Heatwave: Refreshing outdoor swimming pools and lidos in London

The UK heatwave is officially here, bringing highs of up to 32C in parts of England.

It’s great news for sun worshippers, but Britain wasn’t built to withstand such heat, so we need to find ways to cool down, whether that’s putting up a paddling pool or heading to one of our beautiful outdoor swimming areas.

Although London is a built-up metropolis, there are little pockets of space where you can relax and unwind dotted around the city.

From lidos to wild swimming, we’ve rounded up the top places to go swimming outdoors in the capital.

Always check the website before heading to the pools, and continue to follow restrictions where they’re in place.

Hampstead ponds

If you want a wild swimming experience without having to head to the countryside, try Hampstead Heath Ponds.

Split between mixed, and men’s and women’s ponds, you’ll encounter ducks and hardened swimmers, given the water can often go below 10C.

Make sure you go to the lifeguarded ponds, as all swimming in the non-lifeguarded ones is currently not allowed.

Tickets are £4.00 for adults and £2.40 for concessions for 60 minutes of swimming.

Brockwell lido

Nestled in the corner of Brixton’s Brockwell Park, this lido is truly stunning on a warm day.

The 50m Olympic-sized pool sits beside an art deco building, with a great café where you can refuel after a swim.

Lane swims cost £8 for up to 50 minutes, and must be booked in advance.

Charlton lido

Another South London gem, heading a little further out to Charlton is a guaranteed lovely day in the water.

The Olympic-sized heated pool is complemented by a summer sun terrace and coffee bar, and outdoor gym equipment.

If you’re lucky, you’ll see the local parakeets flying above while you backstroke.

Adult swimming sessions cost £10, with different prices starting at £3.50 for concessions.

Parliament Hill lido

Originally opened in the 1930s, this unheated outdoor pool is open to the public 365 days a year.

Located near Gospel Oak, it’s ideal for those who live close by but don’t yet feel ready to brave the ponds.

The changing rooms, hot shower, and sauna are currently at a reduced service due to Covid restrictions, so where possible come ready to swim and go.

Swimming sessions cost £4.05 for adults and £2.43 for concessions, with no need to book ahead (but you may need to queue if it’s busy).

Ruislip Lido

This is technically in Hillingdon, but you can get there on the tube so we’re counting this zone 6 entry.

Within Ruislip Woods Nature Reserve lays a sandy (man-made) beach with a swimming lake beside it.

This one’s ideal for families, with an ice-cream shop and play areas suited to little ones. Worth the journey if you fancy a day in nature (when we’re allowed to travel a little more, of course).

Hackney West Reservoir

On Green Lanes in Stoke Newington, you can go for an open-water swim or participate in sports like kayaking at the West Reservoir.

It’s not for the faint-hearted as the water can get to temperatures in the lower single digits, but it’s a great spot to get used to the cold water in a beautiful setting.

Open water swimming costs £10.50 for non-members or £5 for members.

Beckenham Place Park

The largest green space in Lewisham has refilled its swimming pond, in a first for decades.

Although you’ll get the feel of wild swimming, lifeguards are on hand to ensure everything is safe, and you can hire kayaks or paddle boards at certain times too.

50-minute swimming sessions cost £5 (£6 for non Lewisham residents) for adults and £3 (£3.50 for non Lewisham residents) for children. Book ahead here.

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