Sap is rising, blossom is blooming, greenery is bursting forth and the bunnies are most definitely at it. So what better way to usher in springtime than getting in it right up to your neck?
I did just that on Saturday with an enlivening dip in Hampstead Heath Ladies’ Pond. It was an experience worthy of the word ‘heavenly’, which is too often misappropriated to describe things like powdered hot chocolate.
We got there just after 8am as the heath was still quietly waking up, grass glittering, a few runners and dog walkers out for their early morning constitutional.
The men’s and ladies’ ponds are open to the public all year round. For a very reasonable £2 you get lifeguards, a hot shower and a friendly welcome from the regulars.
The ladies’ pond is a tranquil little hideaway surrounded by trees. Its waters are a rich green, perfectly clean (the ponds are filtered), and of course rib-crushingly, hand-numbingly cold.
We climbed in, huffed a few breaths and took a few strokes before climbing right out again, bodies shocked, hands and feet glowing bloodless white. A few minutes later, having recovered our composure and stopped squealing, we got back in again, this time making it as far as the first buoy.
There were several old ladies in the pond, quietly doing laps. One told us she swims every day, including those days where the ice must first be broken. She looks extremely well on it.
We warmed up, showered and strolled back through the park, filled up with springtime like lambs or ducklings or the aforementioned bunnies
Swimming in natural, unheated water makes you feel more alive, even a little high for quite some time afterwards. It makes the warm, chlorinated waters of a swimming pool seem somehow fetid and stifling.
It’s easy to become detached from nature in London especially over winter. This is a great way to get back in touch with your wild side. So if you do one thing in London this spring/summer, go for a swim on the heath.
(If you go when the water temperature is low, read these tips).