London boasts a surprising amount of wild swimming destinations. From Stoke Newington to Richmond, Heathrow to Hampstead, these are the places locals don’t want you to know about.
What’s more, splashing around in the wild does wonders for mental health; the British Medical Journal proved it in 2019. Sold? These are some of Londoners’ favourite spots.
The ponds at Hampstead, which were dug in the 17th and 18th centuries as reservoirs, are adored by Londoners – so much so that books have been written in their celebration. During Covid-19, its mixed, women’s and men’s ponds are ticketed to ensure social distancing. Secure yours here.
In East London, you can enjoy casual or competitive swimming at what is considered one of the most scenic open-water venues around the world. As for Covid-19 precautions? “Onsite safety, including a safety tagging system for each swimmer, is in place ensuring a safe and enjoyable swim, with water tested fortnightly,” they explain on their website.
The West Reservoir is another East London favourite, where open-water swimming is encouraged alongside water sports. Much like Hampstead Heath, you’ll need to book in advance to secure a spot – you can do so here.
Don’t be fooled by its name, the Serpentine Lido in Hyde Park is not a pool: it’s wild swimming, with ducks and swans, at its best. Established in 1730, the Serpentine Lido is Britain’s oldest swimming club – and to visit you’ll need a membership.
It’s little-known that there is a (man-made) beach in West London; you’ll find at the edge of Ruislip Woods, along with 60 acres (24ha) of lake called the Ruislip Lido. It reopened at the beginning of July, and has since seen swarms of people – so keep in mind that it may be busy.
Keeping up the holiday state-of-mind on return from sunny climes, travel 20 minutes to Hythe End Lake for a spot of wild swimming on touch down at London Heathrow. This wonderful 2km (1.2mi) lake was once a gravel pit, but now it’s filled with water and wildlife.
In the summer months on Sunday, Tuesdays and Thursdays, you can book to swim at Ham Lake for £5 for a 90-minute session. To get there, Teddington or Richmond are your nearest stations.