The clocks may have sprung forward and there may be pockets of daffs poking out in Bushy Park en route. But arriving at Hampton Pool, it's so blustery that towels are doing lengths of their own along the side of the lido. This is the sort of weather the gods usually reserve for outdoor swimming lessons at school; the difference, thank goodness, is that Hampton's water is heated, and heated well (rather than a parsimonious PE teacher topping up a miniature North Sea with a kettle).
They cool you down in summer, but for other 49 weeks of the year, certain lidos also warm the cockles and whatever else you're hiding in your swimming costume. It's probably for this reason that at half two on a Stygian Sunday afternoon, Hampton Pool is positively frothing with swimmers of all ilks — wannabe cetaceans front crawling with flippers for hands, kids (willingly) having lessons, and hungover couples bobbing around in the shallow end with due timidity, lest they add to the pool's liquid makeup.
It's not just the water that's warm. Hampton Pool hasn't the majesty of Tooting or the silver-lined sex appeal of Parliament Hill but does exude a homeliness. Part of that's the cottage chimney pots peeking up from behind a fence, and one corner of the complex being occupied by a small commercial garage. But it's also because Hampton Pool isn't owned by a major player like Better or Fusion — it's run by a registered charity which had the pool reopened in 1985, after Richmond Council pulled the plug on it. The love for this place that has it brought back from the dead is evident in the amicable nature of the staff — the feeling you've been invited over by chummy, wealthy neighbours.
The other great joy of Hampton Pool is the getting there (presuming you arrive by train at Hampton Court). The amble through Bushy Park — bubbling streams, ponds a-thrash with waterfowl, and the Diana Fountain — really whets your appetite for that dip.
Hampton Pool is open 365 days a year and the water's always warm, so go on in.