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Best open water and wild swimming spots in and around London

·3-min read
Dive in: wild swimming can boost your circulation and relieve stress. (Getty Images)
Dive in: wild swimming can boost your circulation and relieve stress. (Getty Images)

The fitness and meditative benefits of swimming are well-known but there's something about connecting with nature by doing it outdoors that is deeply soothing for both the body and mind.

And now that the weather has finally notched up several degrees, it’s looking to be a scorcher of a weekend.

Lido booked up? Try one of these wilder spots.

West Reservoir Centre, Hackney

The vast West Reservoir is a hidden gem in Hackney. Set on 23 acres of water, with an urban cityscape backdrop, there are two open-water courses — a 400m loop and a 100m warm-up lane. Book 50-minute slots for £10 via the Better UK app.

Hampstead Heath Ponds, North London

 (Richard Lea Hair)
(Richard Lea Hair)

The Hampstead Heath Ponds and Parliament Hill Lido have reopened for swimming from 7am each day. There is currently a mixture of free-flow sessions (no booking required) and bookable sessions at all sites. Kenwood Ladies’ Pond, Highgate Men’s Pond, and Hampstead mixed pond are open 7-10.30am and 5-8.30pm for freeflow (last entries at 8pm) and 11am-4.30pm for pre-booked sessions, Swims cost £4 for adults and £2.40 for concessions.

Beckenham Park Place lake, South-East London

 (Facebook/PTP Coaching)
(Facebook/PTP Coaching)

The sparkling lake at Beckenham Park Place is a space for open-water swimming and paddle sports run by PTP Coaching. Bookings open a week in advance and swim sessions run from 7am-3pm on Mondays and Fridays, 6.30am-7pm on Wednesdays, 7.30am-6pm on Saturdays and 8am-5pm on Sundays. An induction (£10) is required beforehand and all swimmers must wear a tow float. Book in on the link below.

Royal Docks, East London

Love Open Water at Royal Docks is set against the backdrop of London Docklands. Pre-book 60-minute sessions for £8 via the ACTIO app, you’ll also need to wear NOWCA safety wristband, which can be obtained by registering here.

Serpentine Lido, Hyde Park


Arguably London’s most iconic wild swimming spot, the Serpentine Lido in Hyde Park has reopened to members from 5am-9.30am. Should you not already have a membership, you’ll have to add this one to the bucket-list as the Serpentine Swimming Club is currently not accepting new admissions. Keep an eye on membership updates via the link below.

Merchant Taylors’ Lake, Middlesex

There is a 750m circuit and shorter 400m one at the popular lake at Merchant Taylors’ School in Northwood, Middlesex, where resident coach Rav from AlohaTri teaches cold-water swimming classes. One-hour swims are available on a pre-booked basis and cost £8. Moor Park Tube station (Zones 6 and 7) on the Metropolitan line is a 10-minute walk from the school.

Redricks Open Water Swimming Lake, Herts

You can just turn up to the picturesque Redricks lake and small beach in Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire. The 750m swimming circuit is open to everyone from beginners to pros, though total newbies should opt for an OWS induction (£15) with coaches Phil Heath and Ross Clewlow first. Swims cost £6 for members and £8.50 for non-members, who will have to sign a waiver form in advance. Search for their Facebook group page below.

Divers Cove, Surrey

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Divers Cove is a beautiful 7.3-acre reservoir known for its turquoise water in the village of Godstone. Swimmers must sign up for annual memberships online in order to be able to book sessions (£24/year), and each one-hour swim costs £6.

Frensham Ponds, Surrey

The Frensham Ponds are surrounded by heathland, wildlife and walking trails. There are two ponds: the Great Pond, which is more popular, with its large sandy beach, and the Little Pond, which boasts plenty of its own picnic spots. The No 19 bus from Farnham station stops opposite the ponds.