If the forecasters are to be believed, this winter is on course to be the iciest for some time - a prediction Hathersage Pool is happily embracing.
The pool’s low season ends on Saturday, but there will be no closures during the chillier months. Instead the lido is staying open all winter for the first time in its history. With the prospect of poolside snow seeming highly likely, swimmers are in for a bracing experience surrounded by a frost-tinged Peak District landscape, agrees assistant general manager George Foy.
“It’ll be all the better for it,” he says. “It’ll look nice.”
The heating won’t be turned off straight away. For four weeks the pool will be heated to a reduced temperature of 20 degrees Celsius - a level trialled last year that is a little cooler than normal, but still comfortable.
Then, after December 17, the boilers will be switched off and the cold water season will commence from December 23 to February 25. The pool will be open on Saturdays and Sundays from 9am to 1pm for enthusiasts to get their weekly dose of unheated swimming at a sharp 10C.
Hathersage Pool, which opened more than 80 years ago in 1936, has never remained open through January and February before, and George thinks it is quite a milestone. Five years ago the pool was only open for six months of the year, and then left abandoned until the following season approached.
George says small steps have been taken towards running a full calendar of swimming. “We’ve been progressing towards it. Four years ago we started the first unheated season where we just did it for one month, in October. Back then the pool closed in September. We’ve been building up an audience and making sure we haven’t taken too many financial risks. Year on year we’ve seen more interest.”
Keeping the pool heated to 20C initially will make people realise they can swim in a lower temperature, says George, who has noticed a surge in outdoor swimming’s popularity, with more people regularly taking a dip in lakes, reservoirs and rivers.
The Yorkshire Outdoor Swimmers normally use Harthill Reservoir for their meetings, but have started visiting Hathersage too.
“During the winter many open reservoirs close,” says George.
“If they come to us it means they can still enjoy outdoor swimming in a safe environment.”
On January 1 the popular New Year’s Day swim is making a comeback, while at the beginning of March, with spring just around the corner, preparations will start for the 2018 heated season. The boilers will be woken from hibernation and the pool will be open for two weeks before the official opening date of March 17 while it gradually warms up.
The pool has recently been making strides towards being more environmentally-friendly. During the last close season, the veranda underwent a major refurbishment, involving the replacement of its leaking tin roof with glass photovoltaic panels. Solar energy is being used to generate electricity, helping the facility to reduce its carbon footprint.
At the same time the veranda was strengthened, and a lift giving disabled people access to the area has been installed.
The pool is one of the few open-air lidos left in the country, and was set up following a donation from Sheffield factory owner and philanthropist George Lawrence.
An initiative called the King George’s Field Trust spurred on the project. The pool is still owned by Hathersage Parish Council and run by the trust, a charity which ploughs all the money it makes back into the site’s upkeep.
n Visit www.hathersageswimmingpool.co.uk for details.