The swimming ponds
Yes, you can go wild swimming in London. Yes, it’s freezing, it’s muddy and there are ducks.
And it’s glorious.
the mixed pond
The only swimming pond on the Hampstead side of the Heath, near to Hampstead Heath overground station.
Only lifeguarded - and only open to the public - in the summer, from the 1st May 2019. If you want to swim at the Mixed Pond during the winter you can join the Hampstead Heath Winter Swimming Club for an annual fee of £15. Email Marc Hutchinson to ask about joining.
the ladies’ & men’s ponds
Both on the Highgate side of the Heath. Lifeguarded and open year round, from 7am to between 2:15pm and 8:30pm:
27 January: 7am - 2.15pm
24 March: 7am - 4.30pm
15 April: 7am - 6.30pm
6 May: 7am - 8.30pm
19 August: 7am - 7.30pm
28 August: 7am - 6.30pm
24 September: 7am - 4.30pm
28 October: 7am - 2.15pm
2 December: 7.30am - 2.45pm
Ponds on film.
The Ponds is a feature-length documentary released in January 2019 about the hardy locals who swim in these waters every day. The film crew spent a whole year with them, and the result is a touching portrait of the swimmers and the raw joy, and the therapy, that comes from their daily dips. You can find our more about the film, including where you can see it, on the film’s website here. This is what the BBC had to say about it:
1931 - 2016
In 1931 British Pathé filmed a newsreel at Hampstead Ladies’ Pond of the ‘Winter Nymphs’. It was the middle of winter, 34°F (1°C) in the air and not much warmer in the water.
In January 2016, 85 years later, a group of the regular swimmers filmed their own.
Here they are, one after the other. The 1931 film sadly has no sound, but be sure to turn up the volume for the 2016 Water Nymphs or you’ll miss out on their singing.
more clips & films
Many more films have been made about the ponds and their swimmers over the years, too many to list here. These are the best of the rest:
The Men’s Ponds in the 1930s or 40s.
Another recent winter swimming documentary (a short one, in this case).
Ice skating and sledging on Whitestone Pond in the freezing winter of 1965-66.
A 15 minute, soundless film about the Heath from British Pathé, shot in 1971. It’s uneventful, but if you have any curiosity about life as a hobby fisherman on the Heath in 1971, skip to the 7th minute.