Well, it’s been nearly a year now since I first damaged my leg – and six months since I last ran and frankly, I’m going nuts! It’s not so much the running I miss, but exercising outside – I’ve tried walking which is nice, but, still flares up my leg a bit and, does absolutely nothing to stop the weight piling on. I, therefore, decided I’ve got to try some other ideas and so yesterday morning I decided to kill two birds with one stone – I would knock something off my Sydney bucket list and I would get my (now) fat butt moving. And so I took myself off to Andrew Boy Charlton Pool in Sydney’s The Domain for a swim.
I used to run past this place all the time and every time I’d think, I’d like to swim in there. Just look at the view. And that bright blue water – it just asks you to get in it – and, finally, I did. It’s only taken me about four years!
The big surprise
I arrive about 11am and the place was busy – that’s not the surprise. It’s the height of the summer holidays here and it was already 26 degrees outside. I donned my trusty goggles and entered the pool.
To find it was salty…
Erm, what….no, Bright blue pools are not salty! I know the pool in Bronte is salty, I know the one at Bondi Icebergs is salty, they are both filled directly from the sea. I can see waves going in this. This has no waves….I was not expecting salt! Ah well, at least it took my mind off getting in.
I haven’t swum for fitness reasons for a very long time and as such, the first 50m left me seriously out of breath. It was part a hideous feeling as I realised quite how unfit I now am – and partly a fantastic feeling, I was actually doing something that was working my body. Yes, I’m cycling at the gym, but because I loathe every single second of it, I rarely push myself hard enough to make a difference!
I powered up and down enough to do 400 metres and then thought I’d best get out and check if my leg felt okay as I could feel the tendon pulling – it did. I got back in and did another 200 metres. While I really wanted to get to 1000m, I thought that might be a silly idea for my first swim in I don’t know how long and so I stopped while the going was good and went and lie in the sun for a bit.
A quick walk through the Botanical Gardens to get the bus home and I was done. I’d had a fantastic morning out – and, my leg didn’t seem to complain. So, now I can add swimming to the list of things I seem to be able to do. It won’t fix my leg – only heavy weights are going to do that – but it might at least keep me sane!
However, chances are you’re not reading this just to find out about my day at the swimming baths, you probably want to know a bit about Andrew Boy Charlton Pool, so here are the details?
Why is it called that?
Andrew ‘Boy’ Charlton was a famous Australian swimmer – and the pool is named after him. Not surprising really – he did win five Olympic medals in the 1920s and 30s! He actually equalled the World Record for swimming 440 yards (400m) in this very pool in 1924 – he did it in 5 minutes and 11.8 seconds if you want to have a go yourself.
How much is the entry fee for Andrew Boy Charlton Pool?
General admission for a single swim costs $6.50 for an adult. You can buy membership passes from $104 that give you 20 swims reducing that to just over $5. Concession rates are also available.
How big is Andrew Boy Charlton Pool?
It’s 50m long – and the day I went it was divided into eight swimming lanes. Two slow pace, three medium pace, two fast pace and one for doing whatever the heck you fancy. I understood from some of the signs they do also sometimes have designated walking and running lanes too. I kept to the slow lane and there were only ever two other people in it so, for a busy pool it was surprisingly uncrowded.
There is also a second 20-metre pool which was full of kids the day I went – but could work on a quiet day if 50m feels too long. The depth ranges from 1.2m to 2m.
How cold is it?
The most important question for any pool. The first time I got in, it was actually fine – it didn’t take my breath away nor did I have to do that hopping around swearing with my arms out of the water thing that happens in most pools. After 20 minutes of sitting in the sun, it did feel a bit cooler but there was still no hopping – this is the test that all pools must pass for me to willingly return to them and pass it did. Apparently, the pool is heated to 25 degrees. The smaller pool is 28 degrees.
Is it open all year round?
Sadly not. Although it is an open-air pool so that makes sense. It’s open from 1st September to the 30th of April. If you do fancy swimming after that there is another pool very nearby called the Cook and Philip which is indoors.
What are the Opening Hours?
The Andrew Boy Charlton Pool opening hours are from 6am to 8pm most days – although half the pool is closed for swimming lessons between 8am and 1pm Saturday and Sunday. They also run Float Fit classes on a Sunday morning which may take up some space.
Does it have lockers and showers?
Yes, lockers are outside the changing rooms and cost $2 – although most people just had their stuff with them as the pool is surrounded with lounger beds and bleacher type benches with people sitting on them. There are large, clean changing rooms, showers and toilets.
Do I need to take anything special?
Because it’s salty I’d recommend goggles – but there are no rules about wearing swimming hats. Some kind of flip-flop might be a good idea if it’s really hot – Aussie pavements can be brutal on your feet even over short distances. If you’re like me and swim with your mouth open, some fresh water to eliminate the salt taste might also be a good idea (although there is a cafe on site). Most important though, pack sunscreen. I stupidly didn’t put any on while I was swimming – and ended up with a bright red face with google marks and a fetching speedo suit design on my back by 7pm!
How do I get there?
There is a bus that stops right outside – the 441. This runs from Birchgrove in Sydney’s West, via Pyrmont and the CBD to the Sydney Art Gallery in the Domain. Andrew Boy Charlton Pool is the stop before the last one You can also walk to the pool from St James Station or Circular Quay station which takes 20 minutes