Save the Serpentine Lido
Save the Serpentine Lido
London's famous Serpentine Lido open water swimming space is under threat.
This year, as other lidos and swimming spaces opened across Britain as per government advice, the Serpentine Lido remained closed. It had been closed throughout 2020. Hopeful swimmers returning in May discovered that a bar restaurant and barbecue had been built over the childrens paddling pool on the sun terrace and Royal Parks management were being evasive as to when swimming would resume. The restaurant running the new venture appeared to have no plans in place for swimming.
Royal Parks responded to swimmers inquiries by saying swimming would re-open on July 5th. They were assured the new restaurant was ‘temporary, and could be removed in 24 hours’ (email from Loyd Grossman, Chair of the Board of Trustees) In fact the Lido re-opened on the 1st of July, now operated by a tennis club recruited at the last minute, and open only from 10am to 2pm, for ‘lap-swimming only in 45 minute sessions’. This effectively bans the elderly, the disabled, families with children on a day out, many people who like to swim on their way home from work, and sun-bathing.
It also means that, just as the school holidays are about to start, the sun terrace and paddling pool are no longer available as a safe and secure place for parents with toddlers, or people who wish to sunbathe in peace and quiet without harassment. This is a great loss to the community
The Serpentine Lido was founded in 1930 by George Lansbury as ‘The Peoples Beach’ for Londoners. What Lansbury, popularly known as ‘The Commissioner of Good Works’ had recognised was the need for a recreational space where Londoners, and those travelling through London, could enjoy swimming and sunbathing at their leisure, literally a beach for people who had no other access to one. With this ethos at its heart, the Serpentine Lido has been popular and beloved by visitors ever since, until this year. Lansbury’s plaque remains on the walls of the Pavilion, now a restaurant: those who enjoy open water swimming hope that this is not all that will remain
In a year where all government advice points towards outdoor recreation, and a current food review highlights the need for greater health, well-being and activity, Royal Parks should re-consider how they are operating this precious space.
The English Summer is a fleeting thing: let’s not waste it
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