Oasis Sports Centre – central London swimming at its most civilised
“I had ridden here under my own steam, and here I was in the centre of London gazing up at the stars in the utmost luxury of a heated outdoor pool. It seemed the height of civilisation. yet this was no exclusive private pool; with a Leisure Card from Camden Council, you could get in for £1.”
I usually associate London swimming with slowly easing myself into cold water and a post-workout shivering session of anything up to 30 minutes. But not today. Just like Roger, I’ve made my way to the Oasis Sports Centre and its heated outdoor pool, on the corner of Endell Street and High Holborn, by bike. Once again, I’m meeting my friend Joe, my reliable cohort for all things outdoor swimming.Handing over our £4.25 (we don’t have Camden leisure cards sadly and prices have unsurprisingly jumped since Roger’s late 90s visit), we peer out through the rear windows and catch a glimpse of the gloriously empty outdoor pool. For one brief moment, we panic that it’s no longer heated. The chirpy chaps on the counter assure us otherwise.
Being early autumn, the outdoor temperature isn’t quite as biting cold as when Roger came here. There’s no one pacing the pool in full tracksuit psyching themselves up to strip down and dive in, or steam rising into the night sky. Gone too is the coconut rug for getting from changing room to water, replaced by that foot shredding plastic matting so favoured by municipal pools the world over.
Sliding into the shallow end though, we find the water glorious. I propel myself into a languid breast stroke in the middle ‘medium pace’ lane. In truth, the lane speeds don’t mean much. I’m soon being overtaken by lightning fast front crawlers, while the fast lane seems to be home to some indulgently slow swimmers.
Considering we’re mere metres from one of London’s busiest road junctions, the whole place is beautifully quiet. Balconies of Endell Street homes dominate one side of the pool, while the vastness of a 60s office block shields us from the noise of the city’s traffic. This is swimming at its most indulgent and most relaxed. Escaping London has become something of a theme in my life since moving back here in the summer after six months travelling. This is the perfect spot, in that it allows me to be rid of the city’s stresses even when I couldn’t be more central.
Joe and I swim on for over half an hour, racking up a kilometre, something we never manage on our regular visits to the cooler waters of Tooting Bec Lido and Hampstead Ponds. Famished, we grab lunch and a pint. It might have lacked the necessary nip to match Roger’s mid-winter escapades, but I’m certain he’d still love it here, the place he called, “…the best cold weather pool in London”.
Image via Ditch The Treadmill