Ironmonger Row Baths

Time Out says it’s the best swimming pool you’ll come across in Central London. I say it’s nice and old, refreshingly clean, and staffed with efficient and able bodied beings – so I’m also a fan.

Built in the 1930s, the Grade-II listed pool and Turkish baths is magnificent from the outset. The outside is something to really behold. It’s definitely worth getting to the building a little early just to take a little look at the outside. To use a suitably back-in-the-day phrase… they don’t make ’em like they used to. Swimming pools that in.

17 mil was recently spent on the gym, pool and spa. So you can imagine how top notch it now is.

Ironmonger baths

I don’t care if I sound my age when I say this because it’s true… One of the things I love most about Ironmonger Row Baths is how clean it is. It smells of cleaning products, the surfaces are grot free and there’s no minging hairs on the floors of the changing areas.

There’s some great architecture around the place, glorious rounded alcoves set it thick stone walls, engravings on the walls, and tell-tail signs that you’re swimming in a place that is just not of this era

inside with bench

The huge turn of the century windows could look just as at home in an old hospital as they do lighting up the 30 meter swimming pool. But they’re fitting and help create an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue as you swim.

I guess one of the things I like about trying out new places to exercise is that it makes keeping fit interesting and fresh. What I particularly like about trying out new pools is that you can drift along willy-nilly in the lanes and really set the world to rights, just you, alone with your thoughts, burning as you move, somewhere which is so interesting inside that it keeps your mind occupied – and off the fact that you’re actually exercising (when you should be doing a thousand other things)

It’s great here if you’re swimming with a friend as lanes are big enough to swim in pairs. Also great if you have a creepy friend who wants to come along and watch while you shed as there’s a huge benched area which isn’t behind glass and doesn’t seem too far away from the pool as is sometimes the case. Or, more seriously, if you’re a parent wishing to watch your kid having a lesson.

There’s a room upstairs on the far side of the pool which has a glass wall. My friend and I spent a good deal of our time trying to figure out what the people in the room were doing. I decided it might be a moris dancing class but my friend was determined that it was some kind of drama/improvisation workshop. Watch out for it if you go and hopefully you’ll be as entertained as we were.

The address is as follows:
1-11 Ironmonger Row
London
EC1V 3QF

Ironmonger Row Baths is a short walk from Old Street Tube Station. I’d say about 10 minutes, but it’s probably not in a really obvious location, so take a look on a full screen computer before you head out. I got directions from a group of fellas who said they were “heading that way anyway” to “build some muscle” – what they actually meant by that is they were actually heading to one of the local pubs… And you’ll pass a few on the way, they all seem like good watering holes, if I’d had time I’d definitely have swung by for one (or two) to reward myself for all my hard work…

Locals can pick up a bargain monthly pass for £17.00 -others can pick go in on pay-as-you go.

Opening hours:

Mon – Fri 06:30 – 21:30
Sat 09:00 – 18:00
Sun 09:00 – 18:00

Here’s the website.

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London Aquatics Centre

At the heart of the Olympic Village in Stratford, London, is the aquatics centre. The huge venue sits under a barely visible wavelike roof and it boasts a competition pool, a training pool, a heated pool for kiddies and a state of the art gym. With a seating capacity of 2,500.

Being a swimming enthusiast, the opportunity to swim in one of London 2012’s best known venue’s is a pretty mind blowing experience. The possibility that I might bump in to the one and only Tom Daley on one of his regular swimming training sessions there is almost too much excitement to handle. It’s not happened yet but I’m still hoping…

THAT would make one heck of a cool Insta pic.

Zaha Hadid, I take my hat off to you. The design of the centre is pretty far out, I’m sure you’ve seen pictures readers,  it’s identifiable for miles around. The huge, high ceilings, lashings of glass and white surround create a really chilled atmosphere. One where you can get lost within yourself after a tiring week. Or enjoy catching up with family and friends.

It’s a venue the community is clearly proud of and one people enjoying being in. People head their to swim alone, go with friends or go along with families. And the tourists are still flocking in.

Lanes are sectioned off in to slow, medium and fast swimmers. And swimming lessons do sometimes take place in some of the lanes, but the pools are so massive, that it really doesn’t matter. I have to say, I did once get bumped out of the fast lane but an angry grey haired dandy boy, but my bad for not paying attention to the categories. If you’re there to train hard and some bird is taking her time getting from A-to-B then you are probably going to get a bit annoyed. Not quite as annoyed as I was when he approached me though… Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Bet he didn’t do that again.

Changing rooms, lockers and showers are sectioned off by male, female and family areas. But as they’re quite interlinked there is a degree of mixing between the categories. There’s always enough lockers and they take £1.00. And if you’re peckish after make-believing your an Olympic/Paralympic champ, there’s a café in the entrance to the centre, and vending machines as you head in.

It’s not glam, you won’t be handed a towel as you head in, though you can probably buy one in the little swim shop in the entrance – but who cares. Live the dream! It’s part of the legacy…

Stratford is the nearest tube station to it, and Pudding Lane is the nearest over ground station – quickly followed by Stratford International. Stratford bus station is also close.

Stratford Westfields is a few minutes away by foot. Check out the bars, restaurants and shops in there with friends if you haven’t already.

The pool is open Monday-Sunday 6.00am-10.30am. Contact them on: 0208 536 3150 for more info.

Prices:

off-peak (9-5, any day) is £3.50 – £4.50 at any other time.

On Saturdays and Sundays, big kids and actual kids alike, can go on a elephant-sized inflatable between the following hours: 1.30-2.30pm, 3-4pm, 5.3-06.30pm. Tickets for this are the same price as the usual swimming session.

And here are a few facts about the pool which I borrowed from the London Aquatics Centre’s website to entice you:

  • The three pools contain 10 million litres of water and are lined with 180,000 tiles
  • There are almost 600,000 tiles in the whole building. Paralympic swimmer Liz Johnson laid the last tile in April 2011
  • The spectacular wave-like roof is 160m long and up to 80m wide – giving it a longer single span than Heathrow Terminal 5. It rests on just three concrete supports
  • The building is 45m high
  • The aluminium roof has 50 per cent recycled content
  • London Aquatics Centre uses 32 per cent less potable (drinking) water compared to other pools. This is achieved by using low flow fittings and recycling water