Writer Al Alvarez, perhaps best known for his study of suicied The Savage God, which I remember reading at age 19 or 20, has just published a book about his regular swims at Hampstead Heath Ponds. I haven’t read it yet but will.
The swimmer’s ponds at Hampstead Heath are beautiful oases of calm, surrounded by nature. I have been swimming at Hampstead Ladies Pond a few times, so far only in summer. I have found that trips there always add up to more than the sum of their parts. It is a magical place, recently saved from closure.
The last time I went I had a long conversation with a lady, well in her seventies who was sitting on the changing room, completley naked, apart from her pants which were neither up nor down, but were at sort of half mast, just above her ankles. This (and the fact that she told me she swims there even in the cold weather) was the only sign that she was perhaps just a little bit eccentric.
Pondlife: A swimmer’s journal by Al Alvarez, is published by Bloomsbury £14.99