VERA 'Ve' Walker, from Giggleswick, has been helping people learn to swim for almost 50 years. She is an original and last remaining, member of the committee behind the building of the new Settle and District Swimming Pool, which opened in 1974, and was an open water swimmer, many, many years before it became fashionable.

In 2022 she was named Citizen of the Year in the last Craven District Council Community Champion Awards for her work with the pool and helping thousands of people to learn how to swim. Here, she puts a strong case for learning to swim, and urges people to support their local swimming pool, so many of which are struggling to survive.

We Brits live on a soggy and verdant island, with broad rivers, deep lakes and lochs, surrounded by crashing waves along our shores. In order to successfully survive our watery existence, we don't fight against it , we learn to build a relationship with it, and we do this by taking advantage of our local swimming pools.

I have been an open water swimmer long before it became a fashionable thing to do, and therefore l am in a position to comment upon the current state of our lakes and watercourses, some of which are, sadly, so polluted that it is unwise to swim in their murky depths.

Because of this, it is doubly important to support our local swimming pools, as they are rapidly becoming the only safe environment to learn the skills that we all need, not only to survive our watery land, but also to promote a healthy lifestyle.

I am the last individual, still above ground, who served on the committee that built Settle Swimming Pool, and l doubt very much that there is a 50-something-person who grew up here, who does not remember the endless fundraising activities that they were dragged along to as small children!

Settle Area Swimming Pool, which is a community pool owned by the people of Settle and district, was an extremely hard won facility. Inflation was rampant at the time, and the fund was in constant danger of being overtaken, to such an extent that it became necessary to go to the community for advice.

A meeting was held in a packed Victoria Hall, Settle, and the question put to the meeting was a simple one: "Do we go ahead and build a smaller than planned, very basic pool, or do we wait for better times?" The result of the vote was unanimous, as every hand was raised in favour of the build.

Settle got its swimming pool: a hole in the ground, lined with concrete and filled with water, no tiles or handrails; it had a roof and a water treatment plant, the latter having been installed by local men working in their spare time. These men were engineers, far more attuned to installing milking parlours than swimming pool equipment.

At this time, l was working for the Local Education Authority (LEA) teaching swimming at Giggleswick School's pool, which was hired by the LEA for the use of local schools.

When Settle pool finally opened its doors, we were able to establish swimming clubs, link with further education, teaching mother and baby classes, sub aqua sessions, canoeing and water polo. The residents of the old Castleberg Hospital had classes appropriate to their needs; there was something available for everyone.

For almost half a century l have been a volunteer swimming teacher at Settle pool, and throughout the course of those years, l have borne witness to the struggles involved in keeping the pool open to the public. The Friends of Settle Swimming Pool worked tirelessly, year in and year out, in all weathers packing cardboard and paper into containers; their efforts kept the wolf from the door for decades, and the Swimming Pool Charity shop is now carrying on the good work.

The individuals and families who have relocated to the area over the past two or three decades may not be aware of the gargantuan efforts of the past, not only in the building of the pool, but also to keep it alive and vibrant. Community Pools stand alone! So without the support of the communities that they serve, they cannot, and will not, survive.

In conclusion, for the past 40 years l have specialised in working with individuals who experience disabilities, helping them to gain the confidence that they need to achieve balance and freedom of movement in water. Swimming is for everyone, no matter what age or level of disability, be that physical, mental or otherwise.

Your local swimming pool needs you. The Settle Swimming Pool website is full of interesting and appropriate opportunities to become involved. So, please, give it your support.

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