On my recent trip to London I got into the groove of what the UK call “wild swimming” by taking a dip in the Hampstead Heath Ladies pond in North London.
This is the sign before you head into the Kenwood Ladies ponds, the concerning bit is the warning that “The water is cold, untreated and opaque” – sounds yuk 🙁 I still braved it.
Plus just in case I missed the first sign outside the Hampstead Heath ladies pond at the next gate was this one – the water is deep and cold! I checked the temperature before I went and it was a warm balmy 20 degrees – hmm which to be honest by UK standards is practically tropical, in the winter the water temperature drops to 2 degrees…
When I first saw the ponds I thought that they looked brown and murky like a duck pond – there are actually ducks swimming in the pond. But in actual fact the ponds (there are three at Hampstead Heath, ladies, mens and mixed) are all fed by a headwater spring of the river Fleet. The water is regularly tested for swimmers, even so I was a bit nervous swimming freestyle when everyone else was breaststroking with their head out of the water….
To get into the pond you can either jump off the platform or climb down the ladder, there is no going in gently as you would at the beach and it is difficult to get in without getting your head wet…
I swam around the pond – not too close to the edge as the weeds then tickled my feet which FREAKED me out. Swimming freestyle in the Hampstead heath ladies pond is an interesting experience as all you see is green algae type water and you can’t see more than about 10cm down.
There are carp fish in the pond which sometimes swim closer to the surface and are seen, but mostly you swim around taking in the scenery and chatting to the ducks (if breast stroking). I was the only woman swimming freestyle when I visited and I got the impression that ladies who visited the ponds were more “taking the waters” than going for a workout!
Would I go again? Well, it was refreshing and nice to look about, so maybe if I was just going for a pootle around, but for a serious swim I preferred the Tooting Bec Lido. However, I will say that it was cheap – only £2 (about AUS$4) for entry…
Thoughts? Would you swim in the Hampstead Heath ponds? or does the green/brown water put you off? Tell in the comments….
PS I wore my Green ocean waves LOLL to the ponds