All the Swimming Pools REVIEWED! – Forest Hills, Frodsham
For me to review a swimming pool on this blog, I set a couple of simple criteria. Firstly, it needs to be a somewhere I’ve swam in. That should be blindly obvious. Second, it needs to be since April 2015. Arbitrary date but one to keep to. Thirdly, it needs to be publicly accessible, either paying as you go, or through a membership package. Exclusive pools or places where you need to be a resident, don’t count. I want it to be possible for you to visit it. So pools used in holiday complexes don’t get reviewed. That’s why you won’t find anything here about waterparks in campsites in France, or the Sub Tropical Swimming Paradise at Center Parcs.
This may be why I forgot at the time to review the pool at Forest Hills Hotel in Frodsham, Cheshire. I stayed overnight in March 2022 and used their pool. I was on holiday, and put it out of my mind. But like many hotel fitness centres, non-residents Forest Hills is open to the public. You can get an adult monthly membership for £36 as I type. Forest Hills therefore meets the criteria and a review it shall get.
Now hotel swimming pools tend to sit in one of two groups. First there is the tiny ones. Something less than 15m in length that’s designed more for hanging around in, or perhaps children splashing in, than being of any use for swimming. Often they’re smaller than the small pool at your local leisure centre. A token effort, seemingly created more to push the hotel’s star rating up rather than as a serious facility, and so rarely open to anyone other than hotel guests. I once tried to swim in such a pool (in Seattle, USA), and was half way through a length after simply pushing off from the end.
The second camp is a proper pool. Something you can actually swim in. These are rarer, and found in hotels where the on-site leisure centre is open to the public, and akin to the facilities offered by a gym chain. The pool’s often a reasonable size. Some may even get close to being as good as what your local council leisure centre would offer. A few are better.
What you get at Forest Hills is in the second camp. The pool isn’t huge – a mere 20m in length. But that’s just about long enough that you can get a reasonable swim out of it.
The fitness centre sits in a corner of the hotel complex, on top of Frodsham Hill; a location that offers superb views of the Mersey Estuary. Although the best views come from the restaurant, whilst the pool sits at the other side of the building. The large windows on the pool instead offer a great view of the car park.
The changing rooms came looking ever so much like they’d been there since 1988 when the place opened. The pastel pink painted battered metal lockers were an interesting design touch. They locked with a padlock that thankfully I’d had the foresight to bring, along with my goggles. Pink’s was a bit of a theme for the hotel – my room’s toilet suite was also pink. Go figure.
Maybe it’s changed since. There was some refurbishment work going on in the corridor to the pool hall, so it’s possible, but who knows.
Anyway, into the pool hall. Despite the aforementioned big windows, not enough natural light seemed to get in, leaving illumination in the hands of some globe lights on the walls that seemed barely adequate for the job they’d been assigned. For good measure, the roof’s panelled with dark coloured wood, that absorbs the light.
Immediately on the left, the obligatory jacuzzi, because hotels have to have a bit of relaxation space after all. Just beyond, the pool itself.
The pool itself is 20m by 8m, but at one end a section has been cut out to house a small, separated child friendly shallow area. This takes up around half the width of the pool, leaving about two lanes worth of space where you can swim the full length, and the rest allowing a swim of perhaps 16m in length. On my first visit (I may only have stayed at the hotel for one night, but I still managed two swims), a lane was separated off for children’s swimming lessons, with a second lane temporarily added (using what looked like a piece of rope) allowing lane swimming.
For good measure the pool’s designer decided to cut off the corners at two ends of the pool rectangle. Why? Just why? During my second swim, I shared the lane with another swimmer, and if one of us was stopped having a rest, the other had to push off from a diagonal wall. Had the person who designed it ever done any swimming? It was hard to be sure.
The pool itself had been lined in small mosaic tiles which always look lovely, but must surely be a maintenance nightmare. In the deep end several tiles had come lose from the pool floor, exposing the cement underneath. This didn’t detract from the swimming itself, but didn’t give the best of impressions. What was noticeable was that the pool itself seemed too small for the number of people trying to use it. Less of an issue in the lane I was in, but some of the slower swimmers found themselves battling against children. It was a Thursday in March. Hardly peak season.
The pool could have been built longer had it not been for the statutory sauna and steam room, sitting on a raised platform at the far end. Both seemed to be on the small side, but did the job after a good swim. And then it was back to the pinkly decorated single sex changing rooms, to shower. No cubicles – just an open shower area, which is far from desirable from a privacy perspective.
How to conclude? Faded and gloomy, but satisfactory? That probably sums it up. Like other parts of the hotel, the fitness centre felt like it needed a bit of a refurbishment. A re-tile of the pool, some better lighting, and a revamp of the changing facilities would go a long way. Maybe paint the roof white so it reflects the light. And maybe choose a different colour scheme to pastel pink. It’s nowhere near the worst pool I’ve used since April 2015. Although with only being 20m long, it’s never going to be the best. But for what it is, it could definitely be better.