When the weather’s hot it’s always nice to head to the pool for a cooling dip. Here are a few of London’s best swimming pools. It helps that they aren’t too far from Clink :)
In the winter months you’ll find the crazy Serpentine Swimming Club here braving the icy cold, but from May to September the water is cool and a great spot to cool off in this section of the Serpentine lake – although the water is not heated. It’s not chlorinated either, a boon for swimmers who prefer to avoid the stuff, as well as to the wildlife (you may find yourself sharing a dip with the local ducks and swans). There’s a private sunbathing area and sun loungers for hire and a kiosk within the lido grounds makes it possible to order from the popular Lido Café next door. Quite handy really.
Oasis Sports Centre
A 27.5m expanse of blue, the outdoor pool at the Oasis in Covent Garden is a central London revelation to the uninitiated. Once you’ve discovered the open-air heated pool, sun terrace and adjacent indoor pool you’ll be hooked, just like everyone else who’s in on the secret. The Oasis is so popular at hot summer weekends and at peak times that getting any serious swimming done is difficult – best go with the modest aim of splashing about to cool down. The outdoor parts were refurbished in 2011, with new steps to the sunbathing terrace, where there are separate areas for adults and families, and decking beside the café which serves smoothies and ice creams.
Golden Lane Leisure Centre
This handsome rooftop swimming pool might be on the shortish side at 20 metres but its uplifting, light-filled surroundings more than make up for it. The pool offers fitness sessions and swimming classes. Part of the Fusion Leisure group, there’s also a high-tech gym and outdoor courts for tennis and netball. Once you’ve done a few lengths, the club also offers a good range of martial arts classes including Karate, Tae Kwon Do and Judo. A swim will set you back £8, so if you live of work nearby membership is a much more cost-effective option.
Parliament Hill Lido
Built in 1938 and refurbished in 2005, the Grade II-listed Parliament Hill Lido measures a generous 60 metres by 28 metres. It has a stainless steel pool liner (the only one in an outdoor pool in the UK) which gives the water a metallic shimmer – not that you’ll be able to tell when it’s packed full of people on a sunny day. The lido is unheated, but wetsuits are permitted at the lifeguard’s discretion. There are two sessions a day (7-9am and 10am-6pm) with an additional adults-only evening session on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. There’s a paddling pool for under-fives and a cafe.
Hampstead Heath Swimming Ponds
Originally dammed-off clay pits, the ponds are run by the City of London Corporation. It is consulting with local residents about essential works to protect against flooding, which – though unlikely – could be catastrophic if a large quantity of rain fell over an extended period. In the meantime, the three pools remain open to ladies, men and mixed groups (including accompanied children aged eight-15, at the lifeguards’ discretion) respectively. The Men’s and Ladies’ Ponds are open all year round but to use the Mixed Pond in the winter season you must join the Hampstead Heath Winter Swimming Club. Even in the summer the water is chilly.