In the Swim at Hampstead Heath

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Parliament Hill Lido. Photo by Ruth Corney

There’s a secret world of fitness happening in London each morning. While the rest of us are creaking awake with coffee and trying to convince ourselves to have muesli and yoghurt instead of toast with honey (or even the full English), plenty of people are out peddling, paddling, pumping iron or pounding the pavement.

This morning I joined them.

Impressing even myself by rolling out of bed at 6.30am, I fronted up to the Parliament Hill lido (or Hampstead Heath lido, as it’s also known) just as it was opening at 7am. It’s an outdoor pool but fear of the cold did not deter me, and nor should it have, with water a balmy 22 degrees – exactly the same temperature as the morning air.

Between 7 and 7.30 you swim widths (27m) across the pool, which seemed odd at first but was actually quite pleasant, especially in my “flabulous” state of body. Swimmers switch to lengths (60m) from 7.30-9am, when the morning session ends.

The pool was full but not crowded with the usual assortment of young and old, fit and not-so – all sharing the joy of warm weather and wonderful water. They rely on a system of politeness rather than using lane markers and it all went swimmingly, if you’ll excuse the pun.

On my way out, I heard two regulars grumbling good-naturedly about how the recent heatwave meant the pool was far busier than usual and that they hoped a thunderstorm might drive some of us Jane-come-latelys away. I can see how they’d want to keep something so good all to themselves. But I’ll be back.

Check out Visit London’s list of places to swim outdoors in London. What’s your favourite pool?


  1. Matt Holland says:

    There’s a nice outdoor pool in Crouch End.

  2. John says:

    What a glorious way to spend a morning! I hear that lidos are under threat of closure. I really hope this is not the case. Perhaps a conveniently located cocktail bar or some hammocks would entice more visitors.