3 Of The Best - Outdoor Swimming Spots in London
Go back ten years or so and, outside of the annual ninety second dip during your Summer hols, outdoor swimming was largely a niche hobby undertaken by Bear Grylls wannabes, or the occasional OAP who lived next to the sea and “had done it everyday for as long as they could remember”.
Fast forward to the present day and it’s almost commonplace! The good people of Great Britain are swimming al fresco before work, after work, rain or shine, all year round. And now that the Summer is here, the numbers continue to grow yet further.
The number of outdoor swimming spots in the capital suggest that this isn’t just a fleeting fancy, however, with lidos, ponds and even a chunk of the Thames available to hardy Londoners year round. Here we take a look at three of the best.
Brockwell Lido, Herne Hill
There are a few top drawer outdoor swimming options for those South of the river, including the legendary Tooting Lido (largest outdoor pool in the UK) and the newly developed Beckenham swimming pond, however, Brockwell Lido lays claim to being the most iconic.
Opened way back in 1937, it has been immortalised in film, paintings and photographs as well as hosting the London Swimming Championships from 1947 to 1968.
It closed its doors in 1990 due to council cost cutting, before being reopened four years later by two local council workers named Casey and Paddy before being redeveloped in the early 2000’s to include a gym, sauna, indoor changing rooms and a cafe (now Pizza restaurant). Like its enthusiastic users, it keeps coming back for more!
It is open all year round in all its unheated glory for guests and members alike. Be warned though, it does get rammed in peak Summer - on one particular occasion a couple of years back; as the temperature reached 36 degrees; five hundred people attempted to storm the entrance!
In affluent, leafy Hampstead there are a plethora of outdoor swimming options. There’s Parliament Hill Lido for those who prefer a more chlorinated option, but on The Heath the ponds reign supreme.
Situated in an idyllic parkland setting, there are three ponds - mixed, men’s and ladies’. Whilst not for everybody due to the cold temperatures and well, pond water, the legendary ponds boast a passionate fanbase who swim all year round as well as a great many more who flock here in Summer.
The ponds were threatened with closure in the 80’s due to being a drain (no pun intended) on resources, but after a considerable local backlash they remain open to this day with swims available from 7.00 am to 8.30 pm for the princely sum of £2 (or £1 for concessions).
If the low cost doesn’t inspire you enough to dive in then the charming Netflix documentary “The Ponds” may just do the trick.
Royal Docks Open Water Swimming
Ever fancied a dip in The Thames? Nope, me neither. So when I heard that an open swimming area had opened up below the cable cars and in the shadow of The O2, I was somewhat dubious.
However, upon closer inspection this appears to be a legitimate, well run operation. The water is apparently tested every two weeks to EU bathing standards, and has always been rated “excellent”.
There is a casual swimming area as well as three training loops of differing distances, offering something for swimmers of all abilities.
Coaching sessions can also be booked and there’s wetsuit hire available for those sensible souls who choose not to venture bareback into the deep, icy drink - apparently it can drop to a frankly ludicrous three degrees in Winter. I wonder how many could be worn simultaneously.