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207 days to go

My last days in London - Hampstead Heath, Women’s ponds

By Melanie CharlesPublished 3 years ago 4 min read
Kenwood Women's Ponds, Hampstead Heath. We had special permission to take this permission. Photo by E.Hudson

It’s turned into a magical summer day, albeit it’s only 21 degrees Celsius (that’s about 70 Fahrenheit), but who can complain. Summer in Britain so far has been the pits. Only yesterday I turned the heater on. It was only for a short thirty minutes, but that was thirty minutes too long!

Today I ticked one more thing off my to-do list before I leave London. I swam again in the women’s ponds on Hampstead Heath. If you don’t know Hampstead Heath, it’s a magical wild forest in London. If you know Hyde Park in London, that’s the well manicured sister and Hampstead Heath is the wild unruly cousin. The one that dances naked under a full moon.

The women’s ponds is somewhere in the middle of Hampstead Heath. I can’t tell you exactly, I always get lost trying to find it, but that’s part of the adventure. When making my way there I discover parts of the Heath I haven’t seen before. There is always something new. There is also a men’s and mixed pond, but the women’s ponds feels mystical. Magical. Full of extraordinary women. Naked bodies, fully clothed, different sizes and shapes. It doesn’t matter. This is a place that you will be accepted. Nods and smiles from other women who share this secret with you.

I remember hearing about the women’s ponds on Hampstead Heath from a friend who told me about the dip that a group of women would take on Christmas Day. I shivered as she told me. Swimming on a misty cold winter’s day. Madness. But fascinated the idea continued to burrow its way deeper into my mind. I found myself excited about a community of women who shared this special experience.

So today at 11 am my friend from high school (yes, my Australian high school - she lives here too) made our way to the ponds. It was her first time visiting the women’s ponds, although she has been swimming over winter in the Serpentine at Hyde Park.

The first dip into the water (which said it was 18 degrees Celsius, but I am sure it was more like 10 degrees) took my breath away. The air temperature was 17 degrees. I wondered how it could feel so cold! It took a couple of minutes to calm my breath. This was the first time I had been to ponds on a day less than 28 degrees. We circled round the pond doing breast stroke keeping ourselves warm and before long we had been in the water for nearly 40 minutes. I’m hooked. Next week I think, rain or shine.

207 days to go.

Getting to Hampstead Heath

Get lost and find magical places on Hampstead Heath

There are numerous ways to get there.

  • Hampstead Heath overground
  • Hampstead station (or Belsize Park) on the Northern line. This will take you to Hampstead village and from there it’s about a 10 min walk down hill.
  • Gospel Oak overground
  • Golders Green station on the Northern line

Places to visit on Hampstead Heath and surrounds

I usually enter Hampstead Heath at the entrance near the Hampstead Heath overground, so my recommends are around this area.

  • Parliament Hill. In the middle of Hampstead Heath is a great lookout (your Google maps, although patchy will direct you there). Or here are my patchy and vague directions. Enter Hampstead Heath from across the overground (basically follow the crowds). It’s a windy path. Keep walking (about 5 minutes) until you get to a path on the right intersected by two ponds. You will see a path a little earlier, it’s not that one. Keep walking! Cross between the two ponds and take the path to your right. Follow it until you find cross another path. Keep walking straight ahead. You will find a track amongst possibly high grass. It depends when the groundskeeper was last there. Keep walking straight ahead and you will see a hill to your right. That’s Parliament Hill. The views of London are lovely.
  • Kenwood House. If you love a period property visit Kenwood House. It’s just lovely. Sorry, you’ll need Google maps for this one.
  • Daunt Books. If you love an independent book shop with great customer service, this is the place. I love popping in here. I always find more than one book I want to read.
  • Charity stores. There are some great charity stores in the area (across the road from Hampstead Heath station). Designer threads at second hand prices.

female travel

About the Creator

Melanie Charles

Children's book author. Often gets the apostrophe placing wrong.

Often ponders, 'How did I get so old?' Writes stories about her life so far, things that interest her and often things that make her rage at the world. Pretty much whatever.

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