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Shepton Mallet Lido announces new cold water season

Shepton Mallet Lido is now open for cold water swimming, extending the season by eight weeks with plans to open for eight to 10 months per year, providing they can prove its popularity. Here’s how to show your support.

Recently, open air pools are enjoying a surge of popularity. We often cover stories of heartfelt campaigns to re-open formerly neglected lidos, of decades long renovations and communities united over the threat of losing their cherished local pool. But what about those unassuming open air swimming pools that are simply trying to get by, perhaps without the dazzling Art Deco facades or bougie wooden saunas and pool-side tapas that might have them featured in Sunday supplement round ups. 

Many of these more utilitarian lidos open seasonally, when school holidays and heat waves bring queues of local residents to their doors, but close for the rest of the year presumably due to lack of uptake or rising energy costs.

Take Shepton Mallet Lido, a 25m outdoor air pool with separate kids’ pool and splash pad, tucked away in a residential estate in one of the oldest market towns in Somerset. Once warmed by recycled heat from a neighbouring cider and perry factory, it’s now heated exclusively by gas boilers and summer water temperatures range between 23 to 28 degrees. 

Until recently Shepton Mallet Lido, which is managed by Fusion Lifestyle, opened in late May and closed its doors in early September, shutting for around two thirds of the year. Loved by locals on warm weekends, it was not uncommon to have a lane (or even the whole pool) to yourself on an overcast weekday morning. 

Which is why we were surprised and delighted to hear about this year’s extended ‘cold water’ swimming opening times. The pool will now open four weeks early from late April and close four weeks later than usual at the end of the season, offering unheated sessions for cold water swimmers for the first time before they begin heating the pool in time for May half-term.

A chance to trial the popularity of cold water swimming

We spoke to General Manager Jessica Baxter at the opening session in late April as a small group of eager swimmers, wrapped in changing robes, huddled around the cafe warming their hands on take out coffees and chatting excitedly. 

“We’re thrilled to introduce our new ‘cold water’ opening, which marks the start of our season four weeks earlier than in previous years and will extend it by four weeks in September,” Jessica told us. “This extension not only provides our community with an additional eight weeks of swimming at Shepton Mallet Lido, but it also allows us to trial the increasingly popular activity of cold water swimming.”

Water temperatures are currently around 13 degrees, but the lido plans to heat the pool from 25 May just in time for half-term. Their vision for the lido extends beyond the current season, however. “We aim to offer swimming opportunities for eight to 10 months of the year, catering to all preferences with both heated and cold water options,” said Jessica.

How to make the trial a success

Making this happen will invariably depend on uptake. “To make this vision a reality, we rely on the support and enthusiasm of our community. By demonstrating a desire for year-round swimming and engaging with our facilities, our patrons play a crucial role in shaping the future of the lido,” she told us.

“We’ve seen considerable interest in our new cold water offering, especially through social media engagement and inquiries. While the uptake has been gradual, we’re optimistic that as awareness grows, so will participation. We’re committed to fostering a welcoming environment for all swimmers, regardless of their preferred water temperature.”

It’s hard to emphasise the importance of open air pools to a neighbourhood. Communities build around lidos, and they can have an impact on the wider community, too. Following the recent closure of the local leisure centre, Shepton Mallet Lido holds a special place in the hearts of its community members.

“With its rich history and tradition, it’s more than just a swimming facility – it’s a treasured summer destination where memories are made. By demonstrating continued support for the lido, we not only preserve a cherished community asset but also open doors to expanded offerings and investments. Our goal is to provide a versatile, year-round facility that caters to the diverse needs and interests of our residents.”

As Shepton Mallet Lido navigates through their first cold water period and beyond, there are a number of ways you can support the lido – by simply visiting to help demonstrate the demand for year-round swimming or by spreading the word to other outdoor swimmers to help them to reach a broader audience and strengthen their community ties.

Book a swim at Shepton Lido via the Fusion Lifestyle website or app. You can also find out more and show your support on Instagram @shepton_mallet_lido or on their Facebook group.

Jo is the Gear Editor for Outdoor Swimmer and also writes news and features for the website. A keen open water swimmer and long-distance walker, she loves seeking out lakes and lidos close to her home in the Mendip Hills, Somerset. She is the author of The Slow Traveller, editor and founder of independent magazine, Ernest, and has previously tested outdoor clothing and kit for BBC Countryfile Magazine, BBC Focus and Ernest Journal.