When a cup of hot Bovril was the only way to warm up

Piper's Vale lido

Piper's Vale lido - Credit: Archant

This week it’s over to Mark and Terry with memories of Piper’s Vale lido

piper's vale lido

piper's vale lido - Credit: Archant

Being a teenage Ipswich girl in the 70s, I was of the opinion that bikinis were not supposed to get wet and so I rarely ventured into the arctic waters of the Ipswich lidos after the age of 13 but I did once dunk my toddler son into Broomhill pool in the 80s and watched as he turned blue with cold in two minutes.

Mark Ling (www.savebroomhillpool.org) dropped me a line after I wrote about the long lost lidos of Ipswich. He also sent me copies of 1937 pictures of Piper’s Vale which appeared in the opening brochure for Broomhill Pool the following year.

“Both lidos were much loved, and you may be aware that both lidos were built, and operated, as heated outdoor pools (to 70ºF). Unfortunately, the warmer water was short lived because both sets of boilers were requisitioned during WW2.

“Piper’s Vale, completed June 1937 (10 months ahead of the much larger, flagship facility at Broomhill complex) trialled with a shingle beach area (lido meaning beach or shore in Italian). However, much of the shingle was said to have ended up in the bottom of the pool. So, the idea was dropped for Broomhill’s sloped terraces.”


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Shingle would certainly have made those terraces a good deal less hot underfoot. I seem to recall, however, there was a grassy knoll somewhere... or did I make that up.

Terry Cryer can still remember how cold the water was in Piper’s Vale pool. He emails: “I learned how to swim at Piper’s Vale pool when I was at Morland Road Primary School about 1958/59. We would go to the pool early April with the Teachers... and it was always freezing.”

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A chap named Ginger was in charge of the pool.

After swimming lessons I would buy a cup of hot Bovril from the cafe – to try to stop shivering.

Despite undergoing the dreadful experience of swimming in an outdoor pool in April, Terry clearly benefited by the lessons as he reveals: “I went to Landseer Road Secondary Modern school and, in 1964, they had a swimming and diving competition at Piper’s Vale. I got first place with a swallow dive from the top board.”

Moving over to another lost part of Ipswich, Terry recalls working “with some mates for the Forestry Commission, clearing land at the back of the Airport (now Ravenswood) to plant conifer trees. They are now over 40-feet high. We got paid ten bob for two days’ work.”

“We went camping down the river at Mambrook, not far from the scouts field at All Hallows in the sixties. We fished for eels and flatfish, and trapped rabbits in the fields.”

After leaving school Terry went to work on the Cranfield/Pauls motor barges, taking them up to the London docks.

All great memories of riverside Ipswich, Terry.

And, as we emerge from the heat wave that hits us regularly every 40 years or so, we yearn again for the cold, cold waters of the Ipswich lidos.

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