15 July 2020
Where to Find London's Coolest Lidos - And When They're Re-opening!
Where to swim and sunbathe on a hot sunny day - or even get some laps in during the winter...
There are three kinds of people in the world: those who love swimming, those who physically detest it and those who don't swim. For some, it’s the most relaxing kind of exercise possible; for others, it’s dull and repetitive. Not to mention the drag – felt almost universally – that is getting dressed again afterwards. Yet, there’s something different about swimming in the great outdoors. It all just feels slightly more exciting, as well as having the added bonus of delivering a healthy dose of Vitamin D and the chance to reconnect with yourself, away from a sweaty gym floor.
Once upon a time, the UK was the lido capital of the world, with almost 170 operating across the country. While most of these closed as their popularity dwindled in favour of cheap foreign holidays, there are still a few gems left in London that can provide the perfect opportunity for a spot of open-air swimming.
One of the swishest and most recently refurbished lidos in London, Charlton Lido and Lifestyle club is perhaps more annoying than others get to but does come with the benefit of also having a quirky open-air cycle studio overlooking the pool, if you feel like setting yourself a spin and swim challenge.
If you're a lido newbie, this could be a great one to start with as it's heated and so induces less of a shock to the system upon jumping in. It also makes it pleasant for a dip throughout the winter months – so long as you can face that nippy run to the water.
Top tip: Visit early on a winter’s morning at least once - the sight of the steam rising off the water is very atmospheric.
: Now! Go, go go!
If you’re already willing to brace chillier waters, then Tooting Bec lido may be the choice for you. At over 91 metres in length and 30 metres wide, it’s the largest fresh water pool in the whole of the UK and ideal for those who want to catch some rays and keep up their fitness regime, Fortunately, you can take your own snacks so as to refuel after – peanut butter chocolate protein flapjack bar
If it’s a particularly warm day then be sure to rock up early as the lido operates a one-in-one-out system as soon as capacity is reached.
Good to know: Check their Twitter if you’re feeling nervous about the water temperature as they post regular updates.
: ASAP - keep an eye on their Facebook for updates.
Hampstead Heath Bathing Ponds
Tucked away on the middle of Hampstead Heath and surrounded by trees, with not an office block in sight, Hampstead Heath’s three bathing ponds offer a pseudo-escape from the city, with the convenience of nearby Overground stations.
These natural pools – a men’s, a women’s and a mixed – have all been given a water cleanliness rating of good or excellent by the powers that be, so they’re safe for splashing around in. Unlike some of the city’s purpose-built lidos, they’re big enough that even on a hot summer day they don’t feel too crowded, even if finding a spot on the green space immediately surrounding them can be more challenging.
Good to know: The toilets are nearby, but they can leave a lot to be desired, especially later in the day. Take
your own loo roll!
: Saturday 18th July
Parliament Hill Lido
If nature swimming is a step too far but you don’t want to miss out on an afternoon of fresh air and fitness then take a trip to Parliament Hill Lido, located within the boundaries of Hampstead Heath. Rack up some laps here then grab a picnic, stroll up the hill and devour a feast while enjoying a first-class view of the London skyline.
Good to know: You’ll need to your own padlock if you want to use the lockers.
: Saturday 18th July
Saved from demolition after a campaign by local residents, after sitting unused since the 1980s, London Fields Lido reopened in 2006 to provide a place to swim close to the centre of London. Floodlit and open until 9pm every night, it attracts everyone from serious swimmers to families just looking for a fun day out.
Close to both London Fields and Dalston Junction Overground stations, this Olympic sized pool also offers regular swimming lessons, including the occasional free session. It's also equipped with strong disabled facilities, including accessible changing rooms and a pool hoist.
Good to know: If it’s looking hot and sunny then book your tickets online ahead of time. You’ll still be able to buy tickets on the door, but the queue will be long.
: 25th July
Want to know more about learning to swim in the city? Get in touch with your local leisure centre, or contact an organisation such as Swim Dem Crew, an inner-city community based swim club who run lessons for young people.