With the school holidays in full swing, one of my daughters and I decided to go on a mini tour of a few selected swimming pools, rate each based on our experiences on the day and see which of the pools was our favourite for a return visit.
To do this in a week, with a pool each weekday, we decided to pick four pools, with the idea being that the winner would get a return visit at the end of the week.
We scored each pool on the following:
Changing rooms – space, comfort and facilities.
Water Temperature – was the pool too cold?
Floats and Toys – what was available to make time in the pool more enjoyable for kids.
Fun – what pool offered the best chance to muck around and have a laugh in the water for all the family?
Best Swim – which pool offered the best chance for my five and a half year old to practice some swimming? This required some space in the pool in a safe depth and also away from other formal lessons or adult lane swimming.
Cleanliness – how clean overall was the experience, changing rooms, pool, walking areas
We scored each pool against each of these factors with a scoring of Bad, OK (acceptable), Good or Great.
The results were as follows:
Overall best pool in Brighton & Hove area for kids:
1. King Alfred, Hove
2. Prince Regent, Brighton
3. The Triangle, Burgess Hill
4. Lewes Leisure Centre, Lewes
The detail breakdown and ratings was:
Scoring system: 0 = Bad, 1 = OK, 3 = Good, 5 = Great
|Category||King Alfred||Prince Regent||Lewes Leisure||The Triangle|
|Floats & Toys||5||5||0||0|
|Best for swimming practice||5||5||1||3|
|Cleanliness of facilities||3||3||0||3|
Firstly, I should comment that the results of this basic one day test surprised me. This was clearly subjective: carried out with just one visit and very much tailored to the views of my five year old daughter, and my own experience which was completely tailored to swimming with my daughter with the level of swimming that she is at. But there should be some useful information in here as well for other parents, which is why I thought it would be worth sharing.
There’s other things to consider as well – floats and toys was a category that referred to free floating equipment left out for kids to use. Many pools do this but only at certain times, so we may have missed this by a narrow margin and the pool suffered on scores as a result. We also missed things such as the amazing floating obstacle course Lewes often put out, which I think really adds to the fun and enjoyment – but my daughter kept me on the straight and narrow and we strictly scored on our test visit.
King Alfred & Prince Regent
Historically we have used the King Alfred pool a lot over the years, and I really expected it would come out on the lower end of the rankings – how wrong I was.
Traditionally, I’ve found the King Alfred quite cold, but on the day we did our test it was a very nice temperature indeed (we might repeat this test in the depths of winter). Historically, the King Alfred dressing rooms were a grim prospect, but both King Alfred and Prince Regent seem to have recently undergone a facelift and are now sporting spotless new changing facilities. King Alfred also had extra large family lockers – we didn’t find the same at Prince Regent for some reason.
The major downside of both the King Alfred and the Prince Regent is parking. I dutifully paid up for an hour’s parking in the car park beside the King Alfred, but miscalculated our arrival time in and so when I thought we had been in the pool an eternity the clock seemed to indicate we were only in the water 20 minutes (rather than 50), so we got back to the car 20 minutes late to find a hefty parking fine slapped on our window.
Prince Regent is brilliantly located in the centre of Brighton and great to pair up a visit to the pool with a visit to the excellent facilities at the main library on Jubilee Street, which is literally next door. We were lucky on the parking as the Trafalgar Street car park’s exit barrier was operating on a no charge policy owing to some error (seems to happen a lot there which is worth noting), but I think we would have paid about 3.50 for a weekday visit there of 1-2 hours otherwise, based on past experience.
There isn’t much difference in the scoring between the King Alfred swimming pool and its equivalent at Prince Regent, and it would be hard to choose one over the other. Both are quite a different experience but equally good. If one had to pip it at the post for me it would be the Prince Regent, which has several pools for kids to choose from so we could have fun in one pool, practice swimming in another pool and still not even set foot in one of the main pools where the “grown ups” were doing their lane swimming (sadly I find these swimming outings hugely lacking in any form of proper swimming or exercise with the need to supervise the kids).
I was really surprised how poorly Lewes fared in our survey considering we had grown quite fond of this pool this year, but a few things scored against it on the day.
Firstly, our family changing room smelled of wee. We wore crocs into the changing area, and when I picked them up to put them in our bag, the stench of urine from their soles was overpowering – and we had only walked into the changing rooms. So this wasn’t just a smell from the nappy bin – there was wee on the floor.
The lockers were a very tight squeeze for our family bag, so that didn’t help the scoring.
Thirdly, there seems to always be lessons going on here when we attend. That’s fine when they are in the purpose built learning pool, but on this particular visit the swim school staff were giving one to one lessons to several kids and coming up and down half the slow lanes of the main pool. They didn’t seem too bothered about our presence but it was hard to enjoy and have fun as we felt the need to get out of their way and stop what we were doing every time they passed, which was every minute or less.
Finally, the temperature differential between the toddler and main pool is immense. As a parent it’s hard to stay in a cold pool for long when you’re supervising, as there isn’t enough swimming going on to warm up properly. In contrast the toddler pool was like a jacuzzi.
The Triangle is conveniently located next to a roundabout, and has just recently changed hands in terms of franchise owner. It’s no longer run by Freedom Leisure, who run both the King Alfred and the Prince Regent.
The layout of The Triangle and its pool facilities really made this stand out as a great venue for fun. There are all sorts of flumes and slides, a pirates ship with toddler mini slide and plenty of gushing water and places to have a laugh. We brought my two year old along on the day and she utterly loved it – it was difficult to get her to leave when the time came.
What it wasn’t so good for was toddlers learning to swim – the fun pools were packed – but the facilities really reminded me of a holiday pool in France or Spain, and it’s a super spot to while away for a few hours and forget the rain or cold weather outside.
For the adult readers, one consideration we didn’t score on must be mentioned – the costs. It’s worth mentioning that Brighton & Hove local authority run a scheme for all children under 16 in the area to register for free swimming. This meant that King Alfred and Prince Regent were free for my daughter, which is great. A cynic might argue that the local authority were getting the money back on the parking, but that’s another matter.
The contrast is free parking at both Lewes Leisure and The Triangle, the former with an entry barrier and parking token issued on exit. As previously mentioned for King Alfred and Prince Regent it’s basically a case of fend for yourself for parking, but if you are a local resident walking, cycling or the not so good value Brighton Bus service might serve your needs better.
So, to conclude, your mode of transport – how much getting to, and potentially parking near the Prince Regent or the King Alfred will potentially influence your preferred choice for a regular swim. Overall however, we really are spoilt for choice when it comes to great pools.
So, where do you like to swim? Please let us know your favourite venues, did we miss any we should include? Also keen to hear any stories – good or bad – about these swimming pools.