‘There was something magical about the unplumbed depths,the moor hens,the dragonflies, the waterlilies, the willows, the floating rings and rafts…’
Tucked away along a shady path towards the north-east edge of Hampstead Heath is a sign: Women Only. This is the Kenwood Ladies' Bathing Pond. Officially opened to the public in 1925, it is the only wild swimming spot in the UK that is reserved for women.
Created centuries ago, the Heath’s chain of ponds are one of the sources of the River Fleet that runs subterraneously through London. Swimming in the Ladies' Pond’s green, silty, silky waters, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that you are moving through history and outside of time.
On a hot summer’s day, thousands of swimmers from eight to eighty-odd can be found queuing to take a dip before sunbathing in the adjoining meadow. In the cooler months, when the water temperature plummets, the Pond is still visited daily by hardy regulars, many of whom have been swimming there for decades.
Combining personal reminiscence with reflections on the history of the place over the years and through the seasons, for the first time this collection brings together writers' impressions of the Pond.