The evolution of Wotton Pool has occurred over many years. The construction of the pool began in 1959 by a group of pupils and teachers from Wotton-under-edge county Secondary School, and some local engineers. Their motivation for building the pool was educational: the curriculum included handicraft and constructional skills, and the pool became a project in which the whole school invested their enthusiasm and optimism. The pool was first opened in 1961. The full details of the construction of the pool have been recorded in a written report, which can be accessed from the Construction report menu item as can some construction photographs. More modern views can be seen in our Gallery.
Outdoor pools are often excruciatingly cold in England, and Wotton Pool was no exception. Despite this, it’s popularity in the community grew, and the pool thrived. In the 1970’s a group of skilled engineers worked with the local authority to develop a heating system. The amount of energy required to heat such a mass of water is huge. Both gas and electricity were considered too expensive for the job; instead the economical, environmentally friendly energy from the sun was chosen to do the job.
The solar panel they designed and built is nothing like that you see on Grand Designs. It had a surface area of 160 m2 and was made from a system of plastic pipes covered by a black asphalt surface to absorb the energy from the sun. The water was pumped through the filter and divided between these pipes. Like all solar panels, the heating potential of the system varies with the weather, but in midsummer the heat output was measured and confirmed a power delivery of 60kW. Unfortunately this ingenious invention has suffered from ageing and the plastic pipe joints eventually began to leak and we were adding as much cold water make-up as we were getting heat into the pool. After 30 years of sterling service and Megawatt hours of saved energy the panel was decommissioned. However there are plans in place to reintroduce solar heating to the pool.
The climate of Britain means that wind, rain and cold days are expected throughout the summer time. In 1998 Wotton Pool thwarted the weather with the installation of the retractable polycarbonate roof. This ‘greenhouse’ can be pulled away on warm sunny days, to bathe the bathers in sunshine and warmth. On cooler or wet days the cover provides perfect shelter from wind and un-chlorinated water, and has made swimming in the rain a viable option.
In 2001 an off peak electrical heater was installed to supplement the solar panel; this has the effect of extending the season, and means that a minimum water temperature can be achieved, whatever the weather.
In the last few years the faithful solar panel broke down, with the result that the pool’s heating was provided entirely by the previously supplementary electric heating system. Unsurprisingly this caused a hefty annual electricity bill, and perhaps contributed to, along with nationwide funding cuts, Stroud District Council’s decision in 2010 to discontinue their involvement with the pool.
However, as reported on other pages, a new company was set up in 2011 to run the pool, and had a very successful first season. So despite this set back, the future looks promising for the pool under the new management of Wotton-under-edge Swimming Pool Ltd., who hope to return the pool to its former glory and popularity.