BRENTFORD FOUNTAIN LEISURE CENTRE
658 Chiswick High Road
London TW8 0HJ
0845 456 6675
ONLY bonus: It cost £6.20 for one adult and 3 kids, almost what it costs for one adult in central London. But adults should be allowed in free, as no one would choose this unless they had to take kids. I feel the same about Disneyland, and most 3D movies.
Negative points: Are the people of Brentford part-sand, that crumbles off as they swim?
Once you’ve negotiated the acrid smell of old chlorination mixed with cigarette smoke on the steps of this building, the next thing that hits you is the bluff heat as you go in. Yeay! Must be another school holiday, and another fun pool.
I’m discovering, a bit late, that Geography A level doesn't help me find my way anywhere. I stood in front of the sign, crossly saying WHERE’S THE SIGN until a helpful child of my acquaintance pointed it out. The first bit of the changing area is a bank of lockers, but then I couldn’t find where to take my clothes off. There were a few men in dismal sagging shorts to the left, so we wandered right and eventually found a little boxy area with a few narrow cubicles to change in. Then we couldn’t find the pool. It’s not so complicated, I was being difficult and recalcitrant. It happens, we know that.
Padding up the slope to the pool is the closest to jogging through a football tunnel that I’m ever going to get. You come up beside the (grimace) fun area, which is thus: a large beach of tiles, sloping gently down into a deeper swim swirl. The whole pool building is a huge inverted V, and at the highest point, taking pride of place in the middle, is a massive water slide which dumps the sliders into a cold splash at the end. It was closed. The fun area is full of kids clinging on to the few gnawed floats that bob around, their whole time spent watching carefully, ready to grab any other float that some poor unfortunate loosens their grip on for a second. But these few floats are treasure, no one lets go easily.
I dumped my small companions to bob around in the warm piss while I went for a ‘proper swim’. I could see what looked like a pool over the other side, and going over, noticed a round tiled flower bed kinda thing? It was full of big rocks, which were totally incongruous in a place not exactly celebrating the diversity of natural materials. Aaah, I thought: maybe this is the Fountain, of the title? Or was - it is a fountain no more. In fact, no fountains were seen on the day of my visit. The fountain, I can report, is purely titular.
This would be loosely described as an infinity pool, but shit, if this is infinity, I’m opting out. The water slopped out into standard graying plastic drains. I got in at the shallow end to do fiddling with my goggles, but this pool is all shallow end: it goes from 0.85m to the giddy depths of 1m. It’s 30 degrees hot. That is HOT, enough to make you sweat when you swim, but I figure that swimming in other people's sweat is marginally better than pee. It’s 25m and wide enough; but crikey, attempting to have a proper swim here makes you feel like an addict - you’ll put up with anything just to get swimming. It’s shit. Too shallow. Too warm. Not lit well, a bit of a drear corner. Measly bits of decorative tile flung up, which look like the odd left-overs from the other side. The inadequate windows in the ceiling are arched, but don’t have the crisp clarity of glass, being plastic. And there was loads of sand on the bottom, in the crevices. Hence the observation, about the sedimentary layering of Brentfordians.
Every now and again, kids would come and jump in, to get away from the madness of the fun pool, which increased my irritation. ‘HEY! ‘ I shouted. ‘You’ve got ALL THAT! LEAVE THIS BIT FOR ME’* I was the only adult swimmer for a while, but by the time I sat in the café waiting for the kids (the slide had opened by this time) there were lots of people puddle-skimming. If I was them, I’d be pissed off. This feels like a third-rate swim at the expense of bloody fun, and if it’s all that the people of Brentford have on offer, a naff afterthought, it’s crap. Also, I sneezed and sneezed for a good six hours afterwards – a sure sign that it was very heavily chlorinated, presumably to zap all the bodily fluids.
Oh, there’s also a wave machine here, if you still feel like going. It was off when we went.
Highlight of the trip: three under-10 girls car-dancing on the way home to Chic. Good times.
*I didn’t shout that out loud.