At the weekends there are usually families and youngsters camped on the grass by the pond for the day, playing and splashing. Teenagers, such as my two nieces, amuse themselves playing on the makeshift raft and swimming. But you share the pond with wildlife – a family of ducks have made their home there, swallows skim insects off the water's surface, blue and yellow damselflies dart around you and larger dragonflies cruise the still air at the waters' edge looking for prey. There is something wonderfully natural about the pond – there is not a lifeguard to be seen and not a whiff of chlorine. And yet the pond is managed - there are two water slides, jetties, and a rope swing to pass the time. In the Winter the pond is drained and cleaned.
It reminds me of another summer's day in my late childhood when we rode our bikes to the village of Stanton. Stanton was a real village then, before it became a preserved jewel. There we swam at the last of the Cotswold open-air swimming ponds, the water came from a spring I think and was warm with the sun, grass cuttings floated around us and I loved it. Our town of Winchcombe too had had its own swimming pond, where the Beesmoor Brook had been dammed by the local lady of the manor, but even by the time of my childhood this had fallen in to disrepair and disuse. I did explore it once with my friend Paul. Among the rubble of collapsed walls of cut Cotswold stone I ventured into the water up to my knees, but did not have the courage to do more.
It seems to me, looking at the Czech version, that the loss of the English swimming ponds is a great one. I know the health and safety bods would have a lot to say on the matter, that these Czech ponds must break every rule in the book. But still it seems to me that the Czechs have a better understanding of what makes a healthy childhood than we do and that the swimming ponds are just a good example of this.