I’m slightly scared to write this review as I have a feeling it’s going to generate a strong reaction. I’ve thought about posting it several times but backed out. Technically Aqua Vale falls into my cheap days out category because a family of 4 can visit for less than £20 (just). Aqua Vale is based in Vale Park and you can read my review of that here.
We’re quite lucky that Aylesbury has several swimming pools to choose from but Aqua Vale is the only leisure pool. It’s also the only pool that you can guarantee to be able swim in throughout the day; The other pools are often closed for lessons. I’m a member of Aqua Vale and my children have their swimming lessons here. Between the four of us we spend a reasonable amount of time here. I REALLY want to love this place – it has flumes, smaller water slides, an indoor, outdoor and competition pools, dedicated toddler area, lazy river, bubble beds and jacuzzis. There is a lot on offer. They also have a changing “village” which is much more family friendly than gender divided changing rooms. There has been a lot of investment over the years. I remember the pool being built back in the early naughties, it was totally refitted in 2012/2013 and has just had some extra work done. In my opinion the recent work seems to have been a bit pointless, but apparently they have upgraded the boilers.
This is where my first negative comes in. The competition pool is cold. Not just “not warm” but actually cold. For swimming lessons where there’s a fair amount of time where the kids are either sat on the side of the pool but in the water not swimming that isn’t great. I do not like getting into this pool unless I have to. The past few times I’ve been in the leisure pool it has actually been quite warm. The other day it was positively bath-like. I’m going to reserve judgement on this because it has been fairly warm weather so that may be why. We’ll see but hopefully the warm water will continue. Different sections of the pool vary in temperature as well so one you’ve got used to the significantly warmer outdoors pool it is a bit of a shock to come back into the lazy river.
There are two flumes, with slightly sporadic opening times. They are good fun, albeit a bit cold standing in a poorly insulated tower whilst you’re waiting for your turn. Middle child absolutely adores them and would spend the entire time going up and down these if he could.
The toddler area is much shallower and warmer than the rest of the pool and it’s separate as well so you shouldn’t get older kids messing around in here. There are a couple of little slides in here, a boat for kids to climb into and a dolphin. There’s also a massive seahorse that’s supposed to pump water when you move the handle but I think that’s been broken for about 10 years.
I do have an issue with the changing village. There are just four baby changing rooms. FOUR. How many people go to the pool with toddlers and babies? It can be really hard to get one of the baby change rooms and keeping a cold, wet toddler happy whilst they wait is no fun. I know they have a family changing room but that’s basically a massive room with no lock on the door – I think they use that for schools.
The number one complaint you will hear about Aqua Vale is that it’s dirty. I’m a bit 50/50 on this. Yes, there are times when the changing village is dirty but 1) it’s a moist, humid, high traffic area. The cleaners don’t really stand much of a chance during the course of the day 2) The people who use the facilities need to take some responsibility. There have been numerous occasions where I have gone into a changing cubicle and someone has left their rubbish behind. That’s no the fault of the managers, that’s people being lazy and disgusting. The same goes for muddy floors. Shoe covers are provided prominently at the entrance. If people used them then there’d be no mud in the changing rooms. Every single time I have been at the swimming pool I have seen cleaners actively cleaning the changing rooms. In short, I agree that it’s not clean, but it’s not entirely their fault.
I think my biggest complaint has to be the fact they’ve become miserly. It is not cheap to go swimming here. I get that it’s not cheap to run a pool but, if the idea is to get “Everyone Active” and it’s associated with the council then I’d expect it not to be so expensive. Previously under 5’s swam for free, now it’s under 3’s. Previously children who had swimming lessons could swim for free throughout the summer holidays, now that has been stopped. You also cannot get swim membership for children under 11. In my mind all of these things discourage families taking their children swimming. Once smallest child turns 3 it’s going to be harder for me to take her swimming as regularly as I currently do.
The pool can get VERY busy during the holidays, particularly in the summer. They operate a wrist band session system but I’ve never actually been able to figure out how long you get as a session. I believe it’s supposed to be 2 hours but that can vary and isn’t implemented at quiet times. If you do go when it’s very busy it can be a long wait to go in.
£3.10 per child, £5.70 per adult. Under 3’s are free.
Parking / how to get there
There is parking on-site and up to 4 hours will be refunded if you’re using the leisure centre facilities
Address – Park Street, Aylesbury. HP20 1DX
There is a cafe on-site
Various on-site including disabled. The only baby change facilities are in the changing rooms though.
3.5 / 5 There are genuine issues with this place, but I think a lot of them are the same issues other pools face. It does have good facilities but they REALLY need to warm the water up and get more baby change facilities.
I’m Vicky and I am a mum of three living in Aylesbury. I set up Free Time with the Kids to review free and cheap family days out in Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire, mainly because I kept forgetting all the fabulous places that were recommended to me!! I love getting out and about with the kids (and hubby of course) and we have adventures all over the place. My reviews tell you all the things you need to know about the family days out and activites we’ve done such as how much it costs, if there’s parking, toilets and if there’s a cafe or if picnics are allowed. I really hope you find the reviews helpful. If there’s anywhere that you’d recommend please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch via Facebook