The first swim at the Pells Pool in Lewes heralds the start of the summer and this year promises even better benefits for visitors, with a whole host of improvements planned.
The Pells Plungers will compete to be the first to jump into the unheated spring fed pool on Saturday May 16 at 12 noon as the pool opens to the public after its winter break.
It will then open every single day until Sunday September 13 for 120 days in a row, come rain or shine.
Regular local plunger Emma Chaplin said: “It takes your breath away, but it is a joyful feeling. The first plunge is the coldest - it’s easier to keep coming back regularly once you’ve made it in that first time.”
The official opening takes place the following week on Saturday May 23 and is one of the first duties undertaken by the new Lewes Mayor each year, when the waters are also formally ‘blessed’ by Neptune.
There will be a children’s race across the 25 yards width of the pool, with the prize of a season ticket.
Food and drink is provided free as part of the normal entry price.
Pool manager Phil Ransley said: “It’s great after months of preparation to open our gates in the first few weeks and welcome back familiar faces and newcomers too.
“The Pool is a living part of Lewes history – grandparents who learned to swim here in the 1950s come and bring along their grandkids. They now come to relax on the grass lawn while their eight-year-olds jump in. It’s fantastic.”
The Pells Pool in Lewes, just off Brook Street, is the oldest outdoor pool in the UK and was built by public subscription in 1860. Since being saved from a threatened closure in the year 2000, it has gone from strength to strength, with strong support from the community and Lewes Town Council.
A sustained programme of investment started in 2011 on its 150th anniversary.
This year £9,000 is being spent on new pumps so the 350,000 gallons of spring water in the pool can always be refreshed overnight ready for the next day.
There are also more sunshades and seats this season on the lawn, sun terraces and around toddler paddling pool.
Early birds can enjoy a pre work swim with a new 7am-9am session for adults every weekday morning from the start of June.
Phil added: “We trialled early mornings on a couple of days a week last year, and it was surprisingly popular. Some even did a morning run and then swam! So we’re making it every day Monday to Friday this season from June onwards.”
For the hundreds that visit from outside Lewes, continuing the new 10am opening times at weekends (Saturdays and Sundays) from May 31 should also be welcome, since the pool can then better accommodate the crowds which flock to the pool in good weather.
The daily ticket prices which give all day entry are being kept the same for the fifth year in a row (£4 adults, £2 children, £10.50 two adults and two children), with a slight increase in season ticket prices to support the longer opening hours and pool upkeep. Season ticket holders get the benefit of avoiding the queues.
Chair of the Pells Pool Community Association which runs the pool, Conrad Ryle, said: “We’ve again kept the daily tickets at just £4 for adults and £2 for children – and people can come and go all day, with our wristband system.
“With rising annual costs, there will come a year when we need to increase them, but for now we can continue to offer this amazing value for money.”
The Pleasant Café will serve homemade food, such as pizza, quiches and cakes, as will Stan’s Snow Cones, run on weekends by an enterprising pupil from the local secondary school.
More events are planned at the Pool this season too.
A triathlon club from Brighton – the Brighton Tri Club – will be running five open events where people can try out a 300m swim followed by a 3,000m run. The first event is on Wednesday May 27.
The famous Midsummer Madness party will be back for its 10th year – and will this year be raising money for a local play scheme, as well as for the Starfish youth music project.
A new end of year party – the Lazy Flamingo Party - is also planned, following on from its great success in 2014.
The pool can also be hired on evenings and weekday mornings for people to hold their own events and parties.
More information about the events, opening times and prices is on the Pells website www.pellspool.org.uk or drop by the kiosk in
Brook Street, Lewes.
Find the pool on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pellspoolllewes, follow it on Twitter @pellspool and Instagram @pellspool.