“That thing costs Plymouth a million pounds a year and it’s a complete waste of money!”
Barbara is eighty one and angry. I was surprised at her reaction. We’d been waiting at a bus stop on the coast path, overlooking Plymouth Sound – not far from where she’d learned to swim. But she was adamant in her views, reflecting on a time when learning to swim was seen as a punishment rather than gaining a valuable life skill. Yet looking at Tinside Lido just a couple of days before, it was hard to see how anyone could hate this place.
Built a year after Barbara was born, this stunning bit of Art Deco loveliness is often described as the jewel in the crown of Plymouth’s waterfront. And rightly so. Barabara’s dislike is linked to one of the unique features of this outdoor pool – its water is unseated and is pumped straight in from the sea.
Other visitors have fonder memories. Harry Roberts is in his eighth season as General Manager and talks about the loyal band of regulars, known as the Golden Girls. “Thelma grew up here and met here husband, who was in the US Navy. After the war he sent her a one way ticket and she left Plymouth. But for the past few years they’ve been coming back and spend their entire time at Tinside.”
Sitting at the Terrace Cafe, just along the Hoe, it’s easy to see why. On a warm day, you could easily be on a Greek Island.
The worn looking walls around the back of Tinside give you an idea of just how vulnerable this place is to the weather. In the winter of 2014, much of Plymouth’s waterfront was wrecked during violent storms. The Lido took a battering too, but a frantic programme of repairs ensured it was ready to open for the season. A season that saw some 27,000 visitors.
Tinside represents the best of public facilities, and at a time when budgets are squeezed, those numbers should secure its future. Even if it’s a little too cold for the likes of Barbara.