Bathurst Bathing Belles – Ladies that Swim
07th December, 2017
If you are still Christmas shopping and looking for something special for that extra difficult swimmer in your life, then look no further. Photographer, swimmer and lido volunteer Amanda Harwood has self-published a book documenting the ladies that swim at Bathurst Pool in Lydney.
The book is called Bathurst Bathing Belles – Ladies That Swim, and features a variety of women who all swim regularly at the volunteer-run lido in Gloucestershire. Amanda has been photographing indoor and outdoor pools since 1982, visiting and photographing pools across London for a project and always taking images of every pool she visits. Once Bathurst became her local pool she decided to start photographing and documenting it before she came up with the idea for the book. “The pool has improved so much over the years,” says Amanda. “When I first visited the pool, I knew I wanted to capture it and it became my local pool before I was even a local resident. People come back to the pool year after year and I wanted to do something to pull together my photos of the lido, so came up with the name while driving home one day – Bathurst Bathing Belles – and decided to ask the women to be my subjects.”
The project started being about the women who swam at the pool that Amanda had got to know, taking photos by the pool and maybe a photo related to their work or hobby. She captured belly dancers, horse riders, channel swimmers and a florist. “The women came to the pool and I captured their reflections in the water and I started to interview them,” says Amanda. “I started to ask how long it took them to swim a mile and which cubical they preferred to get changed in. Popular ceramicist Mary Rose Young hugged the wall inside her cubical when I asked her which was her favourite and simply said, ‘because it is yellow’.”
Mary was very supportive of Amanda’s project by bringing her teapots to the poolside and having fun with the water. “My favourite shot was of a lady called Judy,” says Amanda. “She was a beekeeper. I was able to go to her house and take photos of her with her bees, but when we met at the pool on another occasion we were doing her cubical photo and she said she liked number six, but didn’t know why. While we were taking the photo, she was standing with her hand up on a door frame and a bee came and flew around her fingers – I was thrilled to be able to get that shot.”
The project has been a labour of love for Amanda and with much support from the local pool community. She has exhibited at the pool and at other local events, but still has some books left. “One lido enthusiast from Reading came to visit me to buy the book,” says Amanda. “She came for a swim and I picked her up from the station. She collects lido memorabilia and it was great to see the Bathurst Bathing Belles as part of her collection.”