London Ponds & lidos April 2019: Trip 1 of 60th swims

I joined the Norfolk Pond Lilies trip to London to swim in the Ponds and nearby lidos, an outing organised after watching The Ponds film  in Norwich. I wanted to make it the first of my swimming trips to mark my becoming 60 this year.

All of the swims were different, as were the swimmers in the group. One had never swam in cold water outdoors in winter, but loved it when she braved two cool pools in one day, while another thought nothing of swimming for 50 minutes at Parliament Hill.

outdoor pool with art deco building and dramatic clouds
Parliament Hill Fields lido and café

As well as having some lovely swims, we also met the Ponds filmmaker and two of the lifeguards that appeared in the film. For me it was a return visit to London, where I lived for 40 years until recently, and to several of my favourite London outdoor swimming pools. For some it was the first visit to some of these pools. Although technically spring, it wasn’t very warm, but luckily the promised thunder held off until just after we got out of the Ladies Pond, and we even had some sunshine, making the pools look even more beautiful.

composite of photos of people with lido in background
Oasis, with Sarah, Tina, Lucy, Iris, Barbs and me

Our swim trip group (for the inevitable Facebook posting we called ourselves the ‘Pond Lilies’) met first at the Oasis. It is heated, and not that large, but I love it as an oasis in central London. A couple of us then went to cool down at Brockwell lido, a beautiful 50 m outdoor pool near Brixton, a very friendly and welcoming place. The sky was dramatic and ominous at sunset.

outdoor pool with art deco building
Brockwell lido with Joe the lifeguard

We warmed up with a fabulous Indian meal at Hazarare. Next morning two of us drove along a scenic route round the Heath to Park Road pool, a somewhat unknown but also beautiful 50 m outdoor heated pool in North London.

outdoor pool with big hedge
Park Road lido

Then the real purpose of our visit, two unheated pools on Hampstead Heath. First the iconic Parliament Hill Fields lido, with its stainless steel lining, looking stunning in the sunshine. I particularly enjoyed the sauna.

corner of outdoor pool with sauna
Parliament Hill Fields lido sauna

A recent phenomenon at outdoor pools, but apparently a safer way to warm up than hot showers, which are more likely to send cold from extremities into your core which can be dangerous. Unfortunately the sauna at Brockwell Park is now closed for spring, and the Oasis one was broken. I found this pool particular chilly, but glad I braved three lengths. The lido café was excellent.

large pond with dark clouds
Hampstead Heath men’s pond as the storms gather

After walks on Hampstead Heath, including a look at the Men’s Pond, we finished off with a swim in the fabulous Ladies Pond, in the company of mandarin ducks.

pond surrounded by trees
Kenwood Ladies pond (temporarily closed because of risk of lightning)

And of course there was cake, in Kalendar just down the road (or we could have gone to Gails nearby), before setting off back to the sticks. (I didn’t make it to London Fields Lido, but I can revisit that another day.) Pools info below.

Roger Deakin also swam in the Men’s Pond, Parliament Hill Fields, and Oasis, among other London swims, and a film Waterlog: A Swimmer’s Journey from City to Sea shows Alastair Humphreys starting a journey to the sea in the Men’s Pond. If you haven’t yet read Waterlog, you can buy a copy on Amazon.

About Oasis Roger Deakin writes:

“Floating on my back in the pool and looking up, I saw the balconies of council flats and bright offices lit up with people at computers in the windows, and up above a black starry sky with now and again a jet.… Here I was in the centre of London gazing up at the stars in the utmost luxury of a heated outdoor pool. It seemed the height of civilisation.…” Waterlog, pp 317-8

outdoor pool with person in costume smiling
Brockwell lido with me

This was the first of my swimming trips to mark my becoming 60 this year. It reminded me how much fun it is to swim in company, and how being in or around water seems to encourage friendly communication. As well as our group getting to know each other we also found people very friendly and helpful in saunas, in the pool, at the sports centres. I even bumped into people I knew from other swims or campaigns, or who knew Norfolk swim spots we visit. On my trips I hope to continue this theme, by meeting up with other local swimmers around the country over in the next six months. The next trip will be in Norfolk in late April. You can sponsor me if you would like to

still river with reflected trees
River Bure, Norfolk

Links to more info on the lidos and swimming :

Parliament Hill Fields lido


Brockwell lido

Park Road pools

Hampstead Heath men’s pond

Kenwood Ladies pond

Kenwood Ladies’ Pond Association

Swimming Hampstead Heath (info on all 4)