AS the summer heat intensifies, you may be tempted to take a trip to a nostalgic oasis which has regained its popularity in recent years – the lido.

In the early 20th century, these charming outdoor swimming pools were at the heart of local communities, drawing people together and fostering a sense of belonging.

They were once dotted around Essex but today just one remains in the county.

Gazette: One-of-a-kind - Brightlingsea Lido is the only lido in EssexOne-of-a-kind - Brightlingsea Lido is the only lido in Essex (Image: Newsquest)

What is a lido?

Derived from the Italian word “lido”, which means shore, they were originally introduced in Italy during the 19th century before becoming a cultural phenomenon across Europe.

The heyday of lidos was between the 1920s and 1950s when they were an integral part of British seaside culture.

They offered a respite from the dreary industrial landscape and a chance for the working class to escape to a colourful oasis of fun and relaxation. Families, friends, and couples would spend entire days at the lido, sunbathing, swimming, and playing games.

With the rise of cheap package holidays and the popularity of indoor leisure centres, many lidos fell into disuse and disrepair during the latter half of the 20th century.

Fast forward to today and open-air swimming pools are experiencing a well-deserved renaissance, but despite their growth in popularity across the country, Brightlingsea Lido is the only remaining lido here in Essex.

Gazette: Family friendly - there is a smaller pool for youngstersFamily friendly - there is a smaller pool for youngsters (Image: Newsquest)

The community in Brightlingsea has rallied around its historic pool, recognising its significance and the need to preserve it for future generations.

Restoration efforts, fundraising campaigns, and support from volunteers have breathed new life into this cherished spot, which first opened in 1932.

Having been earmarked for closure by Tendring Council, a volunteer group was formed to take over the running of the lido and it reopened in 2018 to record attendance numbers thanks to a blistering hot summer.

Review of Brightlingsea Lido

Brightlingsea Lido is open seven days a week during the summer months.

Having never been before, I wanted to make the most of having a few free days in the hottest June on record, and what better way to enjoy the nice weather than to head out for a swim.

It was a quiet Monday afternoon and, sadly, the clouds were out in full force – so it wasn’t quite the sunny afternoon I was banking on. But it was busy nonetheless with several groups making the trip to Brightlingsea.

It felt like good value for money, with adults paying £7.25 each during the pool’s standard three-and-a-half-hour sessions. Concessions are available for pensioners and children, while quieter sessions and aquacise classes are cheaper.

There are picnic benches and lots of areas to chill in the sun, and sun loungers are available to hire for a few pounds each.

Gazette: Orders up - the on-site Café Lido serves up tasty treatsOrders up - the on-site Café Lido serves up tasty treats (Image: Newsquest)

Reasonably priced food and drinks are available from Café Lido, and while my portion of chips wasn’t quite as good as what you’d expect from a seaside chippy, they were nice enough and certainly were a welcome addition to my day.

As it heated up later in the afternoon an ice cream was very welcome too.

Gazette: Menu - food and drink is available from Café LidoMenu - food and drink is available from Café Lido (Image: Newsquest)

The 50-metre pool is unheated and if you have an aversion to the cold, it might be enough to take your breath away for a few moments when you first get in, but you soon get used to the temperature.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Brightlingsea Lido, and I am keeping my fingers crossed for a sunny summer so I can visit again.

So, this summer, pack your sun cream, grab your towel, and head to Brightlingsea Lido for a slice of the past and a splash of the present.