If you’re not at the beach right now but desperate for a swim, we have some recommendations for you! In the city we’ve noticed increasingly varied swimming opportunities- from ponds and pools to rivers and restored lidos. We love them all for different reasons and here are our favourites, beautifully illustrated by Emma Cowlam, who is represented by Marie-Claire Westover at Lipstick of London:
Emma: Fortunately my illustration studio located a short drive from the wonderful health spa Champneys enabling me to be a Club Member. I’m a life-long advocate of swimming and I swim daily in their wonderful pool. For me swimming is akin to breathing, keeping both my body and mind in good shape. Swimming is my version of mediation, a time where I completely switch off, forget the burdens of modern life & detox from digital technology. It allows me space to reflect, plan and mentally relax. After an hour of ploughing up and down the 25m pool without stopping I feel focused, relaxed and truly myself. A swim first thing in the morning releases positive endorphins to fuel my day, keeping me balanced, happy and content. The Champneys pool has a pitched glass lantern roof, meaning I swim in the warmth yet can appreciate the changing seasons. On cold, dark winter mornings I swim in the glow of a soft yellow electric light and watch the dawn slowly break through the glass. During early morning summer swims I enjoy the sun glistening off the top of the pool water, reminding me of tropical holidays. The benefit of swimming at Champneys is whatever the season, whatever the weather, a warm, quiet pool (I often have it to myself) is waiting for me, which is the best feeling!
Caitriona: When I first moved to London I loved to escape from the city on Hampstead Heath- roaming around the hills with the wind in your face feels a world away from Oxford Street. The following summer I discovered you could swim in the ponds (they are much quieter in winter, so I hadn’t noticed them before then). There is something quite magical about being casually outswam by a duck and watching the breeze ripple through the reflections of the surrounding trees. Even on the hottest days, when lots of people turn out to sunbathe and splash, they’re wonderful. There’s a women-only pond (and a men-only pond) which are quietier, serious and more secluded than the shared pond. Admittedly, the water in them all is a bit murky and the showers are basic, but it’s dead cheap and the joy of feeling the sun on your skin makes up for any leaves stuck in your hair/bikini.
Frankie: Believe it or not, there is an open-air swimming pool right in the heart of London. The Oasis Sports Centre in Covent Garden is home to a heated expanse of blue where you can swim gloriously mindless lengths for hours on end, barely aware of the urban chaos around you. My favourite time to go is on a dark January evening. There’s something almost otherworldy about doing laps – head cold, body warm – below the late-night glow of office blocks and city workers who should have already got their tube home.
Clare says: Clissold Park leisure centre is a ten minute walk from my house and is everything a council-run swimming pool should be: no nonsense mums in the changing room yelling at their kids to hurry up and get dressed, little girls putting their tights on inside out, scalding hot showers, old Turkish men doing a leisurely backstroke up and down the slow lane and grannies gossiping at one end. It reminds me of why I live in London. There is a big wide deep pool and once you’re in, you lose yourself in the laps. Afterwards, I buy a huge squidgy brownie from the cafe to eat in the park and congratulate myself for all those calories I’ve burnt.
Tell us about your favourite swimming spot in the comments below!