You could spend hundreds of pounds, and travel half way around the world, to experience an idyllic infinity pool, but why bother? One of the most inviting infinity pools around is not only free, but it’s just down the road in North Cornwall.
The seaside town of Bude is about as far north as you can go in Cornwall before you hit the border with Devon. It’s a small and friendly place, and well worth a trip up the Atlantic Highway (a.k.a the A39) for a day trip or a longer stay.
There are two town beaches to enjoy – the sandy Summerleaze and the sand and shingle Crooklets – both with their own huge car parks. You could also spend an hour or so wandering along Bude Canal, through a nature reserve and back into the town itself, with its own mini castle.
But the undisputed highlight is a trip to, and even a dip in, Bude Sea Pool – a huge natural outdoor swimming pool under the cliffs which is filled at high tide. It was built in the 1930s to provide a safe haven for swimmers, and is also used by kayakers, for lifeguard training and for games of water polo.
Completely free to all, and open 24 hours a day, an estimated 60,000 people enjoy the pool every year. Public funding was stopped in 2010, and the pool is now maintained by a charity – Friends of Bude Sea Pool – which raises funds to pay for its £30,000 annual costs.
On our trip to Bude on a crisp October weekday, there were just two hardy souls braving a dip – both wearing wetsuits. If I lived in Bude, I’d cancel my gym membership and would be down the Sea Pool before work every morning. With lengths of 91m, it’s far bigger than any indoor pool.
When the tide is out, there are masses of golden sand on Summerleaze Beach between the Sea Pool and the shoreline. But at high tide, as my photos show, the pool takes on a completely different appearance.
In stormy conditions, huge waves crash over the walkway around the pool, making it a pretty dangerous place to swim or walk.
There are changing rooms, a lifeguard’s hut and a row of brightly coloured beach huts at the top of a flight of stone steps descending down to the pool. A professional looking photographer with tripod was camped out by these huts, waiting to film the sunset over the pool, and gave me a look that said “move along – this is my spot”.
The second best place to look down on the Sea Pool is from a cliff top bench on the South West Coast Path. You know how some benches have plaques in memorial of Bert or Mavis “who loved to sit here”? Well the bench overlooking Bude Sea Pool has a plaque on it in remembrance of Abba the guide-dog, printed in braille, which I thought was a nice touch.
So to summarise, Bude is beautiful and its Sea Pool is a stunner – but to answer your question, no, I didn’t get in the water myself. Maybe next summer!