London is one of only three cities to host an Olympic open water marathon swim, so we thought we’d take a look at the venues around this great city where you can swim as nature intended - in the open air and open water.
Open weekends through May (including May Day Bank Holiday) and then every day from 1 June to 12 September. Open 10am – 6pm, with last entry 5.30pm. Adults cost is £4.80, or to save a few pence (70 to be exact) enter after 4pm. Alternatively join the Serpentine Swimming Club who swim there daily 6am – 9.30am, including Christmas Day for the legendary Peter Pan Cup, which has been competed for over 100 yards since 1864.
London’s Royal Docks:
A recent addition to the Capital’s open water swimming scene (main image). All year round swimming, combined with close by essential café and accessible via DLR (Royal Victoria) and Emirates Air Line. If you want to swim in the winter months, you need to book in advance. Key safety technology accompanies the swim with a special NOWCA wristband given to each swimmer to track your entry and exit from the water. The venue hosts the Dock to Dock 10k swim.
Operated by Better, this Hackney venue has been refurbished and offers great facilities. Every swimmer need to attend an induction (£15), but thereafter each swim is £10 (or £5 if you are a Better member). Open throughout the summer months on Thursday evenings 17:30-19:30 and Saturday/Sunday mornings 07:30-09:30am. Closest Tube: Manor House (Piccadilly Line).
Hampstead Heath Ponds:
Forget the nearby Hampstead Lido (featured in our previous article), this is proper outdoor swimming in the middle of Hampstead Heath. The swimming tradition is evident with the delightfully named Men’s, Ladies’ and Mixed ponds. A swim will cost you 2 shillings (only joking), £2 (£1 concessions) and an annual pass is available for £125. Open times vary throughout the year, but in general open from 7am and closed by 8.30pm in May, June, July and some of August.
Swimming at Ham Lake, near Richmond, Surrey is possible throughout the summer months on Sunday and Tuesday mornings. A bargain at £5 per session and open summer only. Nearest station are Richmond, Teddington or Kingston.
You could also swim in the Thames itself. There is an annual 1,500m event (Thames River Swim) starting and finishing at the Black Lion pub, Hammersmith. The event is even timed, so you benefit from the tide on both the outgoing and return swims.
One final option could be a future floating open air lido on the Thames. Thames Baths is being planned and permissions being sought. Let’s hope they get the green light and encourage even more to enjoy London’s best open water swimming venues.