Plunging into ice cold water may sound like a nightmare to many, but to this hardy group of regulars at the Hampstead Heath ponds a winter swim is one of life’s necessities.
The ponds at Hampstead Heath have been popular swimming spots since the 1700s, after people took to the water for its iron-rich qualities. These days the three ponds are packed through summer, but there is also a hardcore group of fanatics who take to the water through its coldest days.
Swimmers from both the men’s and ladies pond share their reverence for the powers of the cold water, and regular swims on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day bring everyone together; the fun of it is addictive.
The swimmers reveal how through the highs and lows in their lives, the ponds have provided a space for healing and respite from emotional and physical pain, and have been a constant source of freedom.