Swimming through the Seasons: The Hampstead Ponds – BBC4

Meeting the regulars up at London's Hampstead Ponds, where swimmers congregate for exercise and a nice bit of socialising – no matter what the weather

Meeting the regulars up at London’s Hampstead Ponds, where swimmers congregate for exercise and a nice bit of socialising – no matter what the weather

Just outside central London lies an oasis of calm that has been there for centuries.

Hampstead Heath ponds attract swimmers of all ages in waters that can be a bracing 3°C.

The swimming ponds are three out of some thirty ponds in total on Hampstead Heath.

These ponds are fed by the headwater springs of the River Fleet (of Fleet Street fame). Three of them are now large freshwater swimming ponds — two designated single sex, and one for mixed bathing.

A swimmer prepares to plunge

Ready for the plunge

Everyone has their reasons for taking the plunge – be it therapeutic, ritualistic, or just the chance to socialise.

Meeting people like Chris, who’s been swimming here for 62 years, this gentle documentary follows the ponds – mixed, ladies’ and men’s – over 12 months, and captures not only the characters and their inspirational stories, but also the beauty of the Heath.

TV Times rating: ****