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Park plan triggers lido memories

15 June 08 09:25 GMT
By Kevin Leonard
BBC Wales news website

Proposals to restore Ynysangharad Park in Pontypridd, including reopening its Grade II listed lido have gone on display.

Strolling around the park in the morning sunshine, you soon understand why it is described as the town's jewel.

The well-maintained gardens, the sporting activities and the paddling pool all help to draw in around 800,000 visitors every year.

I walked around the park to remind myself of its charms before heading to see new plans for how it can be restored to its former glory.

Being born and brought up in the town, I have happy childhood memories of long summer days enjoying everything the wide open spaces have to offer.

As a toddler, I remember splashing around in the paddling pool while my mother and father enjoyed the more leisurely pursuit of eating ice cream.

And I was particularly fond of the full-size steam roller in the play area which every self-respecting young Ponty boy would spend hours clambering over.

As I reached my teens, the play area was replaced by marathon summer games of tennis against my cousin followed by overly-competitive games of nine-hole golf.

Then the park became a place to meet girlfriends and, on one occasion, split-up with them.

And, of course, there was the park's main attraction, an old-fashioned lido which offered a teenager great opportunities for swimming and showing off.

While a child growing up in the town today can still enjoy many of these activities, the lido is sadly off-limits.

It closed in 1991 and is now a fenced-off hole in the ground, although I did sneak a quick peak inside.

The lido, where generations of Ponty folk once sampled the pleasures of its uniquely cold water, is now a dispiriting place with dilapidated buildings and a carpet of grass covering part of the pool floor.

Speaking to people in the park, many of them said the lido was now an eyesore.

"For a start they should open the pool again and they would have millions of people coming into the park," said Dean Huish, who was walking through the park with his family.

"I used to go when I was a kid."

Patrick Holloway, who serves in a refreshment kiosk in the park, was too young to have ever swam in the lido but he realises its significance.

"A lot of people are always asking if it's going to be opened and repaired," he said.

So it was with real pleasure that I went to view the exhibition which featured proposals to restore and re-open the lido as part of a scheme to revamp the park generally.

Besides the lido, the plans include new riverside gardens, a new play area, a horticulture area, a splash park for children and a restored bandstand.

All this is expected to cost in excess of £5m, but it is hoped that the Heritage Lottery Fund will provide half of the cash, with the rest coming from other agencies.

The open-air lido is the centrepiece of the plans and, besides a new main pool and toddlers' pool, would also feature changing rooms, showers, a restaurant and a cafe.

Those viewing the exhibition appeared to welcome the proposed investment in the war memorial park but it was the lido that aroused the strongest feelings.

Derrick Thomas, 35, from Pontypridd, was in favour of restoring it, particularly as he had such happy memories of the lido as a child.

"It was great and I used to go as a kid and now you can't take your own kids," he said.

But there were one or two people who voiced concern that the lido would only be open for a few months of the year due to the weather.

Rob Grant, 66, from Ynysybwl near Pontypridd, said: "They need to think whether they can get a temporary cover on it so it could open in the winter.

"Otherwise we will have a lido that costs a fortune to run."

But Lisa Davies of Rhondda Cynon Taf council, who was patiently explaining the plans to the public, insisted that the business plan was viable.

"As far as us competing with the whole of south Wales, it would be unique," she said.

"It's going to be spectacular and it would be such a shame if we weren't able to do it."

The plan is still in its early stages and, if the funding comes together, work could start in 2010.

And those of us lucky enough to have enjoyed the lido in its heyday can now only hope the plan becomes reality so our own children can have as much fun as we did.

The plans are exhibited at Pontypridd library from Monday 16 June for two weeks.

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