Swimming Pool

Lidos and ‘wild swimming’.

When those stalwart volunteers commenced digging to create the swimming pool for Chagford, were they aware that they were following a fashion that was sweeping the country at the time?

Not Chagfordians, but splendid 1930’s swimwear and cool haircut on the right

Lidos – which draw their name from the Italian word for beach – exploded in popularity in Britain from the end of the 1800s. They were in vogue places, and fundamental to life years ago.

The craze reached its peak in the 1930s, when councils across the country built more than 150 of the outdoor pools. On summer days, revellers in traditional full-body bathing suits and caps would jostle for space on stone and concrete promenades.

However, not all these pools were at the seaside, nor were they all glamorous Art Deco creations such as the Tinside Lido in Plymouth and the Jubilee Pool in Penzance.

The Lido, Plymouth
Jubilee Pool, Penzance

Chagford Pool is an example of a facility built by the community for the community and thus it has remained to this day.

Mortonhampstead Railway station in its heyday

Today it is easy to jump in the car and drive from Chagford to the seaside, but in the 1930s few people would have owned motor cars and the only way to the seaside would have been on a traditional “charabanc” trip or even by catching a train from Moretonhampstead and then taking the bus. It is therefore not hard to imagine the delight that local people took in making use of their own pool so close to home.

Early photographs taken before the bamboo screen show the Pool’s proximity to the river and its rural location. Being fed by water from the River Teign means that Chagford has gained a special place in the swimming world and is recognised as a “wild swimming” location.

Quotes in praise of Chagford Pool

“What a fabulous place for a swim and to relax away from it all, sitting on the deck with a good book and a mug of tea. Then, taking a refreshing dip to cool down on a summer afternoon. I’m glad we stayed away from the coast and headed inland on our Devon visit – Chagford Pool’s a jewel.”

“Summer has returned to Dartmoor by the time we arrive at Chagford. The passing showers have fled out to sea, leaving blue skies, the perfect adornment for our final dip of the day, in the village’s river-fed pool.

The four of us stroll past thatched cottages and an honesty box containing pickled onions (£1 a jar), following the bridge over the tempting River Teign and on to Chagford Pool. We pay our £4 entry fee and duck into the high– vaulted changing rooms. Swallows dart in and out, their nests snugly hidden in the eaves, chicks noisily demanding to be fed.

I jump in at the deep end and immediately notice how fresh the water feels compared to my other favourite lidos at Tooting Bec and Brockwell.”

“Situated within Dartmoor National Park, this river-fed pool is a good spot to cool off after a walk across the moors.”

……and rated in The Press

Daily Telegraph ESCAPE THE HEAT: 17 of Britain’s best outdoor swimming pools

8. Chagford Swimming Pool, Devon

Situated within Dartmoor National Park, this river-fed pool is a good spot to cool off after a walk across the moors. It is also very state of the art with solar pool covers which are rolled out each evening to maintain the temperature and kept there in the mornings. As a rule, most swims take place in the afternoons.

COUNTRY LIVING MAGAZINE Here are ten of our favourite lidos where you can dip into Britain’s heritage:

1.Chagford Swimming Pool, Devon. Located within Dartmoor National Park, this fresh-water pool is fed by the local river. The water is heated by the power of the sun and so the pool only opens in the afternoons. Filtering with minimal chlorine adds to its green credentials.