Meet the women who want to transform an old water treatment works in the Yorkshire moors into a natural outdoor swimming pool

A group of women passionate about wild swimming have unveiled plans for a natural outdoor pool in a dramatic moorland location.

Caroline Kindy, Sarah Ross and Helen Oldham believe that a disused water treatment plant below Thornton Moor Reservoir in the heart of Bronte Country could be repurposed as a naturally filtered open air pool with sauna, cafe and eco-lodges called Yorkshire Swim Works.

Caroline spotted the site's potential in 2020 while exploring the area near her home in Oxenhope after selling the jewellery business she ran in Hebden Bridge for 17 years.

Two years later, she has been awarded a £4,500 grant from Bradford Council towards research into the project and secured the backing of Sarah, a heritage marketing consultant, and Helen, who co-founded Fund Her North to support female entrepreneurs.

Caroline Kindy in one of the basins that were once part of the Thornton Moor Reservoir water treatment works

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Yorkshire Water still own the site - which consists of four 'basins' where water was once purified before new technology made them redundant around 30 years ago - through their land and estates arm Keyland, who have indicated that they are prepared to dispose of it via sale, lease or asset transfer agreement.

Naturally filtered pools - which rely on plants and the mineral bed to cleanse water of harmful bacteria - are common in Germany, Scandinavia, France and Austria, but have never taken off in the UK, where culturally swimmers preferred chemically treated lidos for outdoor bathing.

"I've been swimming outdoors for years in reservoirs, rivers and the sea, and it gives me a great sense of wellbeing. There aren't many places around here you can go to, so when I was up in Oxenhope I thought, wow, this could be an amazing location for a naturally filtered pool. There are also several paths and cycle routes which intersect at the site, including the Bronte Way. It could really put the spotlight on Bradford and offer activities such as swimming lessons and triathlon training sessions," said Caroline.

Bradford Council and local farming family the Clays are among those who support the plans

An architecture firm, Gagarin Studio, and branding experts Creode are already on board, and have created a website and concept sketches. A German expert even visited to advise on the project, and natural pool specialists Polyplan are involved too. Eventually, Caroline hopes a blend of government, local authority and private funding can make Swim Works a reality, while ongoing revenue to maintain the facility will be generated from ticket sales, the cafe, sauna and accommodation.

"A lot of people tell me they have swum in these natural pools in Europe, but over here we are more used to lidos - the square format and water that is chlorinated. We don't always know that there are ways to make water safe withour chemicals.

"It's in the Green Belt but Bradford Council have been supportive with pre-planning advice and have indicated that they see it as a positive development. It would be in tune with nature and sensitively designed.

"We may harness the original architecture and have an interlinked pool based around the basins, but it depends on the scheme development. There is no public road access so that would need to be resolved."

Though the reservoir remains operational, the water treatment works have been disused for around 30 years

The pool would be divided into two zones, swimming and regeneration. In the latter, a series of specially selected aquatic plants would naturally filter out bacteria such as E.coli, and a pump would push clean water into the swimming area. UV filtration also plays a part.

"The temperature varies from cold up to the early 20s, and depends on factors such as shape, shading, materials and the liner. It's possible to heat these pools and we would explore that. It would also remain as a natural habitat for wildlife."

The team behind Swim Works are now asking for more responses to their survey from members of the public so that they can proceed to the next stage of funding bids.

"We have had a lot of responses already from wild swimmers, but we want to hear from the whole community, including people who have never swum outdoors before. We want to reach out to a diverse range of backgrounds. We'd also love to hear from potential investors, sponsors, and businesses that could support us."