Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Glass Mill leisure centre Lewisham - swimming review

Today was the second day that the new Glass Mill leisure centre on Loampit Vale in Lewisham has been open, and I went down this morning before work to have a swim. I was later than intended, so only got to do a few laps, but thought I'd write up on my experiences for others intending to head down.

Firstly, the changing rooms. They're very big, with lots of locker space, and I can't imagine there being a time when there isn't enough space for everyone, even in busy periods. Taking my shoes off presented a pleasant surprise, as I placed my feet down expecting a freezing floor, only to discover - the floor is heated. Very nice! And everything felt very clean, as you'd expect of a new facility. Some have complained about other centres managed by Fusion, so hopefully Glass Mill will keep up their early good standards.

There are about six showers in the men's changing room, including one for disabled access, and all of them have lockable cubicle doors. The only hooks are inside the cubicles, which means you either have to leave your towel in your locker, and drip your way back to it afterwards, or bring it into the shower with you. The water in the showers is nice and hot, perhaps even slightly too hot - after a tiring swim I would have quite liked the option to stand under a cool stream. The changing rooms themselves are pleasantly warm, though obviously this is June!

The lockers. Big, and plenty of them, with a £1 deposit returned at the end. Annoyingly though, they have the same horrible wristbands for the keys as the pool at Wavelengths. They're like plastic watch straps, and with the key attached are rather big and bulky, and quite difficult to get on without nicking the skin on your wrists. I actually struggled getting mine on at all, as they're clearly new and rather stiff!

The pool itself wasn't particularly crowded, I'd estimate there were about 15-20 people in the main pool. As an aside, I appeared to be the only man in the early morning lanes session to have opted for tight trunks rather than baggy shorts. Much more comfortable, and far less drag in the water, I find.

The lane swimming was organised differently to any other lane swimming I've been to. As expected, you swim clockwise or anti-clockwise in alternate lanes, but I've never been in a situation where all eight lanes are divided - in my experience it's normal to only use every other lane divider, making four 'big' lanes in effect, which people can use to swim clockwise or anti-clockwise as instructed. People were following the instructions this morning, for the most part, but there was a bit elbow knocking as you struggle to pass fellow swimmers in the narrow lanes. I eventually managed to get a lane to myself, but most won't be that lucky. There also didn't seem to be any differentiation between slow and fast lanes, which could potentially cause issues.

One development I did like was the huge clock on one of the longer walls of the building - this means that I can see what time it is from the pool without having to walk right up to it or bring my glasses in. A lifeline to a blind-as-a-bat late-riser like me, as I can calculate to the minute exactly how long I have until I need to run for my train.

The water in the pool wasn't breath-catchingly cold, and might be too warm for some. I found it pleasant, but anyone who uses swimming as a hard work-out might find themselves sweating after their session - and speaking of which, I couldn't find a water-fountain anywhere in the building. Bring a bottle! (edit: there's a water-fountain up in the gym.)

I enjoyed swimming at Glass Mill, and will be back. It's a good pool, and not too busy (yet!) - there was plenty of room to swim freely, even with people of different abilities in the pool. The changing rooms are also a good size, with plenty of locker space. I imagine it'll get crowded in the pool at busy times as popularity grows, particularly at weekends, and it remains to be seen how well the space copes with potential demand.

I'll be at the gym later this week.

20 comments:

  1. Downham main pool is always too warm for proper swimming and the training pool too cold. It's annoying! (Not managed by Fusion mind, but thought I'd mention it anyway.)

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    1. I've heard the same thing about Wavelengths. Unfortunately the training pool at Glass Mill is shorter (20m) and I assume aimed at kids/learners.

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  2. That sounds familiar from Forest Hill, the narrow lane thing. Beyond frustrating that in a new pool you can't do breaststroke if someone else is in the lane too.

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    1. For what it's worth, I glanced into the pool after an evening gym session last week, and they seem to have changed this - the half of the pool designated for lane swimming just had two wider lanes.

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    2. I find you ou can fit breaststroke into a narrow lane, even with other people. I think narrow lanes are more efficient in terms of getting lots of people in.

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  3. Quick question:

    in the men's changing rooms are there individual rooms to get changed or is it all open space?

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    1. It's all open space.

      There were some separate cubicles kinda in the 'entrance' to the changing area, before you go into men's or women's - I think intended for families.

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    2. Women's changing rooms are also all open space, in case anyone wondered. I went for a swim yesterday and can confirm most of Sam's review - it was even quieter when I went during a general swim session at around noon (maybe 8-10 people in the pool).

      The underfloor heating is lovely, as are the little spots of colour reflecting on the surface of the pool (daylight shining through the coloured glass where windows have been cut out). Hope the locker wristbands will soften up a bit with use!

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  4. Just back from my first visit to this pool, at 3.30 ish on a Tuesday, the main pool had about 10 swimmers in, with a few lanes roped off individually. No overcrowding stress at all. From about 4 a lot more children came in - after school, obviously.

    It's a very nice pool, shiny and clean, as you'd expect, with plenty of natural light coming in from the roof and windows. Enormously spacious changing areas.

    The public space around the foyer is also well set out, with lots of soft seating. I'm a member of a pool elsewhere, but otherwise I'd come here regularly.

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  6. The facilities are nice, but I agree with those who think the swimming lanes are far too narrow. When it gets busier, which no doubt it will when more people realise the centre's now open, it will be very frustrating trying to get past slower swimmers.

    The biggest problem I've found with Glass Mill though, which suprisingly nobody else has mentioned, is the time it takes to get a ticket. I've been twice and it took around 15 minutes each time. They need more staff on the desk, especially as it's a new centre and a lot of people will be filling in membership forms.

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    1. I have an annual membership, so don't need to get a ticket, so I haven't experienced that. It doesn't surprise me though - getting signed up for the membership was an arduous process, as was booking a gym induction.

      Definite room for improvement there, both with regards to having more staff on, and simply those staff being quicker.

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  7. It was very crowded on Sunday and people came ready to get in and had to stand on side to wait for someone to get out. The pool could have taken them, they had small children and only pottered in shallow water when they were finally allowed in.

    I am really shocked by the changing rooms. I went in first time to find the usual boys in the womens. We tried to find a cubicle but the rather small number were all full. We came back out and found a few family ones (no where near enough). Fortunately one was free and managed to change children there. Then we had to go back into pretty public area where outdoor shoes were worn. My overshoe fell off as I tried to steer children in direction of lessons. Girls wanted to know why they had a woman was pink and in a bikini, they didn't like that image. It is a bit crass.

    I really don't want to be wandering through public area in swim suit. Why can't you get bare foot from changing room to pool, there is a reason why this is the norm for swimming pools?

    Really thought they'd be able to sort out obvious thing like outdoor shoes, but they have made it worse at Glassmill than both Downham and Wavelengths by making the bare foot swimmers have to come out into the 'outdoor' area.

    So the only better thing to other pools is the large clock, I always have to ask kids what the time is. Plus at the moment it is still clean in pool and changing room.

    I probably won't go swimming because there aren't enough changing rooms and don't want to risk coming down and having to hang about for a cubicle, don't want to be wandering through public area in swimsuit. Sick of dirty outdoor shoes in wet areas at Wavelengths, but Glassmillis has purposely planned to mix the two.

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    1. The thing is, they *want* people not to wear outdoor shoes in that mixed area, the weird lobby bit between the changing rooms and the pool. There's even a sign to that effect on the entrace to that area.

      The problem is that there's nowhere obvious to sit and take your shoes off at the entrance, and, as far as I could see, no overshoes provided.

      They can ask people to remove their shoes until they're blue in the face, but if the arrangement for doing it isn't logical, and there aren't facilities for people to do it, they won't - they'll just continue to tip-toe across in outdoor shoes. I know I did.

      And thanks for commenting. I'm not surprised it's so busy on a Sunday, and I'll certainly be avoiding it on weekends!

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  8. But it isn't logical when you aren't even going swimming, but taking kids in, that you take your shoes off. It is easy enough to do so in summer when you aren't in boots and tights etc. The over shoes are an after thought.

    They have problems in Wavelengths and it is pretty disgusting as you see parents climb over rail in their outdoor shoes to the poolside to sort out small children in showers etc. Even the coaches seem to come in with their outside shoes.

    What is worse at the new pool is the way they haven't even sorted out how to get from changing rooms (where you can nearly tolerate outdoor shoes) to the swimming pool. I want to get from changing room into pool as quickly as possible, but unless I've completely missed the door (easy once I have to take glasses off) you have to go back into the suited and booted zone.

    I suspect if you checked out continental pools, they have sorted out how to keep wet and dry separate.

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    1. What exacerbates the problem is that a number of people coming to use the gym are also using the swimming pool changing rooms to change, as they have £1-deposit lockers, rather than the ones needing a padlock.

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  9. Is that normal, bring your own padlock for the locker, or was it some crazy last minute saving? Best not loose your key.

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    1. It's not unusual for gyms - the Soho Gyms (ex-Fitness First) in Lewisham is the same. I'm not sure about the other Fusion-managed sites.

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  10. Does anyone use the pool and the health suite upstairs? I'm thinking about joining but would want to use both and didn't think to ask on my tour how people get up there from the pool - assume people have to get dressed

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    1. Hi Samantha. I've never used the health suite, but someone asked on the tour I was on, and indeed, you do have to get dressed and go up the main stairs - there's no other way. You also have to get a wristband from reception (I assume to regulate numbers in there), which at Glass Mill will inevitably mean a 10-minute queue.

      It seems silly to me, but it seems that Fusion generally place the health suite with the gym facilities rather than part of the pool - I'm told in the recent refurbishment at Wavelengths they similarly moved it from being by the pool to being by the gym.

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