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West Grinstead Swimming Academy

West Grinstead Swimming Academy

Published: 1st August 2020

West Grinstead Swimming Academy was expecting to open its new   purpose-built pool at Easter.  Due to some unfortunate timing, the pool was finally set to open at the end of July, with swimmers of all ages ready to benefit from its modern facilities. Victor Heal, who runs the business alongside wife Victoria, describes their unusual journey...


We moved to West Grinstead six years ago, although at the time never envisaged building a swimming pool. When the children reached an age where Vikki could look for work again, it was difficult to find a job that offered the right life/work balance and going back to the City wasn’t an option. Vikki’s always been a keen swimmer and competed when she was younger. So, the idea of becoming an instructor was ideal, as classes are normally held during term times too.

We found a company called Puddle Ducks and Vikki attended a three-day training course in Manchester to become a swimming teacher. Puddle Ducks operates a national franchise, with classes for children up to the age of ten, although it’s particularly popular with mothers and babies. Those early experiences in the water are important and Vikki loves being a part of that. 

As an instructor, Vikki has visited many different pools. Often, classes were not held in leisure centres but at private pools. What sometimes happens is that people with pools occasionally rent them out. Because they’re not always purpose-built for teaching, some classes can’t use the whole pool, because it has various depths, and the changing rooms and facilities may be lacking. These pools have diminished in number because those without permission to operate commercially have been closed by the local authorities. So, we talked about the idea of having a purpose-built teaching pool.Four years ago, we started the process of applying for planning permission.

We were fortunate. Not only did we have the space, but we found a gate that had been concealed by bushes and trees. At some point, it had been an access point off the main road, when the property was a lodge house for the nearby farm. This helped us get planning approval, as it meant we could offer plenty of parking with good access. Everything fell into place and we were granted planning permission in September 2019. 

We worked with Arch Enclosures, a Haywards Heath-based company that creates purpose-built, circular-shaped pool buildings. From the outset, we wanted to do it properly, with no expense spared. We didn’t want to replicate the negative aspects of private pools that Vikki has experienced elsewhere. That’s why we’ve allowed for plenty of parking, changing rooms for boys, girls, staff and a separate toilet, with spectating space too. 


Another important factor is water quality. If you were to build a pool in your back garden for private use, it’s likely you’d have a filtration system that would typically turnover water every six to eight hours. Ours is only 60 minutes. At the start of each lesson, the instructor tests the temperature and water quality to ensure it meets their high standards. The air humidity and temperature are also monitored and kept it at a constant level.

As West Grinstead Swimming Academy, we own the building. But we rent out the pool and facilities to other swim schools. We had a lot of interest from different businesses, so decided to choose just one to work with in each age group. Vikki is a Puddle Ducks instructor, so Puddle Ducks will run the baby and pre-school classes. 
Sussex Swim School, which taught our daughter and with whom we have a good relationship, will run classes for school-age children. It’s not a pool designed for swimming lengths. It’s ten metres long, five metres wide, with a constant depth of 1.2 metres, making it ideal for development. 

Finally, a new Horsham-based business called SLK Aqua Yoga will run classes for adults. These will include fitness, post-natal, ante-natal and aqua therapy, providing adults with opportunities to enjoy water-based exercise. 


Having planned to open after the Easter holidays, we were halted by Covid-19. As the government eased restrictions, we’ve been able to put the finishing touches in place in time to open on 25 July. Swimming schools tend to only operate during term times, but I suspect children will be keen to get back into the water and catch up with what they’ve missed, so lessons may be held over the summer, before a regular timetable begins in September. 

Scientific evidence shows that Covid-19 cannot survive in chlorinated water, and that’s the guidance we’ve received from Swim England. So, any pool should be safe. However, we still need to be vigilant with regards to restricting the spread of infection, so we have sanitisers and regularly clean the equipment and facilities. So, when people are ready, they can use the pool with confidence.

The West Grinstead Swimming Academy is located off the A272 Cowfold Road, RH13 8LU


Photos: Toby Phillips Photography

Interview: Ben Morris