£400k plan to revive paddling at Leicester’s Abbey Park


The City of Leicester was once swim city with outdoor bathing places built all along the river and canal. Abbey Park had a lido in the centre, with swimming races held above the weir and water polo matches below it in Tumbling Bay, the steps swimmers used are still there. The paddling pool was constructed in 1930.[1] Its excellent design, with a large grassed area surrounding the circular pool, made it extremely popular. In close proximity, a sand pit, swings and other play equipment meant that families with young children could enjoy a full day’s excitement. Youngsters were always reluctant to leave at teatime, having had as much fun as they would have had at the seaside. The pool used to be re-filled on a weekly basis during the summer season and fi-clor[2]was added to keep the water clean.


The hot summer of 1995 saw the appearance of blue/green algae in the nearby Rutland Water reservoir. Concerns were raised when animals drinking the water suffered ill health. To prevent any such danger to Leicester’s citizens, it was decided to close all of Leicester’s paddling pools, even though contamination was most unlikely in a maintained pool. The chances of such a threat developing in a paddling pool, which is emptied and refilled each week, are in fact zero. This then raised questions over the decision to close the pools. Was it made due to a lack of understanding regarding the issues involved, or did the appearance of algae at Rutland Water prove a fortuitous turn of events for those keen to save money on children’s amenities?


Rutland Water 2014


Leicester used to have five paddling pools, all now closed with two converted into skateboarding Mecca’s because skateboarding is supposedly safer than paddling, though I’m not convinced myself.

However the Leicester Mercury has brought good news this month reporting City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby as saying: “A lot of people will have fond memories of paddling at Abbey Park and it is a shame to see how the facility there has been neglected. I think people miss it… Now we have a chance to recreate something similar to what went before but to modern standards which will be a lot of fun.”


This is certainly welcome step in the right direction. As the country’s first environment City and with increasing focus on its rich and fascinating history, especially following the discovery of King Richard III, Leicester City Council have a unique opportunity. Perhaps the rising pride in the City will help it overcome its current prejudice towards outdoor or wild swimmers.


[1] Opening two years later.

[2] A chemical agent similar to chlorine.


UPDATE: Abbey Park Paddling Pool

Thank you for your enquiry regarding the refurbishment of the paddling pool at Abbey Park.

As previously reported in the Leicester Mercury in 2014 the city council was considering the refurbishment of the old paddling pool at Abbey Park to create a designated water play area. The estimated cost of this work was £400,000.

Following further investigation into this proposal it was clear that the maintenance and running costs for this type of facility are high and at a time when the council has to make substantial savings from maintenance budgets these costs were prohibitive.

It was therefore agreed that the funding that was provisionally allocated to this project would instead be used to carry out major improvements to some of the existing children’s play areas within the city.

The following play areas have been identified as being priority sites for improvements from this funding:

Cossington Street (Belgrave)

Fosse Recreation Ground  (Fosse)

Monks Rest Gardens  (Humberstone & Hamilton)

Onslow Street  (Stoneygate)

Ryder Road  (New Parks)

Uppingham Road Gardens  (North Evington)

Victoria Park  (Castle)

Western Park  (Western)

Consultation with local residents and children is currently ongoing and these play area improvements will be completed by March 2016.

Yours Sincerely,

Peter Soulsby

#PaddlingPool #KingRichardIII #AbbeyPark #wildswimming #RutlandWater #SirPeterSoulsby #Leicester

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