In the midst of the ongoing situation with the Oasis leisure centre, my ad-hoc guest blogger Rebecca Davies, shares her memories of the Oasis from the late 1970s to the early 1980s.

My Memories of the Oasis, by Rebecca Davies BSc (Hons).

I thought I ought to write down my own personal memories of the Oasis, though they are faint. I didn’t go much – it wasn’t a regular swimming venue for me – instead I went to Wootton Bassett pool instead. So I shouldn’t think I went to the Oasis more than a handful of times.

I went with Dad – never with the school. How old I was at the time I do not know. We used to use the family changing rooms.

The pool

The pool entrance was always an appealing experience to me. To walk from the slightly grotty changing rooms, through the tiled annexe with the foot bath and the showers – not having showers at home that was also a novel experience – into the wide open area of the dome.

And inside that dome, the pool was like no other I had seen.

It was a swimming pool – yet shaped like a pond – that you walked into rather than climbed in. In those days of less than efficient pool heating climbing in was often an endurance exercise in cold water. As soon as I learned to swim I always started in the DEEP and so WARM end.

Surrounding it were plantations of tropical plants, real ones I hasten to add, growing much bigger than most houseplants.

The Oasis freeform pool

The pool was generic blue tiles of course. But there were also mosaics, a dolphin, and I think, also an octopus.

The abandoned Oasis pool  - Memories of the Oasis

More than only a pool

There were other facilities, a small toddler’s pool, and a deep diving pool with round windows in the side, often unused. Though I do recollect once seeing a diver in it. There was also slides -at the time I went they were orange plastic. How brave I felt when I first dared to go down! The slide might have been my most favourite part, even more so than the wave machine.

There were other facilities, a small toddler’s pool, and a deep diving pool with round windows in the side, often unused. Though I do recollect once seeing a diver in it. There was also slides -at the time I went they were orange plastic. How brave I felt when I first dared to go down! The slide might have been my most favourite part, even more so than the wave machine.

And yes, this pool had a wave machine which they turned on every so often. When it worked – it didn’t always. Being unused to the sea, the waves were a new experience. This was a pool which was so much more interesting that the standard swimming pool and offered so many more experiences.O

Extract from original plan for the Oasis showing the now long-gone diving pool
Extract from original plan for the Oasis showing the now long-gone diving pool

Inside the Oasis

I don’t remember much about the rest of the Oasis. You went in the main door and there was the booking desk in front of you, a gym and squash courts to the right and the cafe and pool to the left. I recall watching (and listening, the sound is fascinating) to the squash courts.

The Oasis cafe was very modern and fast foody. My favourite was the Hot Dogs – not that easy to get back then. I am a great lover of Hot Dogs.

Trouble at the Oasis!

One memorable Oasis session did not go at all smoothly.

We were swimming about as usual when the tannoy went, asking us to exit the pool as fast as we safely could. The lifeguards ushered us out of the pool, and through the fire exits to wait outside. This was in February! At length, staff let us back in. But not to resume our swimming but to get dressed and leave. Passing the pool there was an odd, chemical smell in the air and a strange bubbling on the surface of the water.

Out in the lobby were paramedics. Me and Dad saw a young man stopped and given oxygen. Parked by the main door was an ambulance. It turned out there had been a gas leak. No wonder the staff were so concerned.

The event made the front page in that night’s Evening Advertiser. There had been a chlorine leak in the Oasis forcing the evacuation of the public. The story had accounts of people panicking, fainting and all. If there was panicking and other tremulous events as described in the Adver … I for one did not see anything too worrying. Which is not to say it didn’t occur – only that I did not see it.

This was a very good lesson in the trustworthiness – or otherwise – of the press!

Condition of the Oasis

The Oasis, though well-patronised and well-built, to my mind always had this element of sleaziness. But in fairness, looking back, that was my youthful perceptions rather than reality.

For a start, its location by the railway tracks in a busy industrial estate didn’t seem salubrious to the youthful me. It seemed to be on its own, and not connected with other parts of town. This notion I think came from driving in. Because in fact it is within convenient walking distance of several districts and the railway station.

By the period of my last visits in the early 1980s, some of the panels on the dome had begun to look faded and had moss on them in parts.

The Domebusters

When these slides opened they were very popular for a while. I always meant to try them out, at least when they became less fashionable, but I never got round to it.

As far as I can recall I never went to the Oasis when the Domebusters were there, so I assume that I have never visited since. I am not that enthused on swimming and didn’t swim from my early teens until about a year back when I went in a friend’s pool.

So you have a Terminus ante Quem for my visits – Literally, Latin for the ‘time before which’.

For more posts about the Oasis and the campaign go here: https://swindonian.me/category/the-oasis/