the pool hadn’t dated well. And the changing rooms were in desperate need of some love and attention.
Other than a few extra coats of paint to the wooden changing room cubicles, the place looked exactly as I remembered it. The only real difference was that instead of giving your clothes to an attendant to look after, there were now lockers shoved in every nook and cranny. They didn’t even match. There were several different types and designs, all which looked like cast-offs from elsewhere.
Oh, and there were no private showers at all. The only showers were right next to the pool, and fully visible from it. So if you wanted a good clean after your swim, you were out of luck.
The pool itself would have been unremarkable, other than bright blue walls and a strange spiral shape on the wall picked out in coloured bricks. That was partially hidden because someone had installed a swimming pool cover in front it.
Five lanes, 25m long. Pretty normal. Except for one feature. For whatever reason, the deep end was 3m deep. Far deeper than any other pool in the area. Why? Who knows. It’s not like there was a diving board or anything. Although this always led to a childhood challenge of trying to get right to the bottom. A task that was always easier said than done
I only went once. It was one time too many really. But alas for William Andrew, his pool is no more. After fifty years in service, it closed in 2015. After an extensive refurbishment, it became a 24 hour gym called iTrain. From the pictures on its website, it’s barely recognisable. The side of the pool is now even a running track.
And Dukinfield’s children? Well they now need to go elsewhere
Active Medlock, Droylsden
Now here’s the first – and only – swimming pool in Tameside that I never visited as a child. Not once. Because it only opened in 2006, replacing an older pool that had been opened in 1966. Although I never went to the old pool in Droylsden either.
Being a modern build, Medlock was reasonably nice pool, although unnervingly windowless. And if I’m totally honest, the place would have looked a bit nicer if they hadn’t tiled all the walls in plain white. Still, it had a gently arched roof.
With six lanes, the 25m long pool had plenty of space to swim in, and the changing rooms were rather pleasant too. With just a little more imagination on the decor – and perhaps a window or two – it could have been a winner.
Hyde Leisure Pool
The 1980s were a crazy time. They saw a splurge of ‘leisure pools’. Destination complexes not for exercise but for fun. Places with slides, wave machines and more. In 1988 Manchester City Council opened one called Gorton Tub. In the same year, Bolton Council opened one called The Water Place. And around the same time, Tameside flung open the doors to Hyde Leisure Pool.
Technical problems saw The Water Place in 2002. Gorton Tub went the year earlier. But Hyde Leisure Pool remains, and is a big draw for those looking to splash, from miles around.
And there’s the thing. Although the pool does public swim sessions, they are few in number, and it’s not a pool designed for doing lengths in. This is a palace of fun. Slides, wave machine, rapids, bubble machines. It’s where you take the kids, and where they want to go to.
The children love it. But it must be said that the pool itself could do with a bit of love and tidying up. There’s old water jets and bubble beds that aren’t used any more, that just sit there. There’s a jacuzzi pool you can’t use any more because when they replaced the water slide a few years ago, it covered part of the bubble area. Oh and the splash pool of the original slide just sits there doing nothing, mostly because the new slide sits on top of it.
Oh and it looks – frankly – like it a very deep clean. Many of the white mosaic tiles on the pool floor have black blotches on them, which looks disconcerting.
The pool’s changing rooms are also regularly overcrowded, and the fact they have – at some point – installed plastic roofs onto the changing cubicles in the communal changing village, really does make you wonder what some of the clientèle were up to.
Maybe some of the problems will be solved when a long mooted extension to Hyde Leisure Pool is built. This will see a six lane, 25m swimming pool added to the site, as a partial replacement for the close Dukinfield baths. When it happens.
The project has been beset with difficulties. The original contractor was to be Carillion, who promptly collapsed causing problems for many council projects. A replacement contractor was found by the council, who then withdrew. Who knows when a third may be found, and when they may begin. But given the extension will require some building work on the old site, and no doubt a period of closure whilst it happens, hopefully they can find the time and money to tart the leisure pool up a little
Not that the children will particularly notice, but for the rest of us…
And that’s where we leave Tameside for now. For my trips to the Village Hyde, and the now closed Virgin Active at Denton all came before April 2015. Next time, Stockport!