A slice of Paradise will be forever lost for swimming champion Hayley Turner when Ely’s central pool closes this weekend.
Hayley’s excited about the opening of The Hive – but the Paradise Pools hold special memories for the Little Downham record-breaker.
Nicknamed “Turbo Turner” for her super speeds, at the tender age of nine, Hayley helped open the Paradise Pools, together with Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies, in April 1981.
The cabinets inside the building host trophies record-breaking Hayley’s won – including one for being the first female in the county to swim 100m freestyle in under a minute.
The Paradise Pool’s last day of opening will be this Monday, with plans by the council to demolish the building shortly after. The Paradise Centre will remain.
Hayley told Spotted in Ely: “The pool closure this week had brought back a flood of happy memories as we say goodbye to our Paradise Swimming Pool.
“For me it was my early start in my successful swimming career and it is with a heavy heart I write this and snap photos of my children and I outside in its final days.”
Then named Hayley Tooke and living in Wentworth, Hayley started swimming in local private pools at the age of six before joining the Ely Swimming Club at the old open air pool – now the cement works – where she met fellow swimmers and lifelong friends, Cheryl Letts, Tracy Nicholas and Kelly Newark.
“We then moved to the Paradise Pool. By this time I was nine years old and already had a band of wins to my name. I was selected to present Sharron Davies with a commemorative plaque when she came to open the pool. Ironically some years later I raced against her on her comeback to swimming in the Commonwealth Trials consolation final.”
The Paradise Pools served as the perfect springboard for Hayley’s athletic career – as a teenager, she was headhunted by the England swimming coach, who secured a spot for her at Kelly College in Devon, which boasts some of the best swimming facilities in the country.
“I am still winning medals at the National Masters each year and last year helped our team finish in gold position for the 4x50m freestyle relay, swimming my leg in close to 28 seconds…not dissimilar to the times I did back in my teenage years.
“The imminent pool closure has meant I have dug out the scrapbooks of photos of my team mates and I winning trophies and club gains up and down the country. I’ve shared these with my children, now six and seven years old, who have loved reading all about my swimming career.
“And it’s a particularly pertinent time for us as they have literally recently started swimming club and are about to do their second session just before the pool closes, coached by one of my very oldest swimming buddies, Tracy Nicholas.”
At the age of seven, Hayley’s daughter, Faith, is already in Stage 8, while son Toby, six, has almost completed Stage 6. Husband Mark Turner is an Ultra Marathon and extreme triathlon competitor, while Hayley is gearing up for her third and fourth Ironman events this year.
Hayley recently completed her Level 1 swim teacher training at the Paradise Pools and is planning to go into swim coaching.
Despite being a super sporty family, the Turners don’t plan to push their kids, who both attend Downham Feoffees Primary Academy, into the same lifestyle – unless they want to do it.
Hayley said: “Should they wish to continue their love for swimming there is no doubt in our minds that we shall do as our parents did… dedicating themselves to our competitive edges, driving us everywhere, ensuring we made morning and evening training, juggling homework.”
The former Fenland Flyer star swimmer is excited about the opening of The Hive, Ely’s new leisure centre, but the Paradise Pools will always hold a special place in her heart.
On Wednesday, Hayley went for her last swim at the Paradise with the kids.
“Faith pushed me in as a surprise and that’s a true swimmers celebratory way of doing things!”
Hayley said: “Farewell Paradise Pool…you held a lot of fond memories for me in my youth and now for my children as they start out on their swimming journey.”