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Tobay’s historical swimming attraction, Shoalstone Pool

PUBLISHED: 13:35 03 October 2016

When the tide is high it is hard to tell where the pool ends and the sea begins

When the tide is high it is hard to tell where the pool ends and the sea begins

Archant

For 90 years locals in Torbay have been taking the plunge in a unique community facility as Sophie Walker-Haworth reports

Up and down the country people are rediscovering the sheer joy of swimming outdoors. Here in Devon we are not short of options, but even in this crowded field Shoalstone Pool stands out as a quite extraordinary swimming experience.

The 53-metre lido perches right on the edge of Torbay, just before the streets of Brixham give way to the natural beauty of Berry Head. People have flocked here to swim since Victorian times, taking advantage of the natural rock pools to cool off in the heat of summer.

It was in 1926 though that the council began to see the potential of the area to create a real tourist draw, popularising the town as a seaside resort with the construction of a permanent pond not so reliant on the tide. Ninety years have passed since then, and today Shoalstone Pool is still very much at the heart of the local community.

Its history, as it has battled the elements and funding cuts, is really quite a humbling one. Every time it has looked close to closure a wave of support has risen up, crystallised by the Friends of Shoalstone Pool and being given new strength now by the determination of Brixham Town Council and the volunteer-run company they have set up to keep the pool going. They succeeded last year in winning a grant from the Coastal Revival Fund, and have begun the process of securing the beautiful Art Deco buildings – as well as the pool itself – as a top class facility for years to come.

With its art-deco lines and row of beach huts the pool echoes back to earlier timesWith its art-deco lines and row of beach huts the pool echoes back to earlier times

There is something very special about swimming in natural saltwater within the safety of a pool, gliding through its calm, buoyant length whilst just beyond the walls the sea rises and falls. At high tide you might find yourself face to face with a seal, and when the tide is low the lido is surrounded by its own unique moonscape, the rocks home to a myriad of life that makes this one of the top spots for scuba diving in the UK.

Generations of people have learnt to swim here, holding in their bones the truth that Kate Rew, founder of the Outdoor Swimming Society, knows so well: “Lucky are the people who have a local lido they can make part of their daily routine”.

As the pool celebrates its 90th anniversary year, those who love it are looking back at how much it has given to (and has been given by) the local community; but they are also looking forward, to many more seasons of revelling in this iconic seawater lido.

Locals celebrated the opening of the pool in its 90th birthday year with a 1920s-themed swim at the end of MayLocals celebrated the opening of the pool in its 90th birthday year with a 1920s-themed swim at the end of May

Good to know

Shoalstone pool is free to use for locals and tourists alike, though donations are warmly encouraged and are essential to keep the pool open.

The access ramp and shallow end are great for kids, and there is plenty of space for serious swimming too.

The pool is supervised by lifeguards from 10am to 6pm every day throughout the summer months (May to September).

With parking, deckchairs, showers, changing rooms, a picnic green and two on-site cafes there is everything you need to enjoy a family day out.

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