Prelude – our early memories of swimming
Betty-Rose: I learnt to swim at Eva Bory’s Swim School in Emu Plains. Eva Bory (a Hungarian swimming champion) built the pool in 1973. I mastered all the strokes and from then on it was speedos, goggles and a swimming cap. Swimming for me was training sessions at 5am and racing on swim club nights with the Penrith RSL Swimming Club. It was all okay or maybe it was just the vast amounts of chlorine fumes that added to the enjoyment or the promise of a 20 cent bag of mixed lollies. I always dreaded the move to the outdoor pools at Penrith and Glenbrook in Spring. I was always cold. Sometimes I would cry. My lips would be blue. I am sure it made me a more resilient person. I still do not like cold water. However, I did have a lot of fun in the above-ground pool Dad would put up in the backyard in Summer. That mostly involved making crazy whirlpools and having pool pony races with siblings and neighbours. And my brother took us to swim at the weir and at Rocky Point on the Nepean River with lilos. That was fun.
George: I never learnt to swim. Not really. If you were in trouble in the water I would give it a shot at rescuing you, but really, I never mastered a stroke, never owned speedos and any goggles I owned let in water and misted up. I would spit in them from time to time as apparently that helped and 5am was sleeping time. My earliest experience of swimming was at the Thorpe St Andrews Swimming Baths at Norwich, UK.
The time you had to enjoy the indoor swimming experience in the 1970s was managed by a coloured wrist band and strict instruction to leave the pool when your colour flashed on the big screen. “Flash, flash – orange wrist bands must leave the pool NOW”. I remember pressing against the walls which were warm – and the packets of crisps. Mainly the crisps.
Our Summer swimming experience 2014
So all these years later, we still do some water immersion and the local choices are seemingly endless. Within a two hour drive, we have a diverse range of water options with over 15 public pools to choose from and that’s not including all the Sydney ocean pools. Here are our swimming adventures of 2014.
- Lawson Swim Centre, Blue Mountains: One of five pools in the Blue Mountains and a pool I had not yet visited. A great pool with shady trees and set right on the edge of the Blue Mountains National Park. Setting – 5 stars. Ambience – 4 starts. Amenities – 2 stars. Icy-pole price – $1.
- Mudgee Olympic Pool, Mudgee: It was 35 degrees celsius and the Mudgee pool beckoned. A couple of diving boards could be enjoyed by the more adventurous (teenage son). Setting – 5 stars. Ambience – 4 stars. Amenities – 4 stars. Icy-pole price – $1.20 (plus teenage son enjoyed hot chips with chicken salt and a slushie = true Summer poolside heaven).
- Lithgow Aquatic Centre, Lithgow: Another scorching Summer day. Another town pool lovingly revamped and looking rather smart with a giant bouncy installation. Setting – 5 stars. Ambience – 3 stars. Amenities – 4 stars. Icy-pole price – $1.50.
- Blackheath Swim Centre, Blue Mountains: One needs a very hot day to enjoy the water temperature at Blackheath pool which for me is mostly on the icy side. However this Blue Mountains pool is surrounded by delightful parkland. Setting – 5 stars. Ambience – 4 stars. Amenities – 2 stars. Icy-pole price – no icy-poles for sale. What a downer.
- Portland Swimming Pool, Portland NSW: Old and faded like your favourite t-shirt that you cannot bear to part with but with two diving boards for those thrill seekers. And the mosaic on the pump house is superb. Setting – 5 stars. Ambience – 5 starts. Amenities – 4 starts. Icy Pole price – $1.20.
- Ingar Swamp, Wentworth Falls Blue Mountains: The perfect natural secret swimming hole in the Blue Mountains National Park (ignoring the fact that it is in fact an old dam built by humans in the 1960s for fire fighting purposes). It is surrounded by bush and the occasional backpacker. Let your feet sink into the squelchy leaf litter on the bottom of the water hole and swing gleefully (and dangerously) on the rope swings. Setting – 5 stars. Ambience – 5 stars. Amenities – 2 stars (pit toilets). Icy-pole price – not applicable.
- Wattamolla Lagoon, Royal National Park Sydney: A pleasant beach lagoon enclosed by bush and sandstone and plenty of eskies. This was our “salt water” experience and it was fun. Setting – 5 stars. Ambience – 3 stars. Amenities – 2 starts. Icy Pole price – only a frozen yoghurt van.
And so goodbye to Summer. If we get the urge to float about, we still have a few indoor heated pool options for the cooler weather! May you reflect on your own swimming memories with a smile, the saggy swimmers, the struggle to do a lap and the liberating jump off the high diving board.
Best regards, Betty-Rose (and George)
And here is our Summer swimming photo gallery! Click on a photo to scroll through the rest of the gallery.