POOLS on the PARK
Old Deer Park
Twickenham Road, Richmond TW9 2SL
020 8940 0561
Added bonus: In out in out
Negative: The flight path.
‘Don’t get your hopes up’ muttered Tara, darkly, as we approached the long, low modernist building, ‘this is an outdoor pool, not a lido’. It’s a fine distinction, I recognise what she meant, even if I can’t define it. But I admit I was expecting great things. Richmond, after all, is home of the Jaggers, the Woods, Zac Goldsmith, other, less obnoxious, people (including Tara) - it’s posh. I found myself using French words. ‘It’s very distingue’, I pronounced badly. ‘Tres jolie’. I could see palms everywhere. Maybe I thought I was in Cannes.
After a bit of a fandango getting locker tokens we walked through to the changing rooms. She’d already warned me they were mixed, and my feelings on this have been documented but despite the warning, I was still disappointed. They are clean enough but tired, a muddle, corridors too thin so you’re constantly in someone’s way. The lockers were smart: two-tiered, a little hanging space as well as shelves (plural) for stuff. Then I spotted a great big orange plastic open booth, like from a 70s Dr Who ep. Tanning! I thought. It’s a drying booth, actually, but wa-hay, I’ll have a go in that, I said, tired at the thought of drying my own self. ‘It costs a pound’ Tara said. Fuck it, I thought. I’ve got a towel.
The outdoor pool lured us first, so we went past the indoor pool and through those thick plastic strips that feature in butchers and butterfly houses. There’s lots of space out here – a big area for picnics which gets manic in summer, though the green hedge screen means parents can’t easily keep an eye on children. I took a look round. More palms. A sun terrace, a pretty decent café, and a shallow empty mosaic-ed round – a fountain, on glory days? And an outdoor pool with crisp tiles and narrow steps leading in, which I go down. Damn it’s warm. A plane goes overheard. It was strangely laned, two narrow ones - ‘Fast front crawl’ or ‘nice and easy’ a wider ‘lap lane’ and one unspecified, where women dandled babies. I’m not nice or easy so I started in the front crawl lane. Very narrow, I breathed in as someone passed coming down. It’s a decent 33metres, with a diving area, but the temperature was odd – it worked best when there was cloud, because every time the sun came out, the water felt distinctly clammy, not refreshing, as unsatisfactory as a lukewarm bath. Or if you make squash and accidentally put warm water in. Another plane went overhead. I tried not to get in the way of the woman doing sets. (She definitely said sets.) Something was bugging me. T’was the bloody steps. Every time I got to the shallow end, there was nothing to push off from. I love that gliding bit when you turn. I did a silly jump thing instead. It annoyed me. I bashed my toe pacing it wrong. They weren’t wide enough for reclining on after a few lengths, either, I tested that too. They are just … wrong. A plane went over.
Out of duty, I thought I should do the indoor pool, too. The smell of chlorine hits you when you go back inside. I looked outdoor, looked indoor. Looked again. The lifeguard assured me the pools are the same length (and same temperature), but the indoor one looks bigger. It’s the depth perception playing tricks; this is a really decent indoor pool with a properly deep end, the water taking on that lovely glossy almost turquoise quality that depth gives you. When I got in it felt much warmer, though I knew it wasn’t - it must have been the skittering wind, cooling the top layer outdoors. You couldn’t hear the planes. It was more spacious, quieter, and I enjoyed a calmer swim, even accounting for the enthusiastic lifeguard scrubbing floor cleaner everywhere. I’d be happy if this was my local indoor pool. It’s not like me to enjoy the indoor more than the outdoor. ‘They’ve got the pools the wrong way round’ Tara said, and she’s spot on. If only they’d put this lovely deep calm one outside it would be just right. Oh, and change the flight path.
The changing rooms were very busy after those few minutes of peace. There’s a teaching pool too, so in this postcode, Range Rover buggies abound. After a communal shower (eurch), we manouevered round. Excuse me. Excuse me. Lots of school children getting changed very noisily in one massive cubicle. People going past, buggies going past, I couldn’t get to my locker. Excuse me. The mass of children got louder. ‘This is annoying’ I said to Tara. ‘Humph. Children swimming is annoying’ said a humourless old bag of a teacher as she chivvied her charges. I’d meant ‘I can’t get to my towel’, but oooh, she riled me. ‘Yeah’, I wanted to say, ‘leave the little fuckers to drown’. Or maybe ‘I was talking about you, not to you’ would have felt good. Then I remembered I was in Richmond. Where’s me bleedin’ manners? Non, I said, ce n’est pas les enfants. It’s the narrowness of the corridor…
Verdict? It is an outdoor pool not a lido, however that works. Shock - it’s a lovely indoor pool. And yep. I’ll say it (from the safety of this blog): children swimming is annoying.