Words Ruby Bishop Photographs Faversham Pools
Ruby Bishop, a student at The Abbey School, joined Faversham Life for two weeks.
Ruby explains: ‘As a student at The Abbey School, we were given the opportunity to find our own work placement. I love reading and writing and enjoy spending my free time interviewing authors and reviewing books online. So, looking at a variety of local magazines I found that Faversham Life was full of beautifully written articles. And as someone who is curious about meeting new people and hoping for a future career in media, I knew this would be a great experience for me!
It was a privilege to spend a week meeting the Faversham locals with the team members of Faversham Life. This not only gave me a great insight into the lives of some intriguing local people, but also gave me a real-life experience of being a journalist.
During the week we met web designer, Neil Brown, at Creek Creative to talk about how he created the website for Faversham Life. We interviewed local fruit grower, Sandys Dawes, at Mount Ephraim to discuss cherries. Then I interviewed the manager and staff at Faversham Pools (see below). I also assisted Faversham Life’s photographer Lisa for an upcoming article about some of the unique doors of Faversham.’
A recent Daily Mail article declared Faversham Pools in the top ten outdoor pools in Britain because of its ‘unique diving facilities’. Faversham Pools has the only outdoor pool in the UK with three diving boards – a 1m and a 3m spring board, and a 5m top board. No wonder the pools are used by more than 200,000 people annually, ranging in age from six months to 93 years.
Faversham’s pools have a ‘tremendous spread of visitors’, says trustee, Mike Henderson. ‘People swarm in to use the pools, whether they are year-round regulars such as the swimming club, early-morning swimmers, disabled groups, or the 27 different local schools who use the pools regularly. Most of the visitors come from Faversham but others come from Essex, London and even Norfolk! Swimming lessons for children and adults, either individually or in groups, are also very popular.’
Manager, Roger Lake, who has been working at the pool since the 1970s, says: ‘We are pleased when the Thanet Way is so crowded that people heading for the coast turn back and come to us.’ He says that because 2018 was such a hot summer, people flooded in to use the pools.
A particularly popular aspect of the outdoor pool area is the garden. Roger says: ‘Families will spend all day at the pools that are especially for young children and babies, with the lazy river rapids which kids love! A mother with young children should find a trip to the pools very inexpensive. She can bring a picnic and meet other mothers, and let their children play in the garden area and paddle.’
Emily Keen, a local secondary school pupil, enjoys using the pools because ‘it helps children to learn how to swim which is an important life skill useful for the future’. Luke Holdsworth, an Abbey School pupil and regular pool user, says: ‘It’s a great place to spend time with your friends and are especially good on a hot day.’ Compared to other UK pools, Faversham Pools is extremely affordable for young people and students who don’t always have a lot of money. You can even hire the barbecue area for a private party!
Marylka Gowlland, who has recently been appointed external funding and marketing officer, says: ‘There are plans for a blog on the Faversham Pools webpage, which will be another way of reaching out to people and our customers.’ There will be Instagram stories and short video clips of the pools. Things that might also be included are A Day in the Life of a Lifeguard, open pools, challenges of running the pools and many more exciting stories which will be written by Marylka.
The new café, Tides, produces fresh food daily for the poolside customers. It is affordable and tasty with a wide range of food varying from gluten-free, to vegetarian and vegan options. Much of the food used is also locally sourced, using Faversham market for vegetables, Baldy butchers for the meat, bread from Oscars bakery and local free-range eggs. Tides can also proudly declare that they are one of the Plastic Free Champion businesses in Faversham, using biodegradable or compostable cups, straws and food trays.
The history of the pools dates back to 1965 when there was no pool, only tennis courts and a lawn. That all changed when local benefactor, Leslie Smith, donated a piece of land. The people of Faversham raised the necessary money (such as a mile of pennies laid out by the scouts) by public subscription and the 33 metre outdoor pool was built. In the 1990s, the council built the 25 metre indoor pool with a learner pool. It is very complicated running Faversham Pools as it requires a lot of machinery such as boilers, circulating pumps, chemicals plants, filters and air conditioning units to keep it all running.
Faversham Pools is currently fundraising for a new boiler the size of the ground floor of a house. Next there are bigger plans for renovating the changing rooms and lockers. Since the outdoor pools opened 65 years ago, and the indoor pools opened 27 years ago there has been no major need for anything new to be put in or anything to be replaced. This can partly be explained because Faversham Pools has its own engineer which no other pools in Swale have, who mends and renovates the equipment rather than throwing it away.
It is a little known fact that Faversham Pools is a charity. It only receives £100,000 a year from Swale Borough Council. It is always looking for more local people who are passionate about Faversham’s pools as everyone has something to give. The pools are currently on the hunt for new trustees to help manage the charity. Marylka says: ‘It is a small time commitment, and you don’t need any experience, just enthusiasm, fresh ideas and the desire to make a difference.’ Other ways that you can help are joining the new Friends scheme, in which you pay £30 a year for membership benefits including newsletters and events, or make a donation to the charity. Marylka says: ‘This help is really appreciated and ensures that Faversham Pools will stay running for future generations.’
Text: Ruby Bishop. Photographs: Faversham Pools