The summer may be gently fading away, but this time of year is still ideal for outdoor swimming. Water temperatures are at a peak after months of warmer weather, and so far September has also been positively mild. If you are thinking about discovering the joys of cold water swimming, now’s the time to grab some gear and get going.

If you are new to outdoor swimming, then the thought of jumping into a lake or river can be daunting. However, London is blessed with many excellent outdoor swimming pools and lidos that allow you to ease yourself into the sport of open water swimming at your own pace. Here are some of the best venues to check out. 

Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill Lido on Hampstead Heath first opened in 1938, and remains in public use all year round. It measures 61m x 27m and is unheated. Season tickets are available for the keen swimmer and there are adult-only sessions available during the week. 

The pool is attended by lifeguards and is well maintained. There’s also a cafe nearby to refuel afterwards. Opening times vary according to the season, with only morning sessions available during the winter. 

Hampstead Heath Ponds

Nearby on Hampstead Heath are three swimming ponds. There’s a mixed-use pond that is mainly used by families, and a mens’ and womens’ pond. The single-sex ponds are attended by a lifeguard all year round and are open from 7am to 8.30pm. In the summer it is necessary to book in advance. 

The ponds were the subject of a feature-length BBC documentary in 2019, for which the film crew followed dedicated swimmers for a whole year. The participants talk about their joy in cold water swimming and extol its therapeutic benefits. 

The Serpentine

The Serpentine Lido in Hyde Park is open for public swimming at certain times during the summer and to members of the swimming club during the winter. Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. The water is unheated and swimmers are advised to wear a wetsuit, cap and goggles.

There is a lifeguard on duty at all times and swimmers must remain within the buoy boundary. Anyone in inappropriate clothing such as underwear, trousers, jogging bottoms, or loose fitting tops will be refused entry. 

Hampton Pool

Hampton Pool in south west London is heated and open all year round. The main pool is 36m long and there is also a learner pool for parents and children. During lane swim sessions, the pool is divided into separate sections to accommodate swimmers of different speeds and abilities.

The learner pool is often occupied with lessons so it’s necessary to book in advance. 

Thomas Reed