Portishead Open Air Pool

Much loved charity-run open-air pool a stone's throw from the Bristol Channel.

Much loved charity-run open-air pool a stone’s throw from the Bristol Channel

I’ve been working in Clevedon for almost eight years now, and I can’t believe I’ve not visited the Portishead outdoor pool before! I’ve stayed in Portishead many times, but either the weather, work or pool schedule have always got in the way! But today I’ve double-checked the timetable, blocked out time in the diary, and the weather is fantastic (especially for mid-May!), so today is the day Portishead Open Air pool will join the list!

I did attempt to swim here yesterday evening after work, arrived at 6:45 pm, only to find the online timetable incorrectly showed a 9 pm instead of 7 pm pool close. The lady at the ticket booth was very apologetic and came running after me as I walked the steps up to the Portishead battery point lighthouse with a timetable and handwritten note for a free swim next time. Knowing the team there are volunteers, and the pool operates as a not-for-profit, I have every intention of paying.

The pool has quite an interesting story. When it opened in 1962, the pool was heated by regular deliveries (by lorry!) of hot water from the local phosphorus plant! In 2008, as the facility aged and local authorities felt the squeeze of the global economic crisis, and with a newer, indoor facility less than half a mile away, North Somerset Council decided to close the pool at the end of the summer season. Determined to keep the pool open, locals formed the Portishead Pool Community Trust, and with the help of the US TV show Extreme Makeovers, the pool was renovated in time for the 2009 summer season! You can watch the episode on YouTube.

So back to the swim… I pay the entry fee and proceed through to the very much 60’s style changing facilities. Cubicles with wooden benches, striped draw curtains and metal lockers with padlock loops. Love it.

Out to the pool deck, the pool is a total of 33.3m long and today, split between an open swim and two lanes. On the far side of the pool are banks of ascending concrete sun terraces, and as the sun’s out and the thermometer is pushing 21’, sunbathers and paper-readers cover each step.

Jump in and make a start, the water is crystal clear and has a very ‘soft’ feel (and taste) if you swim you’ll probably know what I mean. We are so close to the Bristol Channel I did half expect the water to be salt!

Set the watch to 33 1/3 metres for the first time and head off on a nice slow 1,000m opening swim. The length brings back memories of my ‘home’ pool Wyndley before they refurbished (badly) and introduced a floating boom to chop the length to 25m.

Finish the first kilometre and still feeling fresh so head out on another 500m. There are now a couple of other swimmers in the lane so next break into 5x 100’s to slot into gaps then finish off with 5x 200’s. I was wondering how the Garmin Swim watch would deal with the recurring 1/3 metres, at the end of the swim, the screen read 3,000m, but on hitting the save session button, I see it been rounding and now shows a total of 2,970m, either way, a nice leisurely paced afternoon swim in the sun. Jump out and head to the changing rooms for a quick shower before heading back to work.

Busy work week ahead, with several new pools planned. Swim.com have just emailed to announce a May swim challenge, win a T-Shirt! Joined and monitoring progress, let’s see how we do.

Swim Stats

  • 1000 meters total swim
  • 1:38 pace / 100m
  • Garmin Swim Watch



The pool is tucked away in a beautiful part of Portishead. The sunny day certainly helped my overall impression. The changing facilities, pool deck and water were all clean and well maintained. The facility is ageing and open to the elements, but there is clearly a dedicated team of volunteers here determined to keep this great community pool very much alive. Only 10 minutes off junction 19 on the M5, I would definitely recommend this pool for a quick dip or a full-on swim session - just check the timetable first!

Pool Details

  • Length 33.3 meters
  • 6-lane pool
  • Outdoor (Heated)

Portishead Open Air Pool
Esplanade Rd, Portishead, Bristol BS20 7HD, UK

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