Despite being one of the busiest cities in the world, London is home to an abundance of open water swimming spots. From Hampstead Ponds to Hyde Park, many areas of the capital give swimmers the chance to appreciate nature and take a dip in some of the UK’s cleanest bodies of water. Not only is open water swimming great exercise, it also offers unbeatable views and can be an incredibly rewarding experience.
That said, safety should always come first so necessary precautions should be taken before getting into the water. Wearing a wetsuit for extra buoyancy and swim floatation devices, as well as taking a buddy along with you, go a long way in ensuring safe open-water swimming.
West Reservoir Centre
Location: Hackney, north-east London
Swim course length: 25m, 100m, 200m & 400m (depending on weather conditions)
Requirements: Red, orange, or pink swimming cap & a wetsuit or a tow float/bag
For water sports enthusiasts, the West Reservoir Centre in North East London is a top-tier destination. Covering more than 23 acres of perfectly clear water, it's an excellent spot for a range of activities such as kayaking, and sailing.
Visitors can expect the convenience of nearby changing facilities and toilet facilities that suit their activity. Depending on the weather, visitors can take advantage of the various swim circuits available, which will provide lasting memories of their experience.
Hampstead Heath Ponds
Location: Hampstead Heath, north London
Hampstead Heath Ponds, operating between February and September on most days, comprises of three open-water swimming ponds: Kenwood Ladies Pond, Highgate Mens Pond, and Hampstead Mixed Pond. The ponds feature convenient shower and changing facilities, perfect for a family outing, or for a peaceful solo dip in the presence of lifeguards.
Beckenham Park Place Lake
Location: Beckenham, south-east London
Swim course length: 350m-450m
Requirements: Tow float/bag
Beckenham Park Place Lake is a purpose-built, wild swimming lake situated on the southern border of London. Spanning across 96 hectares of serene natural beauty, the 285m long and 3.5m deep lake is accompanied by an ancient woodland. The site is perfect for spending a delightful day, taking a woodland stroll before a refreshing dip in the lake.
Location: Newham, east London
Swim course length: 150m-750m
Requirements: NOWCA wristband, brightly coloured hat, & a tow float/bag
The Royal Docks is a thriving hub of activity, and one of the several activities involves open water swimming! It's hard to imagine that swimmers can take a dip outdoors in central London, gazing at the Thames while being closely monitored by lifeguards in a clean water environment. The swim area measures 150-170m, making it an excellent spot for short swims or swimming laps.
Location: Near Isle of Dogs, east London
Swim course length: 600m
Requirements: NOWCA wristband
If you venture a little further upstream along the Thames, you'll discover an additional open water swimming location in central London. Canary Wharf boasts a larger swim area, measuring 600m, giving swimmers more flexibility in swimming a more extensive circuit or more extended laps.
Location: Hyde Park, Central London
Requirements: Bright coloured swim cap
Hyde Park features the Serpentine, which includes an allocated open water swimming section (where you may encounter ducks sharing the water). Generally, membership in the Serpentine Swimming Club is necessary (though presently not receiving new members). Still, public swimmers have access between June to September to swim at the Serpentine.
Merchant Taylors Lake
Location: Moor Park, Hertfordshire
Swim course length: 150m, 300m, 500m, 750m, & 1000m
Requirements: Bright coloured swim cap
At Merchant Taylors School, you can find Merchant Taylors Lake, a freshwater lake accessible to the public during peak summer. Wild swimmers can choose from five swim circuit distances that range from 150m to 1km. A swim at this location provides an opportunity to relish in the tranquil blue waters.
Location: Ricksmansworth, Hertfordshire
On the north-western outskirts of London lies the River Colne, an ideal spot for a tranquil river swim. Feel yourself immersed in nature and forget about being near a bustling city. Proceed along the path between Bury Lake and Stocker’s Lake until you reach the River Colne, which is shallow at this point, but fast-flowing. Although this river provides a beautiful swim, it is only suitable for experienced open water swimmers - with fast currents gradually deepening as you move downstream.