- The market town of Bourne, Lincolnshire, England -
THE OUTDOOR SWIMMING POOL has been a favourite leisure facility in Bourne for the past eighty years and its continuing success is a perfect example of how the will of the people can triumph over our faceless and often unthinking bureaucracy. In this case, it is also a testament to the endeavours of one local person, Mrs Lesley Patrick.
The pool is one of the few traditional outdoor swimming pools remaining in the United Kingdom. It dates back to 1138 and was originally a carp pond to provide fish for the monks at Bourne Abbey and was converted into public swimming baths by keen local swimmers after the Great War of 1914-18. Bourne United Charities took over the pool in 1932 and paid for its modernisation. During 1971, the town’s Round Table organisation raised sufficient funds to finance a heating system and shortly afterwards, South Kesteven District Council took over the running of the pool as part of its leisure and community activities programme, a move that eventually proved to be most unwise.
In 1989, the new leisure centre with its own indoor heated swimming pool was opened by the council alongside the Robert Manning School and in their wisdom they decreed that the outdoor pool was redundant and should close because it would create too much competition for their own facility. It was at this point that Mrs Patrick took up the cudgel on behalf of the people of Bourne who were reluctant to lose their outdoor pool. A public meeting at the Corn Exchange attracted over 200 people. This was followed by a protest march through the town and a petition with 4,000 signatures of support and as a result a trust was formed with the objective of keeping and maintaining the pool for the benefit of the townspeople.
Since 1990, the Outdoor Pool Preservation Trust has been run by volunteers to ensure that the pool has not only survived but its facilities enhanced and now include a toddler pool, sand pit and play house, all added with the help of a £10,000 grant from Bourne Town Council. There are indoor and outdoor changing rooms with lockers and toilets, extended lawns with seating and picnic tables, attractive gardens with hanging baskets, a refreshment area, sweet and snack shop and barbecues for hire. All of this is available in a most pleasant part of the town, surrounded by the Abbey Lawn and mature trees, an old garden wall and a magnificent view of Bourne Abbey. Qualified lifeguards are on duty at all times while first aid and life saving equipment are kept continuously at the poolside.
Mrs Patrick became chairman of the trust when it was formed in 1990 but her endeavours on behalf of the outdoor pool also spurred her on to greater civic duty and despite having six children to bring up, she became a town councillor and served as Mayor of Bourne from 1994-95. She resigned as trust chairman in 2000 to make way for others and Mrs Mandy Delaine-Smith was subsequently elected chairman at the annual general meeting and now heads the organising committee of fifteen members. But the pool is still close to her heart and every year she hopes for fine weather to ensure that her pet project continues on its successful path.
The pool is just under the official Olympic length of 50 metres. It holds 250,000 gallons and is heated to a pleasant 27-30 degrees C during its opening period from mid-May to early September. Although money is a constant problem, the committee is responsible for an ongoing programme of improvements each season to maintain the amenity as one of the finest surviving lidos in the country.
But the traditional look of the pool that has been part of its charm over past decades will remain. Lesley Patrick says: "We do not want to spoil the special atmosphere that has been established over the years but it is important that we keep up with the times to ensure that it remains one of the town’s most treasured summer amenities."