Thursday, November 25, 2010

Leichhardt Pool's 50th birthday

Olympic swimmer Eamon Sullivan will be making a guest appearance at the 50th birthday celebrations for Leichhardt Park Aquatic Centre (LPAC) this coming Sunday, 28 November.

Festivities will start from 10am and continue until 3pm and during that time entry will be free. Activities include face painting and jumping castle, fitkids classes, adult fitness classes, morning tea, a charity barbeque, and squad and learn to swim demonstrations.

Staff from the local history section of the Leichhardt Library will also be showing images from the pool's history including the original Leichhardt tidal baths which were located on the shores of Long Cove on the Parramatta River, almost directly below the current aquatic complex.

The Leichhardt Council Baths, as they were called, operated from 1905 to the late 1950s. While the quality of the water in the Parramatta River was probably declining by then, after the success of the Melbourne Olympic Games councils all over Australia were keen to have a modern, chlorine complex in the municipality where future Olympians could learn to swim, play and train.

As the catalogue of the 2008 Powerhouse exhibition, Modern Times states: "By the late 1950s the local pool was fast being regarded as an essential community venue for accessible and safe sport, education and leisure, and the impetus for pool construction gained pace around the nation."  In fact, between 1945 and 1972, 32 pools opened in Sydney alone.

Leichhardt Pool was part of that wave of building, and on 10 December 1960 it was officially opened. So while it's a few weeks early, happy 50th birthday LPAC. Have a great day on Sunday.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Salt water bliss at the Palm Beach rock pool

On the weekend I immersed myself in the Palm Beach rock pool. Built in the 1920s, the ocean baths are at the southern end of Sydney's Palm Beach in the area known as Cabbage Tree Boat Harbour and Kiddies Corner. Overlooking the rectangular space are palatial homes, which these days are mainly owned by the rich and famous.

Last Saturday afternoon when we visited the pool, people sat around the edge enjoying the welcome return of the sun after days of heavy Sydney rain. Women in wetsuits strode through the water giving their leg muscles a workout. Children cruised around the pool on boogie boards and the occasional swimmer lapped up and down the 50-metre length. One wet-suited lapper demonstrated his butterfly skills. As he swam along, his dog ran around the pool and played with a group of children jumping in and out of the water.

As for us, a group of girls away for the weekend, we swam 'sans' wetsuit. The water was a bit cold at first but completely invigorating once we'd dived under.  We had a lovely time lolling about in the water, doing the odd lap but mainly having a chat.

Outside the confines of the pool surfboard riders lay on their boards waiting for the perfect wave. Others rowed by on stand-up boards. On the rocks near the far end of the pool, fishermen cast their rods.

I revelled being in salt water again, which had an almost euphoric effect. As the NSW Ocean Baths website proclaims: "Simply being in the buoyant seawater brings a sense of blissful liberation."

The next morning when we returned for a swim, waves swept into the full pool. As I sat on the wall and let the breakers wash over me I was taken back to my youth; hot, summer days hanging out on the pool chains and letting the power of the waves push me back into the safety of the pool.

If you haven't got a car, the 190 bus from the city will take you all the way to Palm Beach where you can enjoy the delights of this ocean pool. There are showers and toilets in the amenities block beside the pool. The local council cleans the pool every Monday.