It was a sunny spring weekday that led the Gs to the glorious Dawn Fraser Baths at Fitzroy Ave Balmain in Elkington Park.
There are some lovely historic associations with this special harbourside pool. The wooden surrounds were built in the 1880s and the Baths have the distinction of being the oldest pool and swimming club in Australia. There is a real old world ambience in the green and gold Federation coloured wooden surrounds which include decks going around the pool , sunbathing areas and a canteen. Below is a photo of the old turnstile which sits there on display.
The pool itself has great potential for serious lap swimming in the 50m section ( no bralking as Mrs RG under orders to swim properly from her physio.) The water temperature was great at around 20 degrees and in the wide lanes it was possible to use the space well. The pool can be accessed by walking in at low tide from the beach area or using the ladder, even jumping from the boardwalk as we saw one of the old blokes do.
Locals included the mothers’ play group and as it was low tide there was a small beach area available for toddlers and their mums to swim and enjoy the sand . The old blokes in saggy speedos were there too having some serious lolling about, chatting and then the occasional dip, just like the blokes we saw at Icebergs and Mahon Pool there was a great sense of camaraderie and community.
There are great views from the pool out to Cockatoo Island and it evoked fond memories for Mrs SG of going in the Dawn Fraser to Cockatoo Island swim last year. This annual event includes a 1.1 km and 2.4 km race and Mrs G was keen to do this swim to emulate the escape from Cockatoo Island by Fred Ward ( AKA Captain Thunderbolt). Whilst it took Mrs G about 25 min to complete the swim she thought it unfair to compare to Fred Ward’s escape given that she was wearing a wetsuit at the time and was not surviving on convict rations! One of the older competitors had told Mrs G that sharks were indeed still sited in the harbor at dusk and dawn so any fears Thunderbolt had of being eaten on his escape are not without some validity!
There is parking for those with disability stickers not far from the pool but for most of us its a park and then walk down the hill through the park. Unfortunately, there was a bit of debris in the water especially in the shallow area but to balance this disappointment we were overjoyed with the showers with plenty of hot water to enjoy.
On a final note, the Gs were extremely impressed with the good character and honesty of the Balmain folk. A scatterbrained Mrs SG had left the car door on the driver’s side wide open the whole time we were swimming. Our valuables including our phones and wallets all undisturbed- thank you Balmain!!