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Ooooo! That’s nice! Niki Doyle, reception volunteer

September 4, 2023

Niki Doyle
Reception volunteer

Ooooo! That’s nice! The waters of Moseley Road Baths. My personal journey.

These waters first found me when the pool heaters had broken down and the temperature plummeted hovering around the 10 to 12 degree mark. How very inviting. Reeefreshing to body and soul.

From then on, I was hooked.

I had been mulling over cold water swimming for too long, therefore as a novice I decided to take the plunge. At first just managing to dip myself in up to my neck and stride a width with much squawking and screeching. Much to the amusement of the lifeguard and other swimmers who all egged me on with shouts of encouragement. With persistence I slowly worked up to a dreamy ten lengths. Some women, for it seems mostly women, would slide serenely into the pool without even the merest hint of a sharp intake of breath and glide up and down for 20 lengths or more. Impressive! The warm room and free copious sweet and savoury snacks and hot drinks was, as you can imagine, also a massive enticement. The comradery in that cold pool and warm room was supremely uplifting. To me, it was nothing short of life saving as my mental health was rock bottom. I needed more than prescription drugs and I found it in the friendship of those who cold water swim. What happened next was devastating to me and mightily cheesed off all the other chilly swimmers too. Although pleasing the wider population.

I learned that new heaters had been installed and slowly the temperature rose, but I couldn’t say goodbye to the waters and people of Moseley Road Baths. My mental health had improved. I felt energized. Included. Accepted. Was this just the water or was it something else too? I reflected on this feeling and came to realise it was more. The very building itself attracted me. In its day it must have been very modern with its arches of sculpted wrought iron spanning the vaulted ceilings and fully tiled individual changing cubicles. The spectator gallery. The stained glass and golden sandstone window mullions and muntins. Such a proud statement of Birmingham craftmanship. Separate sex fully tiled hygienic individual hot water bathtubs. Glorious! Hygiene and health are good companions and throw in some exercise swimming in the baths too.

What a combination. So here I was in the 21 st century! Still enjoying the benefits of swimming. But still there was more…what was it?

And this was it..

The call came for volunteers. The enticement? Volunteer and you get a free swim for every weekly session you do. No brainer or what!! My world opened up. I was inducted into the world of Moseley Road Baths volunteering and came to realise that this was an intangible feeling. It is the people here. I had made a commitment, a promise to help. I had to follow through. On my volunteering days, if I wake up in the morning feeling the need to stay in  bed, it’s no longer an option. At the end of every shift, I am left wondering what that sluggish feeling was all about!

For all of you at Moseley Road Baths, I raise a loud and resounding hurrah. Too many of you to mention in case there are some of you I have not yet met. Those who know me know how special they have become to me.

In summation it’s wonderful to know that the baths have the funding and historic protection to go forward long into the future and out live us all. As for me, well, I think I might just be that future ghost that is seen occasionally out of the corner of someone’s eye to ripple the lifegiving waters of Moseley Road Baths. Will you join me in the everlasting gala?

Interview took place in August 2023, interviewed by Susie Walker – Volunteer coordinator, Moseley Road Baths. You can contact Susie here

Photos courtesy of Ian Cuthbert

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