Outdoors Swimming All Year at Hampstead Heath

September 19, 2011 by

Free Things To Do, Local Recommendations, Things To Do, Travel Tips, Unforgettable Experiences

Enjoy the scenic wilds of Hampstead Heath after a dip - photo courtesy of Justin Cormack via Creative Commons

There are people who swim year round in London – outdoors. Yes, I also think they are crazy but I have to admire them. The place to do it is the Hampstead Heath Swimming Ponds, world-renowned and very London. Located on the Highgate side of the huge wilderness known as Hampstead Heath, there are two ponds open all year around: the Highgate Men’s Bathing Pond and the Kenwood Ladies’ Bathing Pond.

These two are the only openwater swimming pools in the United Kingdom which are open to the public everyday of the year and with the added bonus of having lifeguards at all times. This is probably comforting when it’s snowing out and you plunge into the icy waters. If I ever decide to be that brave, I’ll heed their website’s Guide to Cold Water Swimming; I think I’m most keen to avoid SIS or Sudden Immersion Syndrome. To do avoid getting SIS, they recommend swimming a few times a week to get acclimatised. Maybe I’ll just stick to hot baths. You may also be required to pass a swimming test, and if you’re under 8 years of age, forget it.

During summer when the risk of hypothermia is much less, you can also head for the Mixed Bathing Pond near Parliament Hill, or to The Lido which is a large outdoor pool also near Parliament Hill. The ponds are wonderfully country-like, being located in the middle of the heath, which is one of London’s best natural outdoor spaces, so take a picnic for after your swim and sit on top of Parliament Hill looking across glorious views of London.

- Philippa Burne

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