Monday, 25 April 2011

Up the wall

Seymour Place
London W1H 5TJ
020 7723 8019
Added bonus: I got married up the road (Admittedly, that’s only a bonus for Mr Landreth, on good days). Also, there is a climbing wall here…
Negative points: Water’s a bit hot. The pic looks nicer than it is. 

I used this pool a lot when I lived nearby – what the hell was I thinking,  wasting my twenties swimming when I should have been too busy smoking and drinking to think about such nonsense.  However, I have almost no memory of swimming here, and maybe it’s because I was actually drunk.

Most people go through here to get somewhere else, and one step away is the horrid touristic Baker St; but this bit merits a mooch. It’s a network of tiny hidden mews, blank Georgian streets that stay cold all year, and mansion blocks, where rich dowagers and deluxe visitors patronise shops with doorbells that sell shiny ceramic dogs that look down their nose at you, and unusable gold-leaf furniture.The pool is part of a sports centre in a huge flat-fronted Grade II listed building. A fairly successful marriage of old and new, it’s retained some of the cornice-related magnificence alongside the required entry systems of a modern complex without jarring too badly.

The changing rooms are the same mix of modern and old, quite well done, though the parsimonious benches by the lockers aren’t wide enough for a fat arse to sit on. The pool itself is just a bit knackered, there’s no sense of the building’s heritage here. The tiles have seen better days and the air has the same feeling; it’s a hodge podge that’s not going to win a prize. It all looks a bit forgotten, but better forgotten than shut down. And you need to pick your time carefully, because when it’s used by school lessons  the shallow end is blocked off, leaving an unsatisfactory small square to swim in.

When I walked in it was empty, and I said ‘wow’, not because it’s special to look at, it really isn’t, but because it’s always great to have a pool to yourself, even if you do feel over-staffed having lifeguards to yourself. (I go through a thought process: i) I wish they’d stop watching me. Are they laughing at my stroke? ii) What if I have a sudden heart attack? iii) WHY AREN’T THEY WATCHING ME?)  I joshed with my staff  ‘which lane shall I use?’ they told me I’d have to queue, we were jolly, and they warned me it would get busy after 12.  It did, but for ten minutes, there was just me, and it’s nice, hearing only your own splash. The 30-metre pool was divided into the standard three lanes, so, I got into the fast lane, ha ha! because for once I WAS the fastest person in the pool. And what a strange two-pool experience it was. The shallow end was very warm, too warm, but as I swam up to the deep end, there was a point at which the temperature cooled very noticeably. Like hitting a cold wall. Up, then back to the shallow end, through the wall and  suddenly, it got warm again. It happened every length, it was odd and very pronounced, like the pool was heated at one end and there was an invisible dividing line which stopped the hot and cold water mixing Then I realized, I’d come in straight after the school lessons in the shallow end…

The sun came out and shone through some high windows, highlighting a dusty metal-strutted ceiling, but giving the pool a lovely light glisten. But after about ten minutes, my nostrils began to sting, like I’d snorted some cheap chemicals. I think I had.  It all made sense. It got busy after that, and I moved myself out of the fast lane for a couple of guys really pounding it out.

Into the showers, which are good. They have temperature control! Pool showers rarely do, so if you’re a freak who likes a cold shower (not me) or want to scald off the chemicals and kiddie wee, you can. It’s one of those tiny details that make something mundane much more pleasurable and yes, I’m tragic to notice. 


  1. Hi - that hot and cold thing - I swim here a fair bit as one of my clients lives around the corner. It's not kiddie pee honest - I think it's something to do with vent placement as I always notice it, even in school holidays.

  2. I have swimming lessons here and always noted the sudden temperature change. Very strange!

  3. Swimming Lad 8918 May 2014 at 11:27

    I have been enjoying swimming here daily for the last three months.

    It can be super busy at the most random of times, but there are always fellow diehard swimmers in. Very real and committed swimmers like myself, the real male swimmers wearing swimming briefs (a tell tale sign for me if someone means business or not), also swimming aids are permitted.

    I would say bring and wear flip flops for the changing room and poolside, it is clean but no one likes a verruca.

    The male WET changing room is spacious enough, people are friendly... Great conscientiousness for each other when the lanes are busy.

    It is cheap and cheerful and when that sun hits the glass roof, it is just glorious.

    Also the staff and lifeguards are super friendly and nice.

    Happy days, ENJOY!