A Coronavirus grant has helped the Thamesdown Hydrotherapy Pool keep its head above water and get ready to re-open after its revenue dried up during lockdown.
The pool has been awarded £15,000 from the Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund. The fund has now raised more than £1.1 million and distributed more than £750,000 to almost 200 groups.
The Jefferies Avenue pool, which has been open since 1979, was forced to close on March 20 but trustee Stan Roper said attendance had already been falling since the end of February as more people became nervous about Covid.
“We were thinking we would just be closed for a month, but it went on and on and things started to become really desperate financially,” he said.
The pool is usually busy most days of the week with swimmers from clubs and schools, as well as those who use it for health reasons. Swimmers recovering from severe injuries and operations or those suffering from cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, arthritis and spina bifida are regulars.
“People with physical needs are able to exercise in the warm water without the concern about getting cold, this in turn increases blood flow to the affected area and gives much needed pain relief and also aids recovery,” said Mr Roper.
“People who have little to no able body movement get the feeling of 'normality' or freedom for the time they are in the water and out of their wheelchair. Some people recover from operations, others from sore muscles. Either way all this helps with their physical and mental well-being.”
Despite the pool being closed, the running costs have still mounted up and as the months have worn on the pool’s cash reserves have dwindled. “The pool is heated at 34 degrees Centigrade and if it gets too cold, the bacteria builds up and the whole system needs clearing out. It has to be done by a pool engineer and the cost would be quite colossal,” said Mr Roper.
He said the grant, together with £7,000 from Swindon Borough Council, has been a vital lifeline. “If we hadn’t had the very generous grant from the Wiltshire Community Foundation, we would still have been able to open but we’d have been very, very near the bottom of the bucket as regards our resources,” he said.
Pool staff are now busy deep cleaning the building and putting in social distancing measures ready for re-opening next week.
Mr Roper further stated: “The staff are back in and we are having a clean-up and taking the cover off the pool and then we’ll be open on Monday, September 7. We have set up an hourly calendar so people can book slots. We will be letting ten in at a time for three hours each day."
“That’s only 30 people and financially we really need 18 to 20 people an hour so that’s going to be difficult, but at least we are open.”
Mr Roper said staff expect swimmers to return in a trickle, not a flood. “We are going to be seeing some clubs and schools coming back but there are a few who are going to hold on for a month or so. That means the pool is not going to be used very much in the morning, which will also affect our revenue,” he said.
“During the public sessions from 3 to 6pm the pool will be used but not as much as we’d like it to be. As word gets round, we will get more people coming along, we hope, but there are some who are still a bit nervous.”
To find out about opening times and book a slot, go to thamesdownhydrotherapypool.com.
Wiltshire Community Foundation interim co-chief executive Fiona Oliver said: “We are delighted to be able to help keep running what is a vital resource for so many people. The hydrotherapy pool has been making life a little better for a great many people for more than 40 years and we want it to stay around for many more yet.”
To donate to the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund or to find out how to apply for a grant, go to wiltshirecf.org.uk.