The first time I went to Greenwich Baths I wasn’t very impressed. I was only about 6 or 7 and they seemed makeshift compared to the solid structures at my local tidal pool, Northbridge Baths. The low tide also coloured my view as its never the best time to swim at a harbour pool.
When we visited last Sunday, nearly 50 years after that initial dip, I was more impressed with the place – its spectacular views to the city and across to Birchgrove and Balmain (including the Dawn Fraser Baths) and Cockatoo Island.
The deckchairs, onsite café and peaceful bushland setting also make it a great spot to relax.
The starting blocks at the deep end are still no match for the ones at Northbridge Baths and the lane ropes and pontoon could have done with a good scrub but the simplicity suits the place.
Very popular with families with young children, most of the patrons on Sunday gathered around the beach and shoreline, watching over little kids building sandcastles and playing in the shallow water.
We ventured out to the deep where we had the lanes to ourselves and enjoyed lapping up and down, stopping at each end to gaze at the view and the old and new houses on the point above.
After an hour or so of swimming, floating, relaxing and sipping coffee I had definitely changed my opinion about Greenwich Baths but was also pleased to read that over winter the 100 year old complex will be getting a facelift. The clubhouse will be restored to its former glory and new male and female change rooms will be added ensuring the baths will be in even better shape to celebrate its centenary later this year.
Just outside the baths I discovered that the sandstone-like sculpture on the shoreline honours a life-long Greenwich swimmer, John Spencer Purdy, a dual Australian chess champion, barrister and former Family Court judge.
His mother was the lessee of the baths when he was a kid in the late 1930s and 40s and he swam there all his life. After he died in 2011 his son Michael carved the artwork in honour of his Dad. Entitled Resignation 2014, the large sculpture explores the theme of mortality and shows the king laying down on its side, which in chess signifies resignation or defeat.
We definitely didn’t feel defeated after our swim at Greenwich Baths; we felt the opposite and on a seat overlooking the Parramatta River in Manns Point Reserve enjoyed our Valentine’s Day picnic with a glass of champagne as little Laser yachts tacked out from Woolwich Sailing Club.
Greenwich Baths is open from 8am to 7pm during February and 8am to 5pm during March and April. For more information go to the Greenwich Baths website. To find out more about the renovation program click here.