Campaign to build open air swimming pool on the Thames gains momentum

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Anna Pollitt

Fancy a dip in the murky Thames? No, us either, mainly because we fear gastrointestinal illness. But what if there was a freshwater pool floating the centre of the city's famous river? 

Londoners may soon be able to enjoy a pollution-free swim in the open water thanks to the Thames Baths Project, a crowdfunding campaign that is looking to raise an initial £300,000 to help build the swimming on the Victoria Embankment.

The proposed 25-metre by 10-metre pool will come with a filtration system, pool-side decking and 4-foot high glass walls to protect swimmers from any high waves. Organisers plan to charge a £4-£6 entry fee similar to local community baths - but minus the chlorine.

Architect Chris Romer-Lee, who works for Studio Octopi, the firm behind the scheme, told The Guardian he wants the pool to appeal to everyone - even non-swimmers.

"The decked areas are open to anyone who wants to come along, so you don’t have to come along just to swim," he said. "It’s really important this doesn’t become another London Eye 25-quid experience. It’s not about that."

"There’s something very wild and liberating being in open water," he added. "I don’t get this so much from swimming inside indoor pools where it’s hot and smelly."

Londoners may soon be able to enjoy open air swimming in the city like these lot in Badeschiff, Berlin

Londoners may soon be able to enjoy open air swimming in the city like these lot in Badeschiff, Berlin

The project, which will ultimately cost £10 million, is modelled on successful open air baths across Europe and New York, the latter successfully hitting its $250,000 (£166,000) crowdfunding target in just six days.

London's pool - which organisers hope to have up and running next year - will be designed to sit "naturally within the river environment, filling and flowing with the water that runs around, beneath and over it."

"I think it’s a European thing and London is late to the party," Romer-Lee added. "I was swimming in a public lake in Zurich on holiday and it was amazing, then I suddenly realised Berlin has got this pool, and Paris has got its variation of it. And Vienna, and New York. So it’s happening all over the world."

Still worried the murky river water might not be clean enough to splash around in? 

Tim Evans, director of swimming pool firm Gartenart, which is working on the project, told The Daily Mail that the water will be "as clean as anything you would find in a mountain lake".

The downside? It's not heated.

Will you join the #BacktheBaths campaign, or stick to the local pool? Tell us your thoughts on the project in the comments section below.

Words: Anna Pollitt. Images: Thames Baths, Rex Features


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Anna Pollitt

Anna is a freelance writer and editor who’s been making her dime from online since 2007. She’s a regular at, ITV News and Emerald Street and moonlights as a copywriter and digital content consultant. The baby is borrowed.

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