Abandoned Berkshire: Leisure Centre

This was one of the most fun explores we’ve ever done. At the time this abandoned Leisure Centre was top of the list for many Urban Explorers- it was in a central location, was easy to find and had easy access. This showed, there were multiple other groups in the location at the same time as us and the place had been well and truly trashed by those strange people who don’t seem to be content without smashing something.

We’ve never bumped into so many people in an abandoned building before. This gave it a different atmosphere from most explores, it was less quiet and eery. We were more relaxed and at times there was an almost-party atmosphere as people made the vast leisure centre their playground for the evening.

History

The leisure centre was open for around 45 years before its Covid-related closure in 2020. The complex featured a 150 station gym, an 8 lane pool with spectator stands, a 10 court sports hall, multiple smaller studios and a spa. Its large halls have played host to a number of events over the years, including election counts and antiques roadshow.

Urban Exploration

As mentioned above, access to this building was easy, a board had been removed from one of the windows allowing us to duck inside. We entered into the reception, poked our head in a few small rooms, and were promoted to quickly move on by the smell of rotting ice cream that had been left behind. We entered the first large sports hall which had trampolines left behind.

Next we headed through the changing rooms and into the pool area. This looked like it would have been good fun when it was filled with water- with slides and fountains in the pool surrounded by walkways and staggered seating. We made our way up, eventually coming to maintenance walkways that gave exceptional birds-eye views of the immense room.

From above the pool we headed below, to the pool’s filter rooms, which were stuffed with complicated pipework and control panels, as well as left over chemicals.

As we snaked our way further through the maze of studios, changing rooms and halls, we came across a spa with jacuzzi, steam room and sauna. Some rooms still had gym equipment left behind. We passed back through the pool, which was now hosting a football game for a group of teenagers. The building was massive, with something new around every corner and down every corridor. Another group of locals we came across told us how they had learnt to swim, or played tennis in this now crumbling shell of a building. Amid all the fun and excitement of the explore, it was sad to see the state the place was in- it felt like a waste; the loss of a facility that served its community well.

Future

434 appartments are planned for the centrally- located site, in spite of objections from locals who have dubbed the scheme a “prison village.” The properties will be a mixture of one, two and three bedroom homes across buildings between 4 and 11 stories high. These plans were given the go-ahead at the end of 2021, with local opposition from councillors and residents alike being disregarded by planners. Local newspaper Get Reading reported:

“Cllr Stimson said she was “disappointed” the flats will be fitted with gas boilers, while Cllr Singh said, despite the land being owned by the council, the plans would deliver less than 30 per cent affordable homes – against council policy – and proposes no onsite community space.“ We are building an ‘uncomfortable ghetto’ in the heart of our community,” said Cllr Singh. Speaking against the plans, panel member Cllr Geoff Hill said: “It looks like a prison village. The design is regrettably poor and dull, and it doesn’t meet the design standards of tall buildings that are borough policy.”

Last Updated on 4 April 2022 by Michael

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