Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Swimming with Mummy - A Trip to the Stour Centre, Ashford

I have been meaning to take C swimming for a while now, but something or other has always got in the way.  My In Laws successful swimming trip with her while she stayed with them at the beginning of the month, finally spurred me into action.

C isn’t new to swimming.  I enrolled her in a baby swimming course at 8 weeks old and persevered for 6 months until finally admitting defeat.  She absolutely hated everything about it.  The water, the acoustics, the activities, all of it.  She would pretty much cry from the moment you put her in the water until the moment you took her out.  Since giving up on the classes, I have taken her for a few ad hoc trips to our local health club pool but never to the local leisure centre.

I live between two of the main towns in Kent.  Both have a leisure centre.  Maidstone is where I grew up and I know the leisure centre well…. It’s where I learnt to swim and competed in the Swimming Club for many years.  Ashford, is now slightly closer, and it was this leisure centre I decided to try today.  

I had never been to the Stour Centre before and am always reluctant to try out new places as I can find the experience incredibly daunting.  Taking a toddler anywhere is hard work but taking a toddler somewhere you’ve never been and do not know the processes can be extremely difficult.

We pulled into the car park and the first thing that struck me was how new and modern the building looked.  Good first impressions!

We found a parking space and I unloaded C and our swimming stuff.  We walked across the car park and it was then I noticed the pay and display signs.  I have never known a leisure centre charge for parking and was a bit taken aback.  I had checked the centre website for the pool opening times and timetable but could see no mention of parking charges anywhere.  It was 80p to park for up to 2 hours which is not expensive but the price is irrelevant if you have no change on you!  I rattled around in my handbag and found a pound coin.  As the machine didn’t give change, I ended up paying more than necessary.

We continued across the road to the front of the building and the following sign:

10 points to anyone that can work out from this which direction the entrance is in.  We looked around and a lot of people seemed to be coming and going to the right so we headed off in that direction.  Needless to say it was the wrong direction and led round to a delivery area.  We returned to the sign and headed to the left, finally finding the entrance.  By now I was beginning to wonder if this was going to be worth all the hassle.

We paid to get in and were given different colour wristbands… I can only assume so they knew which one of us was the child :-P  I pushed my way through the turnstile and almost took C’s nose off who was right behind me.  Needless to say, she was less than impressed!  How do you go through a turnstile with a small child?  I guess you are supposed to carry them.  If you let them go first then you risk them running off while you are still going through yourself.  If you go first then you risk knocking them out with the next barrier rotating around.  Lesson learnt!  We made our way into the changing rooms.  

Getting changed into a swimming stuff was surprisingly stress-free and although I didn’t have a 20p coin for the locker, a nice lady changed a couple of 10ps with me.  The changing rooms were clean and plenty big enough for me to dress both myself and C.

We walked down to the teaching pool (which is 0.6m-0.9m deep) and stepped down into the water.  My vision for the afternoon had been pregnant me sitting on the steps to the pool and C paddling up and down in the shallows.  It sounded almost relaxing but couldn’t have been further from reality.  C (who at 18 months is approx 0.8m tall) launched herself into the pool and took off towards the centre, regardless of the fact she could barely touch the bottom and obviously can’t swim.  I had little choice but to wade after her.  My child who had been petrified of water had now turned into a fearless paddler!  Squatting at nearly 6 months pregnant isn’t an easy thing to do even in water and after bouncing around the pool for 10 minutes I began to feel quite uncomfortable.  I suggested we move to the leisure pool which started off much shallower and had a slide.  Again hoping this would allow me to sit down.  Again I was wrong.  Although a much better depth for C pottering around, she kept slipping over, which meant I had to be right behind her ready to grab her at any moment.  C was having a wonderful time but I was exhausted!

I carried her into deeper water which although meant I had to be carrying her, also meant I could be more upright which was much more comfortable!  C enjoyed jumping off the side into my arms and watching the older children playing.  It was then I spotted the lazy river and thought it was worth a try as as long as I had a good hold of C, it would require very little effort from me to be pushed around.  C thought this was wonderful (apart from a bit at the end where you had no choice but to get wet) and we went round 3 or 4 times.  

By now we had been in the water about 45 minutes and I felt it was time to get out.  I gave C one more run round the shallow end of the learner pool and then we made our way back to the changing rooms.  Out of the whole experience, this was the bit I had been dreading.  Single handedly getting a wet toddler and yourself dressed was never going to be the easiest task.  I got C dry and dressed first to ensure she didn’t get cold and then started on myself.  Yes C moaned at having to wait but in hindsight I think we both did very well.

Careful not to make the same mistake with the turnstile on the way out, C and I pottered slowly back to the car in the afternoon sunshine.  All in all I am glad I took her and would certainly visit again... however maybe next time we will take Daddy along for bouncing round the pool

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