In 2015, Diane Locke joined forces with 11 other people to form a committee with the aim of reopening the outdoor swimming pool in Penrhiwceiber, which closed in 2013.
Since then, the Lee Gardens Pool group have gone from strength to strength, incorporating a variety of weekly activities and vital support services for the residents of Penrhiwceiber alongside the redevelopment of the outdoor pool.
Diane, a retired schoolteacher, explains that: “There were 12 of us on the committee for the pool, but we had no money and no experience of running a pool. We were working with the local authority who were marvellous, and still are. As a swimming pool committee, we were able to train lifeguards and offer free swimming lessons and rookie lifeguard lessons; there is so much added value to a swimming pool.”
Lee Gardens Pool offer daily activities at the Penrhiwceiber Old Age Centre, with something for all ages. Regular ‘Purple Shoots’ art classes are held on Mondays, and Tuesday is dedicated to frequent wellbeing sessions. Diane and the volunteers are also working with RCT council to promote energy saving, with talks delivered by the council on Wednesdays, and free LED lightbulbs provided by Lee Gardens Pool, thanks to a grant from Wester Power. The ‘Knit & Natter’ Thursday group is popular with the knitters of the community, both experienced and beginners. “There are also a lot who just like to natter!” Diane says.
In 2019, Penrhiwceiber was labelled as having the highest level of child poverty in Wales, with almost 50% of children living in poverty. To help combat the effects of poverty, the group give away free pre-loved school uniform and sanitary products which are provided by the Local Authority. During the COVID-19 crisis the group ran a food project with the support of the local church, which provided crucial food parcels for those in need
Support packages continue to be distributed to local families in crisis, and the volunteers are always at the end of the phone should someone need them.
In December 2021, Lee Gardens Pool applied for a fast-track grant of £1000 from Trivallis’ Community Investment Fund, to allow them to organise a Christmas meal for the local community. They were successful in their application, with Diane saying: “We were very lucky to have it!”
“In previous years, we have been able to fit all the people into the Old Age Centre or held it in the marquee at the pool, but we couldn’t do that this year due to COVID-19, so we did four sessions over four days, with 30 people at each meal.”
“It was really lovely seeing people get back together again. Taffy’s Cafe at the Feel Good Factory, supplied the food and it was very much enjoyed by the elderly in our community.”
Receiving the grant allowed the group to help tackle social isolation, which is particularly prevalent during the festive period. Joanne, Diane’s daughter who also works with the Lee Gardens Pool team, explained how: “Some have said that if it weren’t for our groups and the activities we put on, they wouldn’t leave their homes.”
Following some structural and financial setbacks, it is hoped the new outdoor swimming pool will be open by Summer 2022. While the committee may not be focusing on pool renovations after that, their part in the community will remain as active as ever, providing vital support to those who need it.
For more information about the Community Investment Fund, visit our webpage: Community Investment Fund – Trivallis