For parents with kids of ‘learn-to-swim’ age, you are no doubt familiar with purpose-built swim schools but outside of class, you might be looking around for a safe, secure pool to cool down on a hot day. Not everyone lives close to the beach, so a public pool may be your best option.
Sadly, though, we might not always notice, or value, our local pool until it’s gone and as the residents of the newly merged City of Parramatta Council are realising, even the most consistent of community fixtures can be gone in a second. The Parramatta War Memorial Swimming Centre will close in March and consequently, with a gap in resource, the recently endangered Epping Pool has survived to breathe new life as the Epping Aquatic and Leisure Centre.
The 50m pool is set amidst the peaceful surrounds of Dence Park
This is terrific news for a local pool that has been an unassuming neighbourhood mainstay, hidden away in leafy Dence Park.
It had been years since I’d visited Epping Pool but my parents, who are locals to the area, have been going there a lot recently, desperately trying to cool off in the heat wave. I remember the complex being basic; not unlike the open-air pools of my childhood swim clubs. There's not a wave pool or a waterslide in sight but depending on your age, it's the type of pool you can go to for laps, swim squad, or for a play and a paddle in the toddlers' pool.
Last week I visited the complex again and my impression is that it is still basic compared to the larger aquatic centres in Sydney but renovation work has been done and it is well-maintained and spacious, with under-cover spectator areas and three pools. There is a six-lane 50m pool for laps, a pool for swim instruction and a separate toddler area with a spacious wading pool.
Shady area by the pool is good for cooling off
You’ll need to slip, slop and slap but there are shaded canopy areas to take refuge with the kids and the Aquatic Centre is set amidst beautiful, green surrounds, with ample parking adjacent and a generally peaceful atmosphere with fresh air.
Of course, any leisure complex worth its salt, needs to have a good canteen and thankfully, Epping has a barista service with good coffee and the traditional cool drinks and treats for kids after a hot day's swim.
Non-peak times are great for grandparents to bring the kiddies
I can’t speak for peak times at the pool but my parents took my son and I on a weekday morning and it wasn't too busy. There was no restriction (at that time) on where we could swim and my four-year-old loved every moment playing with his grandparents in both the big and little pools.
And though I opted for spectating, coffee in hand, I was told that the water was refreshing and quite a pleasant temperature, with an open-air pool's natural advantage of catching the full sun.
And best of all, entry to the pool is great value for budget conscious families. For four of us, we paid just under $10 for entry, with various concession fees available for seniors, children and spectators.
With its dwindling pool resources, Parramatta Council has thankfully kept this pool affordable for locals and with opening hours every day, there is ample opportunity for beating the heat.
There is a whole separate wading area and shade canopy for toddlers
Epping Aquatic and Leisure Centre is the story of the humble local pool that could. With some age behind it and unable to compete on the scale of indoor waterparks, this complex could have easily been a victim of council mergers and cuts to community services. With the support of local community lobbying, however, and the closure of Parramatta's War Memorial pool, it has had a lucky escape and has come out the better for it.