Brockwell Lido returns for another summer run. Since re-opening in July 2007 the outdoor pool has proved to be a hugely popular community sports facility - providing fun for families and lane training for serious swimmers. Built by the London County Council in 1937, it still remains as valued and popular now as it ever was. This Lido was once called "The Evian Lido" after the famous mineral water supplier pumped some much-needed cash into the lido a few years back. Now, thanks to recent upgrades, the lido represents a magical sanctuary for residents in the south east of the city. Affectionately known as "Brixton Beach", you'll need to use your imagination to hear the sound of the waves but it is a welcome respite from the sweltering heat and a home-from-home for a diverse mix throughout the summer months. The glorious outdoor pool forms the centrepiece of this local leisure attraction idyllically located in Brockwell Park. There is also a safe paddling pool for the smaller tots to splash around in. Framing the pool is a range of rooms that host a number of varying activities including yoga, aerobics and Whippersnappers music and drama workshops for the under 5s. This is a great community resource and a heavenly place to spend a long, hot summer's day. Choose a shady patch of grass underneath the sweeping trees, relax and enjoy the infectious, relaxed vibe.
An urban oasis adjacent to an extensive park - open all year round
Lido Park Gardens, Brockwell Park, London, SE24 0PA
Tube: Brixton Station
Once a reservoir, the ponds are now used by swimmers - open all year
Hampstead Heath, London, NW5 1QR
Tube: Tufnell Park Station
Since as early as 1860, and probably before, many hardy London folk have taken a dip before work in one of three wooded ponds on Hampstead Heath. It's a century-old tradition that becomes wonderfully welcome when things hot up in the summer months. However swimming was not the original intention for the ponds; the much-loved tarns of water began as a string of reservoirs which were originally established to supply London with water. If you're visiting the ponds leave time to explore the expanse of the heath, undoubtedly one of the loveliest areas of London. From the ladies' pond, it's not far to walk to Kenwood House, Robert Adam's neo-classical gem. The fabulous collection of paintings and painted ceilings in this house will add some culture to your swim.
- The Highgate Men's Pond - a secluded sylvan spot (Highgate, London NW3, access is via Millfield Lane, N6). In the fenced enclosure nudity is de rigeur amongst the regulars - the serious swimmers, chess players, weight-lifters, readers and sunbathers for whom this is a sort of club. Out on the springboards and in the water, costumes are required. In the 1930s the Highgate Diving Club used to practise dives from the ten-metre high board and their Aquatic Carnivals attracted crowds of 10,000. There are no longer any high boards - a sign of these cautious times. No children under eight are allowed and 8-15-year-olds can only enter with an accompanying adult.
- The Kenwood Ladies' Pond - as the Ladies' Pond is highest up the hill it benefits from being nearest to the natural springs in Kenwood and has by far the cleanest water. It's hidden by an expanse of sprawling foliage to hide the ladies' modesty.
- The Hampstead Mixed Pond - a heap of fun in the summer if a little on the busy side on really warm days. It's not often you can enjoy the freedom offered by the open fields in London but this really is a fertile pocket of uncultivated land, dotted with the odd hay bail, leafy avenues and shaded woods. The heath's bathing ponds, shrouded underneath sweeping willow trees and lush undergrowth, are a delightful summer surprise, making this a lovely spot for a slightly murky swim. If you have time (or for a less murky swim) you could also try Parliament Hill Lido nearby.
On the edge of Bushy Park, the heated waters at Hampton are inviting all year
High Street, Hampton, London, TW12 2ST
Tube: Hounslow Central Station
One of only three heated outdoor pools in the capital, Hampton Heated Open Air Pool is open 365 days of the year. It's situated to the western edge of the adjoining picturesque Bushy Park - the capital's second largest royal park and, like Richmond, home to free-roaming deer. The most popular attraction of this leafy royal park is of course Hampton Court Palace, a must-see if you've made it this far. But the park also contains three ponds where keen angling fans can be seen patiently waiting at the water's edge. Back at the pool you'll also find a gym offering yoga and pilates overlooking the pool's calming waters, Sun Deck Cafe and a large grass area used for sunbathing, barbecuing and picnics. While it may be one of the few heated outdoor public pools in London, the busiest times are inevitably during the summer when hoards of families splash around on long steaming hot days. During the high season, you can dive in for early bird swimming from 6am on weekdays and there are parent and baby sessions in the teaching pool between 10.30am and midday on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Sunday evenings are set aside for a fun game of water polo - open to all ages and levels including beginners (you must be able to swim), just turn up at 5pm on any summer Sunday.
Take a dip... in the middle of a construction site.
Lewis Cubitt Park, King's Cross, London, N1C
Tube: King's Cross Station
Take a dip... in the middle of a construction site. The King's Cross Pond Club, a 40 metre long natural bathing pond, sits right in the middle of the King's Cross development site, giving swimmers an outdoor space that's entirely chemical free. The water is purified through a natural process using wetland and water plants to filter the water and keep it clear. The pond, which has room for over 100 bathers, is surrounded by wild flowers and grasses that change with the season. The project, 'Of Soil and Water' by architects Ooze and artist Marjetica Potrc, is a wonderful way to add a natural, enjoyable and beneficial feature to the undeveloped spaces and urban landscape of King's Cross.
Ultimate lido luxury - Olympic sized with a heater to keep it temperate all year round
Fields, Westside, London, E8 3EU
Tube: Bethnal Green Station
London's only Olympic-sized 50 metre outdoor swimming pool that's heated - to a temperate 25 degrees - this luxurious London Fields Lido was re-opened amid much excitement in October 2006 after almost 20 years of closure. It promptly won the Golden Goggles Award that year for the best place to swim outdoors in London. A decade or so ago, in 1997, things were not looking so good but thanks to the hard work and dedication of local people who spent two days clearing lorry loads of Buddleia bushes and weeds from the pool, surrounding walls and buildings, the pool is back in business. Now London Fields is arguably London's busiest outdoor lido as over-heated Londoners flock to the pool's 350,000 gallons of perfectly heated water all year round - it gets especially busy in the summer. You'll find the lido in the north-west corner of London Fields Park in the heart of Hackney; enter from London Fields Westside. Bag a spot early in the day during the summer months as the place gets packed with sizzling bodies in search of cooling waters. Being built in the early 1930s, this lido is more elaborate than most and boasts substantial, well-kept buildings including staff accommodation, first aid rooms, refreshment kiosks, plus individual and group changing rooms.
Two swimming pools - one indoor and one outdoor, both heated and open all year
32 Endell Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9AG
The central Oasis Sports Centre includes not one but two swimming pools - one indoor and one outdoor, both heated. Often the outdoor pool is popular with recreational swimmers and can be more over-crowded than the indoor pool even during the winter months. Meanwhile the indoor pool is more frequently occupied by dedicated fitness fanatics competing against the clock and studiously doing their lengths. If you have a more relaxed approach to swimming, there's even a sundeck to lie out on above the car park, perhaps not the most scenic of spots but certainly one of the most central. City centre workers are thankful for this oasis next to the office when the summer temperatures hit scorching. Thanks to the wonderfully central location of this pool, you can head out from your swim, feeling cooled and calmed, and arrive bang in the middle of colourful Covent Garden and enjoy all the shops, restaurants and entertainment on offer in this busy part of town.
One of London's more spacious outdoor pools - open all year round
Parliament Hill Fields, Gordon House Road, London, NW5 1LP
Tube: Belsize Park Station
This gorgeous, unheated lido on Hampstead Heath (also called 'Hampstead Heath Lido') was upgraded not so long ago when it had a generous £2.9 million lavished on it. This means the 60 metre Parliament Hill Lido has a cool, stainless steel lining with wonderful reflective qualities, which also helps to retain the heat. Regular visitors love the wonderful sense of space, not a word commonly associated with many of London's swimming pools today. That sense of freedom is perpetuated by the most amazing views of the city from its elevated spot. The 60 metre by 28 metre pool is also ideally located to cool you down when you're all hot and bothered after a walk on the heath. You'll find there's a huge variety of people who use the pool depending on the time of day, from the really serious swimmers to families and groups of teenagers. All visitors are welcome to dive in, swim around, cool down and of course catch some rays. Bring your own refreshments or visit the cafe - the exterior of which is a beautiful example of 1930s architecture, with the steps on the surrounding area giving it the feeling of an elegant Roman amphitheatre. While you're in the area, the ponds on Hampstead Heath are well worth a visit and are just a short walk away.
Opening its gates from May to September, the Serpentine has kept all its natural charm
Hyde Park, South Kensington, London, W2 3XA
Tube: Lancaster Gate Station
A hugely popular swimming venue, every summer Hyde Park's lovely lido invites Londoners to plunge into its watery depths. The swimming pool and its child friendly paddling pool are a great option for aqua fun in the very heart of the city. Frazzled parents can enjoy an hour of respite as their inexhaustible tots happily splash around in the delightful paddling pool. The attractively tiled veranda also makes an excellent sunbathing spot and hosts many a lounging sun worshipper hoping to soak up some rays. You'll find the lido right next to The Serpentine lake - which itself has a roped off swimming area, found on the south side of the still expanse of water. Even though it is clearly roped off this doesn't stop the odd duck roaming among the swimmers. People have been taking a dip in these regal waters for hundreds of years. The lake was created in 1730 by damming the Westbourne - a small tributary of the River Thames - in order that Queen Caroline might have a spot for the royal yachts to mess about on. Beside the lido and the lake area there is a lovely cafe. If you want to stroll around the lake, the Serpentine Bar & Kitchen restaurant opposite is also a very pleasant spot for a snack. It really is a great environment for summer fun and surprisingly continental on a warm day. Nearby the lido, just beyond the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain is the Serpentine Gallery, a premier location for modern art exhibitions. Each summer, the temporary structure of the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion offers leading contemporary architects the opportunity to showcase their designs, resulting in avant-garde structures which are always worth a look.
London's first purpose built lido with saunas and jacuzzis - open May to September
Tooting Bec Road, London, SW16 1RU
Tube: Tooting Bec Station
At 91.5 metres long, Tooting Bec is a lovely, large and hugely popular lido and paddling pool. Despite being the earliest purpose-built open air pool in London, continual upgrades and investment have kept the lido in good shape and it recently received a £500,000 facelift giving it a new foyer and a suite of jacuzzis and saunas; it was also re-sealed and re-painted a couple of years ago. To keep the youngsters entertained, there's a shallow paddling pool with toy animals for your water babies to play with. It's a lovely spot in the scenic setting of Tooting Bec Common, which is shielded from the pond by a tree-lined bank, providing a wonderful opportunity to lie out on a lazy summer day. But be warned: it can get very busy in the summer months with 2,000 visitors a day passing through. If you prefer to avoid the crowds, you can swim in peace during the less busy months all year round by joining the South London Swimming Club (tel 020 8871 7198) who have been racing here since 1908 and bravely do so at Christmas and on New Year's Day.
Unique star shaped art deco outdoor swimming pool - open every summer
Gatting Way, London, UB8 1ES
Tube: Uxbridge Station
The refurbished Uxbridge Lido was reopened in May 2010, as part of the £31 million Hillingdon Sports & Leisure Complex, bringing a much loved art deco outdoor swimming pool back into use during the hot summer months. Originally opened on 31st August 1935, the unheated pool was built at Hillingdon House Farm and operated for 63 years until it was closed in 1998. Now the unique 12 sided 'star' shaped outdoor pool is restored to its former glory, with the Grade II listed parts - including the grandstand on the eastern side, and the flat roof viewing terrace - preserved. Positioned alongside a 50 metre Olympic sized indoor pool, the al fresco pool is same size and is open from May to September, providing a welcome refreshing outdoor dip in the summer. There's also a heated children's pool which comes with geysers, bubbles and jets, and the warm water flows from here to the 50 metre pool. Dedicated 'wet' areas around the pool have been set aside for seating and sun loungers so you can lie out and soak up the rays when the weather really hots up.
Build sandcastles on the beach, walk around the lake or take a trip on the narrow gauge railway
Reservoir Road, London, HA4 7TY
Tube: Northwood Hills Station
Starting out life as a reservoir feeding the Grand Junction Canal (later the Grand Union Canal), the 60-acre lake became Ruislip Lido in the '30s. In its heyday the water was crowded with boats, water skiers and swimmers; people can no longer take a dip, and probably wouldn't want to in the dirty water, but it's still worth a visit. Set in acre upon acre of ancient woodland, which once provided timber for the building of Windsor Castle, Ruislip Lido is a pretty spot in west London, affording a lovely walk around the water's edge ending up at The Waters Edge (pub). There's more family fun to be had on the sandy beach and the children's playground but the top attraction here is the Ruislip Lido Railway, running from the beach through the woods to the pub on the other side. There's also free car parking at the end of Reservoir Road.
Grade II listed and upgraded in the 1990s - open April to September
Twickenham Road, London, TW9 2SF
Tube: Richmond Station
Richmond has more green space than any other London borough; a hike around the great park is the best way to get away from it all without leaving the city and, on a hot summer's day you can't beat a dip in the Pools on the Park. The park it refers to is the famous Old Deer Park which makes for a superb back-drop to your breaststroke. The Grade II listed lido, built in the 1960s was upgraded in the 1990s and now includes a first floor dance studio in what was the original foyer area. At the same time, the original slipper baths were also re-opened. The term 'slipper' was coined back in Victorian times when modesty prevailed and, in an attempt in hide their privates, people would drape bath-towels over the bath, transforming it into what looked like a giant slipper. This lovely lido is conveniently close to Richmond Railway Station and on a summer's evening Richmond's cafe culture can feel like a world away from the sticky city centre. Its open late (until at least 8pm on weekdays, some days even later) so it's perfect for a post-work dip on sultry summer nights. Towards the end of the season do watch out for the autumnal leaves which can be whipped up and swept onto the water.
Heated pool with a children's pool and fountain - open May to September
Park Road, London, N8 8JN
Tube: Highgate Station
Park Road Pools in Crouch End includes the lovely 50m Park Road Lido, named the best lido in London by Time Out in 2004. The open-air pool opened on 1 June 1929 was 165 ft x 75 ft when it was called Hornsey Lido. Today, the pool is warmed and open between May and October when the clear blue waters bring a refreshing coolness to sunbathers and swimmers lounging on the edges of the grassy banks. The children's pool and fountain provide great entertainment for toddlers in a safe environment and there's a shallow-step pool entry and lift in to the main pool for wheelchair users. If the weather is less than stifling, why not get wet in one of the three adjacent indoor pools which include a diving pool. But don't let a spot of rain put you off swimming on a summers day - that's the best time to go as you practically have the place to yourself. The popularity of Park Road's four pools is soon apparent when you see the statistics: 350,000 local people take a refreshing dip in these inviting waters each year.
IN THIS ARTICLE
Hampstead Heath Ponds
Hampton Heated Open Air Pool
King's Cross Pond Club
London Fields Lido
Oasis Sports Centre
Parliament Hill Lido
The Serpentine Lido
Tooting Bec Lido
Pools on the Park
Park Road Lido
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