The state of Birmingham’s swimming pools

On Saturday, supporters of the Moseley Road Baths will gather at the Grade II-listed buildings for a special event celebrating Birmingham’s most well-known, but at-risk swimming pool. Moseley Road Baths, Memories and Memorabilia – which hopes to offer all comers an insight into this unique building – couldn’t come at a more crucial time for swimming in Birmingham.

This month, Birmigham City Council announced that its planned 50 metre swimming pool would not be in place before the 2012 Olympics. The council is facing a funding shortfall of £2.2 billion and announced today (Monday) that it would make 800 job cuts. While the olympic-size pool will still go ahead, it isn’t clear whether the council can afford to improve on its existing facilities – and make good on a commitment to ensure that every resident has no more than a 20-minute walk to a public pool.

So just how good are Birmingham’s existing swimming facilities? The map I’ve inserted below gives a snapshot of the current situation. There are at least three pools that the council operates that are either not open or only partially so. Several of the pools are very old (including Harborne, Moseley and Sparkhill, all of which are included in planned investment to improve pools). It also seems that people who live in some areas are particularly poorly served. I live in Ladywood, near the National Indoor Arena and close to the proposed site of the new 50-metre pool, and I’m pretty sure most people couldn’t walk to my closest pool (Harborne) in 20 minutes.

Map of public swimming pools in Birmingham

View Swimming pools in Birmingham in a larger map
You may have to move the map a bit to see it all. Click on the pins for information.

My plan is to visit all the pools I’ve listed here over the next few weeks and create a much more accurate picture of the state of Brum’s swimming pools. I’ll be swimming in them, but also hoping to talk to as many people as I can to better understand the need for new facilities and what’s wrong with the existing ones.

14 thoughts on “The state of Birmingham’s swimming pools

  1. Good work on that map.. nice way of looking at things.

    Though I’m a bit stumped by that “within 20 minute walk” target though… at an average walking speed of 3mph that would surely mean having a swimming pool every 2 miles?! I’m thinking, “that can’t be right, so I must be being dumb ’cause if I’m not the council are.”

    1. You see Philip, you’re using maths, and I’m a words man. I’ll check out the 20 minute claim, but it may already have been superseded by events. I’ll be interested to see what the council has to say about its ambitions for swimming in Birmingham, given its budgetary constraints, and obviously I’m hoping to speak to someone about that!

  2. Your map is missing Woodcock st. (near Aston Uni but still a bit of trek from Ladywood I guess). Linden road is an instructional pool so is for public lessons (half of South Birmingham’s kids have learnt there I suspect, it’s very popular). I don’t think Cadbury staff have an extra use of it – I hadn’t heard that.

    1. Dave, I’ll stick Woodcock Street on as soon as I can, thanks for that. As for Linden Road, all the information I’ve got comes from Birmingham Council’s website, so I’m taking them at their word. According to the site Cadbury staff get a rate of £2.70 per swim on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 12.30pm and 1.30pm. What’d be interesting to check out is how much swims cost in each pool. And who gets the best price! Thanks again for your help.

  3. Hi Andrew,

    Do you know anything about recommended water temperature?

    I visited Cocks Moors Woods swimming pool for the first time this week during their designated “Lane Swimming” session and found the water unbearably hot. I asked a pool attendant what the temperature was and he said 88 degrees and that this was normal.

    It felt like getting into a bath and I could only manage a couple of lengths (I usually do at least 20) before I was exhausted.

    I think that in order to have a comfortable temperature for lane swimming, it is normal feel cold until you have swum your first few strokes.

    Anyway, just thought it might be interesting to compare if temperatures vary between pools.

    I’m going to try Mosely Road next.

    1. Julia,

      That’s a really good avenue of inquiry. I’ll look into recommended temperatures. I know, from talking to staff about this (when, like you, I’ve complained about the temperature being too high) that pools are kept much warmer for less active swimmers. Children, in particular, need a higher temperature. But I’ll try to find out more about recommended water temperatures and put it on the site. Thanks for your help.

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