Crystal Palace National Sports Centre

South London early evening swim at iconic sporting venue.

South London early evening swim at an iconic sporting venue.

Today is a good day! After a great meeting in Richmond - followed by an excellent Italian lobster and prawn linguine lunch (and tempura mushrooms!) I head out 12 miles across a very sunny South London to the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre. I didn’t even mind that the relatively short journey took us an hour although my calm was near broken trying to navigate my wider-than-average BMW X5 between the bridge bollards whichever Thames bridge that is near Clapham Common, 6ft 6” max. width, two inches narrower than my car! Anyway, I made it and only scraped my wheels twice.

Finally, the sat-nav reports I’ve arrived at the destination, I seem to be in a park! Follow the lane through to a car park, the worlds smallest car park for a building named a National-something! Wait 15 minutes for a parking space, thankfully it’s a large car leaving so I just about manage to squeeze in between the lines.

Follow a crowd towards the ’60s looking concrete structure. I didn’t read too much about this pool before arriving, so I’m wowed when I see the scale of the facility. Cross a walkway passing the beach volleyball courts. Enter reception and pay my £6 entry fee to a lady with the longest, bright yellow fake fingernails I’ve ever seen!

This place has absolutely every sport in one huge cavernous concrete structure, to my left are basketball courts, to my right, a 50m pool with squash courts lining the side!

There are two pools here, the main 50m competition pool and a 25m training pool, only the main pool is set up for lap swimming at the moment, so only one pool will make the list today!

Finally, find the correct changing rooms! Quick change, thankfully have a 20p for the locker (which you don’t get back!) and make my way out to the pool deck. This place is massive, the stairs up from the men’s changing rooms bring you straight out to the diving well with its full set of boards right up to the ridiculously high 10m board. There are kids in a training session in a constant loop of dive, climb, not sure I would even just off the 5m let alone dive headfirst off the 10m!

Half the pool is being used for club swim practice so pick a relatively quiet fast lane and make a start. Straight away, I note the water tastes weird, it’s the stuff that gives me furry dry mouth after a while, think it’s bromide.

I’ve made a start and feeling quite fresh. Just as I’m trying to think when I last swam an opening 1,000m in a 50m pool, I see a pole waving as I approach the wall, have to move lanes as the club need another lane! Stop the Garmin Swim watch at 400m, move across and continue on.

The pool feels really fast, it may be the even 2m depth and the pace of the training session in the next lane giving me something to swim against. Have noticed I keep catching the watch on my left wrist against the lane ropes, almost like there is a tide pushing me across.

The lane is starting to fill up, there must be 7+ others now, break out to 50m swims and slot in between the gaps. This does become frustrating, a couple of my intervals have been broken in the congestion at lane-ends. ( later confirmed this with a ‘The swim contains intervals that have been flagged by and excluded from Leaderboards’ when I sync my watch).

The pool is an old design ‘tub’ style, so the waves reverberate around unlike in newer pools with edgeless overflow. The tub-style also makes it quite the pull-up to leave the pool when I eventually finish my swim (I never use the steps!).

Complete the swim with 3km on the watch at 1:24/100m pace, not bad considering how busy the pool was towards the end. Quick cool down then I’m out and on my way across London, past the iconic Crystal Palace radio towers to Kensington.

Swim Stats

  • 3000 meters total swim
  • 1:24 pace / 100m
  • Garmin Swim Watch



This is a sprawling facility attracting vast numbers of people daily, I don't think I've ever seen a single location offering so many different sports - with so many people actually participating. All in, a great venue, the pool was busy, but the swim was fine, nice clean cold water, complimentary kickboards etc. and generally clean and tidy. Parking is limited and don't forget a 20p for the lockers!

Pool Details

  • Length 50 meters
  • 8-lane pool
  • Indoor

Crystal Palace National Sports Centre
Ledrington Rd, London SE19 2BB, UK

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