CRYSTAL PALACE POOL
Ledrington Road London SE19 2BB
020 8778 0131
Opening times: really good until you’ve got there and a gala is on and they’ve shut the whole pool. It’s only not a long way if you live near by. So, CHECK ONLINE, or call.
Added value: you can scare a whole school party in the communal changing rooms
Minus points: I was told they play piped music here. Is it true? It may be a red herring. If it is true, it's an abomination. What fresh hell is that?
Someone said to me how much they hated this pool because of the building it’s in. That person is a fool. I think it’s fantastic, and I must be right, because it’s Grade II listed. The National Sports Centre was built in the mid-60’s and while I accept that not everyone loves that era of brutal modernity (I use that term as if I know anything about architecture. I don’t) I’m from the Midlands, so I feel right at home in bleak and hard.
Before you start, give yourself a shiny if you manage to get there without inadvertently wandering into the park. Clue: if you see dinosaurs, you've gone wrong. This is a huge behemoth of a place, the frontage could be an airport, all glass and outstretched concrete wings. Quite daunting. I feel small. The building contains massive amounts of concrete, de rigeur at the time of its conception, in huge v-shaped pillars holding up the roof, in bars across glass, in steps and walkways. That rough unpolished grey sits beside masses of polished dark wood; there are textural walls of unfinished stone, the cold new metal of internal lifts and then, as contrast, the unnatural red of plastic tip-up auditorium seats.