MERCURY SERIES - Saltwater Sanctuaries
When the tide is high, it’s easy to overlook the Coledale ocean pool. Carved deep into the rock between the pebbly shore and the wide ocean, it could be mistaken as part of the natural landscape.
That is until you walk a little closer, and notice swimming caps rhythmically bobbing up and down the length of the pool, and groups of young girls in mutilcoloured rash vests perched on the edge before practising their perfect dives.
Like all the Illawarra’s ocean pools, it is beloved by locals and visitors alike. When the Wollongong citizens panel recommended two or three pools be ‘‘reduced’’ or ‘‘run to fail’’ to cut costs for Wollongong City Council, the outcry was swift and strong.
No-one wanted the pools to close, with the council sent 360 responses in relation to the suggestion.
Built by volunteers in 1915, the Coledale rock pool has been the swimming spot of choice for many for almost a century.
Some visitors just want to cool off in the shallows, others are more serious about their strokes and continue to swim on frigid winter mornings, steadily tallying lap after lap.
Then there are those who choose not to jump in, preferring to simply sit on the bench and gaze out at the ocean.
It was even the site of an innovative artwork when Illawarra artist Lizzie Buckmaster Dove installed temporary sculptures along the nearby rock platform at the start of last year, creating cosmic lunar circles with the aqua-speckled concrete left over from the rock pool’s last relining.
For osteopath Beau Edwards, the salty stretch of water is the perfect place to combine keeping fit and relaxing.
Armed with goggles and stripes of flesh-coloured zinc on his nose and lips to ward off the sun, he hits the pool as often as he can in the summer, swimming up and down for about half an hour at least five days of the week.
He said the pool was not only in a great spot, but provided an easy way for people to stay active.
‘‘I send people there for rehabilitation exercises,’’ Mr Edwards said.
‘‘If [the ocean pools] were to close, it would put a lot of pressure on the other pools.
‘‘It’s a good way for people to exercise.’’
His aunt Alice Mear is also a regular visitor when the weather is fine.
At 89, her summer swims have almost become ritualistic over the past 30 years.
She knows many nearby residents who walk down the asphalt driveway at the end of Northcote Street to the pool each day.
‘‘I love the fresh water coming in when it’s a bit rough, but it’s still quite safe,’’ she said.
‘‘It really is lovely.’’