Lido Ladies enjoy visit to Jesus Green in Cambridge
Jessica Walker and Nicola Foster, two fifty-something ladies who love to dress glamorously and swim in lidos, came to Cambridge last week to do just that at Jesus Green.
Their mission is simple: to encourage everyone, no matter what age, size or ability, to enjoy a swim for both their physical and mental wellbeing. A family tragedy left Jessica suffering from chronic anxiety until she found an oasis of calm in the form of her local lido. After years away, she returned to the pool and what started as a quick dip became almost a daily meditation.
Meanwhile, Nicola swam competitively in her youth but, after living behind a corporate desk, reached a point where her joints began to creak. Following some encouragement and persuasion from Jessica, who has a background in clothing design, Nicola got back into the water and, as the lido warmed up, so did she.
The pair have not looked back since – swimming and laughing in equal measure, resulting in both their physical and mental health being in the best shape of their lives. During the first lockdown when lidos were closed to the public, the ladies created a fantasy lido world, entertaining followers on Instagram with images that embraced the retro glamour of the golden years of lidos.
Their positive attitude and passion for outdoor swimming have resulted in them gracing the covers of The Guardian and The Times – and the pair have also been featured on both ITV and BBC News. Their 2021 ‘Postcards from the Lido’ calendar campaign in support of mental health charity MIND has completely sold out, and they are at present touring the country’s lidos.
As part of this ongoing adventure, the ladies were at the Jesus Green Lido in Cambridge last Friday (August 27) – a pool now set to open through autumn and winter. Ahead of the visit, London resident Nicola said: “Pools reopened on March 29 and we did that opening actually with Better – who also manage Jesus Green Lido – over at their Hillingdon facility.
“So that was lots of fun, and obviously it was a great story that outdoor sport was opening up... Since then, we’ve been pretty busy, most Fridays, touring around the UK and visiting various lidos. Sometimes we do two or three and sometimes it’s just one.
“We’ve been all the way down to Portsmouth – to Hilsea – and dropped in at Petersfield on the way down there. We’ve done some along the Sussex coastline, we’ve been down to Margate, to Walpole Bay, which isn’t technically a lido, it’s a tidal pool, but it’s still in the lido guide...
“We have been to Jesus Green before – we went there last year – but we wanted to go back again because we’d like to try and get the lido some coverage, and also because we’re putting together another calendar.
“We did a calendar last year, in aid of MIND, but obviously last year the lidos were shut for a great deal of the year, so most of the photos are quite sort of quirky pictures of us dressed up doing daft things, but not actually at a lido!
“So this year we want to do something based around our tour and we would like to include some photographs of our Jesus Green visit. It’s a very historically interesting lido. It’s 100 yards long, which makes it one of the country’s longest, if not the longest.”
On the pair’s new-found fame, Nicola says: “It’s been great but to be perfectly honest we’d like to be even more famous – really, we’d like to do a TV programme about the lidos. So some of what we’re doing at the moment is a bit of groundwork for that, I suppose. It’s actually getting out, seeing them, talking to the people around them and hearing their stories.
“I think a television programme on lidos would be interesting; they’re architecturally interesting, there are incredible restoration stories, and there are obviously lidos that, very sadly, really struggle to get funding, and so there are stories about those too...
“There’s an amazing lido called Broomhill in Ipswich and that had all its funding lined up to do a refurbishment – it was just over £7million – and because of Covid they couldn’t crack on with the work and as a result, I think some of its funding has now walked away. That’s really sad because the plans for that were amazing.”
Nicola and Jessica, who met while walking their dogs around eight years ago, both swim at Charlton Lido, in Greenwich, every morning. Nicola does 2k, while Jessica does a mile. Nicola notes that 169 lidos were built in the UK during the 1930s, although Jesus Green dates from the 1920s.
“We’ve lost a lot of them because they lost popularity and didn’t make any money. Some of them have been built over and that’s the end of that,” says Nicola, who also has a huge passion for Art Deco, the style that was in fashion, of course, when many lidos were constructed.
Nicola and Jessica are planning to visit more lidos over the coming weeks. “Before the summer’s out I’d love to get down to Tinside in Plymouth, but that’s quite an expedition,” says Nicola. “Then there’s also a very nice one in Essex – Brightlingsea – that we would like to get to.”
Nicola is keen to get more followers on Instagram and adds: “If anyone would like to work with us to make our TV programme, then that would be absolutely top banana!”