Dozens of swimmers took the plunge as the Bathing Pools reopened on Monday morning.
There was a steady flow of hardy, socially distanced bathers throughout the day as regulars and newcomers took advantage of the facility. Sea swimming has enjoyed a surge in popularity during the Covid-19 lockdowns, with hundreds of new converts joining established swimmers who have long enjoyed the physical and mental benefits of the pastime.
While many have been swimming at bays all around the island during the latest lockdown, some pool regulars have missed the familiarity and security of the facilities at La Vallette.
At the ladies’ pool, Svetlana Head said: “I just swam for about 20 minutes. The temperature was okay – cold as always, but as I swim regularly, I’ve adapted to it. This is my second year of open-water swimming, and I’ll be in the sea probably three times a week.”
Pictured: Svetlana Head enjoyed 20 minutes of late-afternoon swimming in the ladies’ pool.
The three pools – men’s, ladies’ and children’s – as well as the Horseshoe swimming area and all changing facilities were made out-of-bounds when Guernsey entered the latest lockdown. Now that the island has entered Stage 1, use of the pools at La Vallette is subject to the newly updated regulations. This allows four hours of recreational activities, with gatherings of up to five people, all properly socially distanced. There is a limit of six swimmers in the pools at any one time.
Min Henry founded the Facebook social group ‘Guernsey Swim All Seasons’ last November. It already has more than 1,500 members.
She said: “GSAS members are newer to the La Vallette pool scene than the traditional stalwarts who have used it for many years. But there is no finer sight than swimming with the stunning views of Castle Cornet and the islands in the day. Then in darkness we have the twinkling lights of St Peter Port and the Castle, under the moon and stars above. It makes for a serenely beautiful and atmospheric swim in a place that Guernsey folk have swum for over 100 years.”
Pictured: Min Henry founded the Guernsey Swim All Seasons group, which now has over 1,300 members online.
The refurbishment and redevelopment of the pools and surrounding areas has been overseen by the Vive La Vallette group. Its long-term aim is to enhance the bathing pools, changing rooms and café to provide an area that “furthers physical and mental health, the arts, performance, music and culture for the whole Guernsey community.”
The charity’s Helen Bonner Morgan said: “The pools are much-loved by the island's community and we’re delighted that they’re back open, although the temporary changing facilities and toilets remain closed for Stage 1. To see swimmers of all ages getting pleasure from the water, especially throughout this difficult year, is wonderful.”
Mrs Bonner-Morgan is optimistic that the redevelopment is still on schedule, despite the difficulties presented by the Covid lockdown. She said: “Building work restarted this week and we’re still confident that we can meet our desired opening time of January 2022.”
Pictured top: La Vallette bathing pools reopened as the island entered Stage 1.
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