Sunday, 5 August 2018

London Lidos and Outdoor Swimming Spots

Brockwell Lido
Brockwell boasts an Olympic length pool, a gym, hydrotherapy zone and an indoor cycling studio – basically, it's ridiculously well kitted out. Follow up a dip with a trip to the Art Deco Grade II-listed Lido Café, where they serve breakfast, brunch, lunch and afternoon tea daily, or make an evening of it and stay for a candlelit meal (Tuesday to Saturday). Brockwell comes into its own with its summer screenings; Luna Cinema host film nights throughout the summer. The Shape of Water made waves this year with it’s semi-aquatic love story - and what better way to enjoy it than sat in one of the VIP seats, an inflatable dinghy?

Dulwich Road, SE24, Visit

Oasis Sports Centre
This heated rooftop pool is just five minutes from Holborn, making it the West End's only outdoor pool. Remarkable stuff. Though it managed to fly a little under the radar for a while, it tends to get busy on warm days now, and at less than 30m long, it's perhaps not ideal for a thorough swim. Still, the location is hard to beat, it's open until 10pm during the week, and if you're done in the pool, there are three squash courts and two fitness studios, which host the likes of yoga, pilates, group cycle and rebounding. Recommended.

32 Endell St, WC2H, Visit

Parliament Hill
This 60m unheated pool on Hampstead Heath is often busy, but for those wanting to get away from small, splashy children, there are adult-only swimming sessions in the evenings all week. It's always well attended with lifeguards and the pool is reliably kept clean. For those peckish after swimming, there's a cafe on site. Parliament Hill has the distinction of being the only outdoor pool in the UK with a stainless steel liner, which gives the water an unusual and – in the right light – a faintly glamorous metallic shimmer.

Gordon House Road, NW5, Visit

Hampstead Heath Ponds
The swimming ponds are the highlight of Hampstead Heath. Apart from the Parliament Hill Lido, there are three ponds: one for men, elevated on a hillock; one for women, veiled by oak trees in a corner of the heath, and a mixed pond. Topless bathing is allowed in the lady's pond. If you're looking for a decent, less crowded swim, go segregated. Children must be accompanied at all ponds, and the single sex ponds are for over-8s only – but mostly, families stick to the mixed area.

Gordon House Road, NW5, Visit

London Fields Lido
Call it "bracing" if you like, but swimming outdoors is chilly. Not here though: the London Fields Lido is, gloriously, an heated open-air pool – so no excuses. The lido has just reopened after being restored and includes lane swimming for those serious about their dip, and swim doctor classes for people wanting to improve their speed and technique, but there are also more relaxed sessions for parents and children too. After that, head to the cafe, and finish up with a doze on the sundeck.

London Fields, West Side, E8, Visit

The Serpentine
Sunbathe here for one of the best views in London, with a pavilion, lush trees and, beyond that, the skyscrapers of our fair city. The Serpentine doesn't usually get too busy with swimmers, surprisingly, though you'll be sharing the water with local ducks and swans – but by all accounts, they're pretty friendly, and the water is tested every week to ensure it's safe. Wetsuits are permitted and children are very welcome if accompanied – the kids play area has swings, a slide, climbing frame and paddling pool. The lido is only open on weekends and bank holidays in May, but throughout the week from June to August. For food and drink, try the Serpentine Bar & Kitchen or the charming Lido Café and Bar.

Hyde Park, W2, Visit

Hillingdon Sport and Leisure Complex
Formerly known at the Uxbridge Lido, this is a rather beautiful spot, in all its 1930s, Grade II-listed glory. The open-air pool is an impressive 50m, with fountains at either end. There's also a heated splash pool for children. The lido is in excellent shape, having been restored in 2010, and there's plenty of room to sunbathe. While you're at it, take advantage of the poolside food and drink, too. The leisure complex is packed out with everything from badminton courts to a 400m running track.

Gatting Way, Uxbridge, UB8, Visit

Hampton Pool
Despite perhaps not being as well known as some others on this list, Hampton is well worth a trip. It has two heated pools (always to 28C): the primary one is 36m, while the second is a learner pool for children and their parents. They're open year-round, including Christmas, and the main pool is always split down the middle for lane swimming on one side and fun on the other. Adult only swim session run on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. There's limited free parking. Once you're here, head out to Royal Bushy Park, which is next door.

High St, Hampton, TW12,

Tooting Bec
At a smidge over 90m long, Tooting Bec is the largest freshwater open-air pool in the whole of England. Blimey. Be warned that despite its size, it still sometimes get crowded and queues aren't unheard of – but hey, in the glorious sunshine, that's just extra time to work on your tan. It's open to everyone from May until September, but you'll have to be a member of the South London Swimming Club to take a paddle in its cool waters in the winter months. A member, and very, very brave.

Tooting Bec Road, SW16,

London Royal Docks
For a rousing outdoor swim, the Docks are hard to beat. Once the temperature starts to increase in May, there will be six swimming sessions throughout the week - check the website for times as they can change. They check the water to ensure its clean every fortnight, and have wetsuits for hire, which is well worth it when it's nippy. Note that anyone who wants to swim will need a NOWCA safety wristband – their website has the full details.

27 Western Gateway, E16,

A fully heated 50m pool is the highlight of Charlton Lido, which is in tip-top condition thanks to a £2m refurbishment in 2013. There are two sun terraces, a café, a gym and a fitness studio. They've even got eight tennis courts close by, which are flood lit, so games can be enjoyed through the evening. It's worth mentioning too that this lido is kept very clean and tidy.

Hornfair Park, Shooters Hill Road, SE18,

Pools on the Park
They've two pools here, but only one outdoors, which is only open during the summer. Unsurprisingly, the outside one is chillier, but is kept at a clement 24C, and is the larger of the two. There's a spa and fitness centre on site too, with classes teaching everything from boxercise to iyengar yoga.

Richmond Park, Twickenham Rd, TW9 2SF,

Stoke Newington West Reservoir
One for the real hardy types, on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, those who fancy a proper outdoor dip can head here (don't confuse it with the east reservoir). Granted, it's not heated, and there are no lanes or any of that, but there's a tremendous sense of freedom swimming in the open water. Those looking for something more adventurous can try the sailing and kayaking courses on offer.

Green Lanes, N4,

Denham Lake
Just turn up, pay a fiver, and swim! The Denham waterski club have marked out a huge swimming zone, 500m in length, and anyone is welcome on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday mornings (Monday and Thursday evenings as well, from the start of May). Wetsuits are advised, and everyone swimming must wear a brightly coloured swimming cap for their own safety. A full list of rules is available on their site, and is a must read. Being here feels like being out in the country for a while. Gorgeous.

N Orbital Rd, Uxbridge, UB9,

Ruislip Lido

Ruislip Lido offers a range of facilities situated around a 60 acre lake and is home to many species of wildlife. The site proves to be very popular during the summer months but has something for everyone all year round. Surrounding Ruislip Lido is Ruislip Woods, a National Nature Reserve, which is well worth a visit, offering its own unique natural beauty and adventures.