Belfast's historic Ormiston Pool to be water sports hub
Europe's largest natural swimming pool is to be transformed into a water sports facility for the local community in Belfast thanks to a £500,000 investment.
Historic Ormiston Pool in the east of the city dates back to the 1920s and is one of the few outdoor pools left in Northern Ireland.
It was built by Campbell College for school swimming lessons and sports.
It had fallen into disrepair after the estate where it is located was sold in 1996.
But it is soon to be reopened for a series of summer schemes and courses.
Ormiston Pool uses no chemicals or chlorine.
The estate was home to a pair of twinned lakes and the pool was installed within the footprint of the top lake, making use of the natural water supply and outletting into the lower lake with a dam wall.
Outdoor pools became fashionable here in the 1920s and 1930s.
Similar ones to Ormiston were built at Methodist College, at the Harland and Wolff estate, and in Newcastle and Whitehead.
Most of these are gone, so an historic outdoor pool of this size is very unusual.
Last year a private investor bought the 13-acre estate and submitted planning permission to restore the pool.
Now Belfast Kayak Academy - a charity whose mission is to make the sport more accessible to young people - has been granted use of the facility.
From July 18 the charity will use and manage the site, with plans to run a summer scheme and courses in conjunction with local schools and community groups.
Pete Boyle of Belfast Kayak Academy explained: "Our mission is to make kayaking as accessible to young people as possible, so we are absolutely thrilled to call Ormiston Pool our new home.
"We currently train at Shaw's Bridge, but this new location will allow us to provide training in a more controlled environment, enabling us to attract younger and more novice users to the sport.
"The fact that the pool itself is deep-rooted in the history of the local community will mean we can re-establish links with neighbouring schools and youth groups to help bring Ormiston Pool back to life.
"At the Kayak Academy we have qualified coaches and top class equipment, so this summer we're hosting a summer scheme, open to all ages, and we welcome all the community to get involved."
The restoration of the pool has been carried out by Bristol-based company Clear Water Revival.
It will be heated using biomass and solar panels.
The company has also worked to reinstate the natural water supply of the low energy pool.
For more information on Ormiston Pool or to book your place at Belfast Kayak Academy summer scheme, visit www.belfastkayakacademy.com.