swim charlton lido

Swim in the open air: 3 great places in the UK

Swim at Charlton Lido

charlton lido

Charlton Lido

Oh the bliss of living in south-east London and having Charlton lido on the doorstep for a swim in the open air. The blue deco waterfall harks back to the glamour of the 1930s but the facilities are definitely modern. An elegant terrace café overlooks a pristine 50m pool. As you can see, the residents of Charlton also enjoy an open air cycle studio and gym.

There’s a vibrant atmosphere with happy families in high spirits in one section and lane swimming for budding Rebecca Addlingtons in the other. When I visited, a glowing throng were basking in sunshine at the poolside. it was lovely to see a mum bonding with her teenage daughter and three elegant women, one with parasol, enjoying a natter and soaking up the holiday atmosphere

Interesting fact:  Charlton Lido opened in1939 and cost £28,000 to build.

Other lidos are available at Brockwell Park, Parliament Hill, Tooting and London Fields.

Swim Kenwood Ladies Bathing Pond


If you like swimming with ducks try one of the three bathing ponds on Hampstead Heath. The ladies pond closed for three months in early 2016 for renovation. It now boasts new Scandi-style changing facilities.

I visited the Kenwood Ladies Bathing Pond on an overcast day in late July. With a water temperature of 24 degrees and only 10 women delighting in its green silky depths it was an oasis to calm even the most stressed. I overheard the lifeguard comment: “people come here to swim their day off.” I left the pond feeling invigorated with softer skin and and a calm mind.

Interesting fact: The ladies and men’s ponds are the only life- guarded open-air swimming facilities open all year round in the UK.

Check out:
Hanna Aqvilin’s atmospheric short film about winter swimming in Hampstead ponds in 6 degree temperatures.

Swim Whitstable, Kent


Walking the Saxon Shore Way from Faversham’s boat yards through marshes along the Swale feels remote despite its proximity to London. Nearer to Whitstable, you meander along a pebble stretch of coastline. The sea here is sheltered and enticing on a hot day. I try to swim here each year. Sometimes the water feels warmer than the Med and despite the indifferent weather we’ve been having, this summer is no exception.

If you’re fond of sand dunes go to Camber Sands. If you’re training to swim the Channel go to Dover. But I prefer the concrete sea walls, sheltered waters and beach huts in this quiet estuarine corner of Kent.

Interesting fact: You can still see rusting World War Two sea forts built to counter German attacks in the Thames estuary.

Finally, check out:
BBC Four’s documentary Swim the Channel while you can. It follows the athletes and volunteers who follow Captain Webb and attempt to swim to France.

More to inspire you to take the plunge

Haunts of the Black Masseur – the Swimmer as Hero, Charles Sprawson, Vintage
Exhaustive account of movements and protagonists associated with open air swimming from the Greeks to the Romantics and beyond.

Wild Swimming Walks: 28 Lake, River and Seaside Days Out by Train from London, Wild Things Publishing

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