The Riddiford Baths and…Leek and Feta Quiche

I was at swim squads a few days ago and after the session I was in the change room talking with another swimmer who has recently joined our group.  It turns out she is from New Zealand, so I asked what part of New Zealand she came from and discovered she lived a few streets away from where I was living.  We had quite a trip down memory lane talking about all the places we remembered and frequented like the ice cream parlour where our favourite flavour was licorice.  Then she asked, ‘Did you use to swim at the Riddiford Baths?’

‘Oh yes, I said.  All the time.  That’s where I spent my summers and competed in the school’s swimming carnivals.  ‘So did I’, she said.

The Riddiford Baths with the Town Hall in the background

The Riddiford Baths were right in the heart of Lower Hutt surrounded by gardens and next to the Town Hall.  Inside the complex (that was completely outdoors), was a very large 50 yard pool that was eight lanes wide with a deep end equipped for diving boards with a depth of about 16 feet.  There were ‘change sheds’ as they were called back then, probably because they were no more luxurious than a shed and I doubt they had been improved on since the complex opened in 1929.  There were no hot showers or mirrors or tiles or hot air hand dryers but toilet paper would be there on a good day.  Beyond the change sheds was another pool, fully tiled with a constant depth for children who just wanted to have fun and splash about.

Back at the 50 yard pool area there was a set of stairs leading to an upper terrace that had been covered in asphalt.  In the summer months the asphalt used to heat up nicely and after coming out of the water we would quickly run up the stairs and lie on the asphalt to try and warm up.

Leek and Feta Quiche

My father has always been an exercise enthusiast and he believes the best time of the day to do one’s exercise is first thing in the morning.  So in the summer months when the Baths were open he would rise early and ask us if we’d like to go swimming with him.  So Em and my older sister and I would put on our ‘togs’ and wrap a towel around us, hop into the car and dad would make the short two minute drive to the Riddiford Baths where parking was always available and it wasn’t metered – those were the days!

As you walked through the entrance of the Baths, there on the wall directly in front of your line of vision would be an orange sign with white lettering.  This was my most anxious moment because this sign would tell you the water temperature and this was usually bad news.  Take ten degrees off the indoor heated pool you currently swim in and that would be about right.  The sign usually said 17 degrees (62F) and when I paid my five cents entry fee to the woman behind the little booth she would look at me sympathetically and say, ‘Sorry about that.  We’ve got trouble with the heaters’.  Trouble with the heaters was a permanent situation.

A few minutes later I’d be standing on the blocks shivering and shaking with air temperature that was probably about 10 degrees (50F) dreading diving in to a large pool that wasn’t much warmer.  And my father would dive in and look back at me and say, ‘It’s lovely once you get in’, which of course would have been an appropriate thing to say if I was a seal and bloated with blubber.

But somehow I did dive in and I did do my 20 lengths and then I would get out (still shivering) put my towel around me and head out to the car.  And for some reason, I really loved these early morning swims.

We didn’t just go to the Baths for swimming training; this was a great place for socialising.  On hot days my sisters and I would be dropped off at the Baths where we would meet up with friends and enjoy a day of swimming and sun bathing and eating ice creams and chewing gum and laughing and carrying on.  There were no rules like there are today like, ‘No Running, No Jumping, No Bombing, No Diving, No Loitering’, and no silly signs saying, ‘Holding Your Breath Under Water Can Be Dangerous’.  So we did all of those things and had enormous fun.

Sadly, the Riddiford Baths were demolished in 1987.  I don’t know what happened to the land but somewhere else in Lower Hutt a pool was built in its replacement.  An indoor 25mtr pool that has warmer water and lovely change rooms and walls covered in signs stating all the rules.  Disappointing really.

After a day of swimming we’d be ravenous and usually by then cold too so it would be lovely to come home to something cooking in the oven like this quiche.  Quiche was the height of food fashion in the seventies!  I’ve made this many times before and it’s always been quickly devoured.  Originally I found the recipe in the Australian Women’s Weekly, Best Recipes from the Weekly cookbook but I’ve adapted the recipe to make a larger quiche.

Leek and Feta Quiche

Serve with crusty bread and salad

Serves:  6-8

Degree of Difficulty:  2/5

Cost:  This quiche is perfect to make now while leeks are in season.  This is an affordable family meal you can make for around $15.00.

  • 6 sheets filo pastry (excellent, no need to make your own pastry)
  • 60g butter
  • 5 large leeks, rinsed and sliced
  • 45g butter, extra
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 200g feta cheese, crumbled or grated
  • 1 cup (250ml) thickened cream
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • freshly grated pepper

Pre-heat oven to 180C.

Melt butter and brush pastry sheets.  Fold in half and layer pastry in a 26cm pie dish.

Place leeks, butter and garlic in a large saucepan and saute until leeks have softened.  Add cheese, cream, eggs and pepper.

Pour into pie dish.  Place in the oven for 30 mins or until golden brown.

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  1. Dear Charlie,

    The quiche looks delicious and I’m sure that would satisfy hunger pangs after swimming. I’m trying to convince Mysaucepan that early mornings are the best times to exercise because it invigorates the mind and keeps the metabolism up all day. She is a late riser and obviously believes that evenings are best.

  2. Philippa says:

    I loved the Riddiford baths!

    • hotlyspiced says:

      I know. It was a fantastic place to be and that 50 yard pool with its incredible depth and the diving board was a fabulous place to swim. I still can’t believe it was bulldozed – it should have been heritage listed. xx

  3. So many of the old public swimming pools seem to be closing in the UK too. Lovely ones sometimes with beautiful tile work and so much history. Unfortunately many were unsympathetically renovated in the 70s and to make it worse, the concrete used is now said to have ‘concrete cancer’. Local councils can’t afford to renovate them and find it more economical to demolish them…

    On the up side-love the sound of that quiche-feta and leeks-yum!

  4. You quiche looks fabulous, can you send some by post ;)……I’d love to have some, have a great weekend!

  5. I just went swimming for the first time (for this summer!) yesterday! The water was so cold and I was starving after, but the sun was gorgeous!

  6. What a fantastic combination! Leeks and feta must taste great and I love the use of filo pastry instead of the standard tart crust.
    The early morning swimming sessions must have been very healthy.

  7. I still like quiche, a wonderful brunch dish. I’ve never tried a leek one; it looks wonderful.

    About those warnings: Isn’t NOT holding your breath underwater even more dangerous? 😉

  8. I love the idea of a place where you could congregate with your friends to gossip and have fun (and err “exercise”). that was definitely lacking in my childhood.

    warnings like the ones they have today are so crazy! Everything now comes with a warning. It’s a little ridiculous.

  9. It’s a small world, isn’t it! That quiche just looks delicious!

  10. The columned entry to this building is so lovely; what a shame it was torn down.

    A five-cent entry fee and no rules. Gotta appreciate both.

  11. I snorted my coffee at “if I was a seal and bloated with blubber”. Yummy recipe.

  12. You swimming in the frigid public pool waters reminded me of swimming lessons when I was a kid; the only thing that kept me wanting to go was the cute instructor named Chris (go figure, I can’t remember my neighbour’s name but I can remember that cutie instructor over 40 years ago!!!).
    JT makes a quiche that’s very similar but he uses regular pastry — I much prefer your version with the filo, so much lighter. I’ll have to mention it to him. This sounds like a very sophisticated lunch. Hope you have a great weekend Charlie.

  13. Cakelaw says:

    Isn’t it great to have memories of things like this before modern rules and regations went mad? We used to have a little inflatable pool – I think even that would have to be licensed now. Your quiche looks devine – who says real men don’t eat quiche!

  14. Hehe do I know all about quiche, having a Sara Lee version with the same name as I! 😛

  15. I was shivering at the thouhgt of diving into water with 10 C around. O.O
    Sad that they had to demolish the place, the newer generations are not going to experience th good old times…

    my mum always makes leek quiche and tarts, so I kind of grew up with that. what she didnt add in ehr recipe was feta. great idea and well done!

  16. That’s what I call dedication Charlie! To go swimming on those early mornings! Wow I would never do this hahaha but will get up extra early for food lol it’s always nice to meet people from your own town hehe I found that another HK blogger, use to live two streets down from me in Melbourne 🙂
    Have a lovely weekend 🙂

  17. What a wonderful story, Charlie. I have just loved reading about your family memories. Your dad was indeed disciplined about his morning exercise, and I’m sure some of his enthusiasm got your out the door for that cold dip! And I hear enthusiasm for life in your voice today. That’s a wonderful gift to yourself and others! I am afraid when it comes to a cold swim, I almost couldn’t be persuaded, even as a child, but your memories of this place are warm indeed. As you’ve indicated, newer and improved isn’t always better! I love a good quiche recipe. I haven’t made one in a while, but I always feel that quiche is wonderful comfort food. I’d like to try this recipe! Have a wonderful weekend. I’m sure you will! Debra

  18. Okay it’s been far too long since I’ve eaten a quiche…I think now’s the time to bring it back into my life :)!

  19. I don’t like swimming so I don’t think I could do it in a cold place, no way!!!!! This quiche looks really nice!

  20. What a scrumptious and delicious looking quiche!! And yeah, I totally understand that feeling of nostalgia!! There are places that hold your dearest memories but sometimes those places get demolished or renovated beyond recognition! Oh wells, c’est la vie! and lol about the ridiculous signs.

  21. What a wonderful memory shared my friend! Gosh you really are gutsy aren’t you! Swimming in the morning – I don’t like to swim as much as splash others in the water 😉
    But that means I still get a helping of this delicious, warming quiche right? Please 😀

    Choc Chip Uru

  22. Nope, not making or selling wings. Just wearing these out and driving Ben nuts. 🙂

  23. Hi,
    That must of been great to have a chance meeting like that, something that certainly doesn’t happen every day, sounds like you both had a bit of fun going down memory lane. 😀

    I love the Quiche, looks delicious.

  24. Our local pool was not heated at all when I was a kid. That first plunge was always breathtaking – quite literally – but the chill was quickly forgotten!
    Lovely quiche, Charlie. I adore leeks.

  25. What a lovely story to go with that beautiful quiche. I’ll take my slice now, please 🙂

  26. A great story, Charlie! It’s amazing how running into someone from the “old neighborhood” can bring to mind so many memories. I just happen to have a surplus of feta right now, so your quiche recipe couldn’t come at a better time. Like the idea of using phyllo instead of pastry dough for the crust, too.

  27. Well, we’ve all seen your pictures from Tahiti and know that you are definitely not a seal coated in blubber, so it must have been absolutely chilling in that pool. Perhaps extra helpings of this delicious-looking quiche would have helped:)

  28. Yes – unbelievable the city father’s never thought to save the rotunda type entrance at the very least – and simply incorporate it into the gardens. Quiches do bring back great memories………..thanks!

  29. My dad made me swim as a kid so that I wouldn’t, you know, drown in future, but I never really loved it. I’m also a morning exercise person (on the rare, rare occasions that I exercise. VERY RARE) because I never get around to it if I wait until after work 😛

  30. Magnolia Verandah says:

    Good memories eh. I remember going to a similar outdoor pool called “Grange Farm” in the Uk with friends growing up many years ago. I am sure it was equally as cold and we had to force ourselves at least one swim for the Saturday afternoon otherwise we felt we had wasted our meagre entrance fee. Last time I visited UK I think it was a housing estate. Shame really. Great quiche….love a good quiche something that never really goes out of fashion.

  31. Oh that quiche looks so delicious!!

    My sister and used to walk down to the local pool at age 8 and 6yrs and then walk home when we had enough swimming, it was about a 3km round trip! We were unsupervised all day and we held our breath under water 😉

  32. There is something about food post swimming – particularly cold swimming – that makes it taste so incredibly good. I imagine this would taste good regardless though 🙂 

  33. cecilia g says:

    Ha wonderful, although we never did those early morning swims, we always went to the pool in the summer to Hang Out. Like yours, ours was outdoor in Onekawa, Napier, wild loud and exciting. We always rode our bikes out for the beach. My mother would shake her head and say why do you want a dirty pool when you have the sea!!  great trip down memory lane for me!! Say Hi to your new New Zealand friend.. c

  34. Nothing like swimming to fire up the appetite! I wish I had fond summer memories, but most of mine consist of almost drowning, lol.

  35. What fun memories! I also remember swimming with my sisters in COLD pool water…I always went for the ice cream sandwiches my dad would treat us to afterward 🙂 Your quiche looks marvelous…

  36. Kristy says:

    Burrr!!!! I don’t think you could have gotten me in that water. I’m a total wimp when it comes to cold water. The quiche looks delicious!

  37. I hate cold water swimming and we spent our summers on the coast of Maine where the water temp was so cold our feet would ache just stepping into the water.  The average temperature of the water at the height of summer was 13-14 C on a very warm day.  I would have LOVED a piece of this quiche after swimming or waterskiing.  🙂

    • hotlyspiced says:

      13 or 14C? There is no way I could have coped. My hands and feet would be numb and probably everything else. If you could swim in those temps, you could swim the English Channel or the Cook Strait. Those waters are about 14C on a good day. It’s not too late to start training! xx

  38. Oh my God – do they really have signs these days saying “holding your breath underwater can be dangerous”? How utterly ridiculous!

    You know, I was never a fan of swimming as a kid… too bad, I quite like the idea of swimming now.

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Yes, they really do. Tragic really. It’s a shame you’re not in Sydney because the adult squads I do are not only for those who have been swimming all their lives, but for those who took up swimming later in life. I find them not only great exercise but lots of fun (as long as you ignore the silly signs that surround you!) xx

  39. FiSh SzeHui says:

    i can sense the goodness of the healthy quiche 🙂 

    Latest: Pearl Discovery 

  40. Bjbamber says:

    I love quiche.. this one looks so nice and healthy too after a morning of exercise. I agree, I loved those days of swimming in “imperfect” pools. Ours were outside in the summer and we’d also lay on the concrete to warm up!

  41. I just learned about Bath in England, so it’s interesting to read about the baths in New Zealand. Your quiche looks delicious, by the way.

  42. Much like my youth but we hung out at the beach. I lkie the idea of using phyllo in this recipe.

  43. Deeps NaughtyCurry says:

    how exciting it all sounds, still laughing bout the warning sign 😀 the quiche is making my mouth water…

  44. InTolerant Chef says:

    Swimming always makes me ravenous too! I go to hydro therapy at the moment, and our pool’s temperature is about 30*, last week the enclosed rooms heating was broken and the external temperature was 45*- I almost passed out!!

  45. I grew up swimming at Riddiford. I was a teeanger when they closed it down and opened Huia Pool not far away.

    One minor point though, the main pool wasn’t 50 yards it was 33 1/3 yards – 3 lengths for 100 yards 🙂 or 3 lenths and 10 more metres for 100m which i had to do a couple of times for qualifications.

    Click on my link for pictures of the Riddiford Baths’ closing ceremony.

    • Thanks so much Glenn and lovely to hear from you. Yes, that is quite right about the pool’s length – I do remember now having to do three lengths to make 100mtrs. Your images brought back so many happy memories however it seems I had enlarged the pool in my memory. I noticed the diving boards had disappeared – they were always so much fun as we didn’t just dive off them. Your images must be part of a very rare collection as I couldn’t find any on the net. Thanks again.

      • you’re very welcome.

        I’d misspelt the word Riddiford on that website (Ridderford doh!) and hence the images probably weren’t searchable via Google. I’ve corrected the spelling just today.

        I’m pretty sure the dive boards were there right up until they closed the pool. They probably put them away for the ceremony.

        I personally took those photos on my 35mm camera at the time. The camera had a problem with letting in a little light through it’s casing, hence the orange marks on some images.

        Do you know what year they closed it, I’m thinking 1981, but the Hutt City Council website says it was demolished in 1987 which seems a long time between closing and demolishing.

  46. Steve Nightingale says:

    Riddiford Baths were in fact 33-1/3 yards long and three lengths made it 100 yards for competitions. Great days in the open air – Priceless memories.

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