Stowmarket club in new regime

PUBLISHED: 14:04 08 May 2002 | UPDATED: 11:53 03 March 2010

SWIMMING: Every Suffolk swimming club has probably faced the desperate battle to access more pool time from their local authority.

In fact, with clubs ever-keen to expand their teams, it remains one of the ongoing dilemmas throughout Britain.

EVERY Suffolk swimming club has probably faced the desperate battle to access more pool time from their local authority.

In fact, with clubs ever-keen to expand their teams, it remains one of the ongoing dilemmas throughout Britain.

But, when Stowmarket Swimming Club realised that it simply couldn't gain any more time – or space – in the Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre, they took rather unconventional steps...and called in the army.

For two years now, Stowmarket has found itself in a determined bid for the weekly use of a brand new pool at the Wattisham army base.

The pool, a 25 metre diving and swimming facility, was completed back in March 2000, but receives

relatively little use by army personnel because of the difficulty in keeping it permanently manned by lifeguards.

To Stowmarket's great relief, the club was finally given the go-ahead for training sessions to begin taking place two weeks ago.

"We're all really pleased that the army has finally agreed for us to come here and use the pool on a weekly basis," commented club chairwoman, Bobbie Wilson.

"It's been a long time coming because we have spent the best part of two years desperately trying to get this agreed."

Bobbie said that with pool time already maximised at Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre, the club simply had to look for other options.

"We badly needed extra water time," she said. "The number of members was going up all the time and the lanes were becoming particularly crowded at our regular sessions.

"It seemed logical to try to gain use of a pool that's still on the doorstep for a lot of our Stowmarket members – and it has to be said, this really is an excellent facility."

Indeed, Wattisham's pool is a particularly welcoming facility for training purposes.

Full size, with its own spectating gallery and with a water temperature perfect for competitive swimming, it's clearly been waiting for a club like Stowmarket to discover it.

Coach, Nick Minns, is thrilled to have the extra resource.

"The pool really is perfect for our needs and I'm just so glad that we've had this arrangement accepted because we were seriously running out of options when it came to catering for all our members.

"I've been coaching at the club for five years and in that time our membership has been expanding constantly.

"We had simply reached capacity, and by taking our Masters Squad to Wattisham on a Monday night, it

really has made life a lot easier."

Essentially, it was decided that the Masters would take claim on the Wattisham pool because of the practicality of swimmers needing cars to get in and out of the Army complex.

Around 12 of the club's 18 Masters have already made it a regular feature in their training – bringing great relief to the other club sessions mid-week.

"We were getting to the point of having around 48 swimmers in one session and that was bordering on


"With nine and half hours training a week at Mid Suffolk, it still wasn't enough when we've got 235 members and we want to give them the best possible chance at all levels of competition.

"Therefore, this came along at exactly the right time," added Nick.

"Pool-time is a problem that a lot of the clubs face, so we're really pleased to have found this option."

An army spokeswoman said: "We try to make MOD facilities available to the public wherever possible.

"In particular, we are pleased if we are able to help out a community club as we are in this case.

"We are delighted to be able to assist the swimmers with giving them greater pool time."

The spokeswoman confirmed that Wattisham is currently seeking to recruit an instructional officer – with the hope that the new posting will allow the pool to be kept open for longer periods.

Stowmarket Swimming Club, whose Open Meet takes place this Sunday, has agreed the use of Wattisham for every Monday of this term – effectively until August.

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