Young Londoners enjoy free swimming at Hampstead Heath
Over 100 youngsters enjoyed outdoor swimming at Hampstead Heath at little or no cost this summer.
The City of London Corporation, which manages the Heath, gave free or discounted swimming to local play schemes, youth projects and schools during July and August at Parliament Hill Fields Lido, to give children a chance to exercise during the hot summer months. The free sessions are still being offered.
This included 25 children aged under 12 from Talacre Playcentre, in Kentish Town, who visited during the family sessions, free of charge.
And the Dost Centre for Young Refugees and Migrants, based in East London, also took advantage of the offer. They took 24 young people to the Lido twice this summer, assisted by carers. The Dost Centre works with young, unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, aged 13-19 years - many of whom are learning to swim and are afraid of water due to past trauma, says the charity.
With new temporary measures in place at Hampstead Heath’s swimming facilities, the City Corporation is continuing to offer swimming sessions at the Lido each day, catering for 120 people per swim, which must be booked online or on the phone.
The winter swimming proposals, which have recently been announced, will see some changes to the current measures, including the removal of the online booking system and reintroduction of season tickets. More information can be found here.
As part of the plans, a free morning swim for under 16s and over 60s between 07.00-09.30 will be introduced at the Bathing Ponds. The City Corporation is also speaking with swimmers about a range of options for a comprehensive support scheme for people who cannot afford to pay to swim – as agreed in the March Hampstead Heath Management Committee. Following these consultations, a number of proposals will be presented to the Committee on September 9 for decision.
Anne Fairweather, Chair of the City of London Corporation’s Hampstead Heath Management Committee, said:
“Outdoor swimming has so many benefits to our physical and mental Health, and we are delighted to support young Londoners in this way.
“We are proud that the Heath’s swimming facilities are accessible to people of all backgrounds.
“By giving young people a chance to take part in a fulfilling, fun - and sometimes new – activity like this, we hope to enrich and inspire, helping them to build confidence and develop new skills.”
Marian Spiers, Youth Work Programme Manager from Dost Centre, said:
“Being able to come to the Lido and swim in a beautiful place and just really feel relaxed, and have fun, is great for the people we support.
“The lockdown has been really hard for our young people and it is so good to be able to get back together again and come to swim and play games afterwards on the Heath, especially on the two hottest days of the year.
“We are really grateful to Heath staff and the support we have received over the years and we will continue to bring groups for a long time to come.”
The initiative is supported by the Parliament Hill Lido User Group who have helped to arrange the discounted session
Dr Eleanor Kennedy, Chairperson of the Parliament Hill Lido User Group, said:
“The post-lockdown situation has been challenging for all of the swimming facilities on Hampstead Heath as we have had to adopt and adapt to new ways of thinking very quickly. However, despite these testing times, we have made sure that outdoors remain open to those for whom COVID-19 has had a disproportionate effect financially.
“In addition, we have helped many people with disabilities to ensure they continue to swim at the Lido. Our Lido has always been a local cornerstone where people of all ages and abilities can meet and swim in the most beautiful surroundings and I'm delighted that, as we move through this "new normal", the Lido continues to give a warm welcome to everyone who swims here".
Following a brief closure due to COVID-19, Hampstead Heath’s four outdoor swimming facilities reopened early July with temporary measures in place to allow visitors to swim safely, including the introduction of a new online booking system.
In order to comply with the Government’s guidance and the NHS Test and Trace arrangements it is still necessary for all swimmers to book-in-advance. In addition to the online booking system, a telephone booking service was introduced to help swimmers who do not have internet access or require help with booking a swim. The booking system is to help safely manage numbers and give as many people as possible an opportunity to swim whilst respecting social distancing.
Sessions at the ponds and the Lido must be pre-booked on the Hampstead Heath website.
The City Corporation protects 11,000 acres of green space in the capital, which includes Hampstead Heath, Epping Forest, West Ham Park, Burnham Beeches, and over 200 smaller sites in the Square Mile.
The City Corporation funds its open spaces with over £29 million a year. They include important wildlife habitats, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and National Nature Reserves. They are protected from being built on by special legislation.
Notes to Editors:
The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK. www.cityoflondon.gov.uk
Kristina Drake| Media Officer, Public Services
City of London Corporation
D: 020 7332 1125