Come Swim With Me
SPRING & SUMMER 2020
An exclusive one-to-one London Experience where we will swim at the famous Ladies’ Pond on Hampstead Heath and immerse ourselves in this enchanting slice of peace of serenity in the heart of London.
How would you like to leave your stresses behind for an hour or so and come for a morning swim with me at the famous Kenwood Ladies’ Pond on Hampstead Heath?
Perhaps you’ve always wanted to try wild swimming, perhaps you’re a seasoned swimmer who fancies swimming at the Hampstead Ponds for the first time, or perhaps you just want to swim with me and spend a couple of hours chatting about this wonderful activity. If so, this brand new Bleak House Experience is for you.
The swim was wonderful – I honestly can’t think of anything (bar the weather!) that could have been improved and totally dispelled any anxiety I had about not knowing How Things Are Done and getting disapproving stares from Those Who Know!
On this exclusive one-to-one Experience we’ll choose a morning that works (weekday or weekend) and meet at the secluded Ladies’ Pond (or the Mixed Pond, if you prefer). We’ll take a wander across beautiful Hampstead Heath and chat about wild swimming, about why it can be so incredibly beneficial for our mental health and why it’s become such an important part of my life and the lives of many of the people I’ve shared this enriching adventure with.
If you’re new to the ponds, I’ll show you the ropes: how to get there, how it all works, where to get changed, where to leave your things, what to bring and how to navigate the water. We’ll take a glorious swim together (rain or shine) and afterwards we’ll share a warming hot drink and talk about our shared experience.
I love swimming and had always been fascinated by swimming in the ponds but didn’t have the courage to go on my own.
I was deterred by going somewhere new where I didn’t know the etiquette. It’s not like turning up at a swimming pool where there are generic changing rooms and a standard pool. At the ponds I didn’t know where to get changed? What to do with my things? Which areas could I swim in?
My first visit with Annabel was back in April and she showed me the ropes and then we went for a hot drink. It was needed as the pond temperature back then was 12 degrees. I still can’t believe I did it but I loved it and have been visiting the ponds ever since. Luckily the temperature has risen since then and last night it was a heady 21 degrees.
If you’re tempted I would highly recommend going with Annabel. I plan to keep going till the water temperature falls to 10 degrees and then we’ll see…
About the ponds
The Hampstead Ponds are the only lifeguarded wild swimming locations in the UK. The ponds are open every day of the year and there are always lifeguards present.
The river Fleet runs through the ponds, keeping the water nice and clean. The ponds are situated on beautiful Hampstead Heath and offer an utterly enchanting way to escape busy city life and reconnect with nature.
Londoners have been enjoying these idyllic waters officially since the 1920s and unofficially for many years beforehand. Today the ponds are thriving as the benefits of wild swimming become better known.
Why I love the ponds
I have been swimming in the ponds on Hampstead Heath for around eight years now, and two years ago decided to continue swimming for an entire year, in rain, sunshine, ice, snow, wind and through carpets of leaves. I’ve swum in all weathers, in all temperatures and swim a few times each week.
Swimming at the ponds, being in nature and at eye level with ducks, geese, cormorants and heron has been one of the greatest things I’ve ever done for my happiness and wellbeing.
I absolutely love sharing this enriching activity with as many people as I can and have taken a fair few people for their first swims at the ponds over the years. I adore seeing how just one swim at the pond can ignite a lifelong love of outdoor swimming.
I really enjoyed the swimming mini-experience, I was always keen to try it out but never had the courage to do it alone. Annabel makes it so easy and it’s almost like meeting an old friend who is taking you along to one of her favourite things. I’ve already signed up for one of the London walks. Life is about surrounding yourself with positive people, and Annabel definitely is one of them.
About this Experience
As with all Bleak House Experiences, Come Swim With Me offers a chance to step away from your everyday life and see the world from a different perspective. You will return home refreshed and invigorated and buzzing with the afterglow of your swim.
These exclusive, one-to-one Experiences will take place at 11am on weekday and weekend mornings throughout the Spring and Summer, ending at the end of September. We’ll meet at the edge of the Heath (I’ll tell you where to come and how to get there) and walk together to the pond.
You will need to bring with you your swimming costume (of course!), towel and warm clothes to change into. Even in the height of summer you may still need a light jumper to wear. You will not need a wet suit or neoprene boots or gloves, but you may wish to bring a swimming hat and goggles (I don’t generally wear these).
You MUST be a competent swimmer to swim at the pond as you will not be able to touch the bottom, but don’t worry, there are plenty of buoys to hang out on and chat. In the summer the water generally ranges from around 16C to 24C, depending on the air temperature.
- Entrance fee to the pond
- A hot drink after our swim
- We will be together for around an hour and a half, depending on how long we swim for.
How to book
The dates for this Experience will be announced in the New Year and the places will be released for booking shortly after. Do sign up to my newsletter, below, to be notified when booking opens.
Come swim with me
A late morning swim, walk and chat at the famous Ladies’ Pond on Hampstead Heath.
On this exclusive one-to-one Experience we will soak up the peace and serenity of this enchanting spot in the heart of London and chat all things wild swimming.
Booking opens Spring 2020
Terms of booking
Swimming at the ponds is done entirely at your own risk, however there will be lifeguards present. You must be a competent swimmer. You can read more about the Hampstead Ponds here, and there is plenty of information about outdoor swimming here.
Please note this Experience is non refundable, unless we are unable to arrange a date that works for both of us. If you are unable to attend it is totally fine for you to send someone in your place, but please let me know beforehand.
I love swimming pools. The smell of the chlorine, the sterility. I love doing laps, following the line at the bottom of the pool, one end to the other, back and forth. During the apex of my pool love I noticed Annabel posting photos on Instagram and talking about wild swimming in a pond in a park in London. It was in September but it was still quite warm in London when I thought maybe there is more to swimming than being indoors, in a pool, back and forth, so I contacted Annabel and she agreed to take me swimming.
To prepare, I read her blog about swimming and saw that in the winter she wears a wool hat and neoprene booties. Being it was only September we didn’t need a hat or booties as the water temperature was still comfortable. We met up and went to the Ladies Pond at Hampstead Heath. Slipping into the cool, fresh water, paddling past a harlequin duck, being surrounded by trees and nature you have this sense of awe that I think really changes your perspective.
After about 25 minutes and one back and forth (my pool swimming goal oriented self talking there) we got out of the pond and went into the dressing room to change back into our street clothes. There is only one shower with warm water so while we waited our turn at the shower we submerged our feet in pails of luke warm water. Our street clothes back on we sat on a bench and enjoyed cups of hot chocolate that Annabel brought for us.
I was glad that the first time I tried wild swimming I went with Annabel, a pool and a pond are much different, and to have her expertise made me feel not only safe but that I could truly submerge myself in the joy of the fresh water.
Kim AtkisonNew York
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