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The City of London Corporation has announced plans for the Hampstead Heath winter swimming season, running from Monday 21 September 2020 to 30 April 2021, to enable the increasing number of keen swimmers to enjoy all four swimming facilities through the winter months. The growing popularity...

The City of London Corporation has announced plans for the Hampstead Heath winter swimming season, running from Monday 21 September 2020 to 30 April 2021, to enable the increasing number of keen swimmers to enjoy all four swimming facilities through the winter months.

The growing popularity of cold water swimming was made clear in the City Corporation’s swimming review earlier this year. Since 2010/11 the number of annual visits to the three Bathing Ponds have increased from 296,000 to over 655,000.

The physical and mental benefits of swimming in cold water are well documented, but the City Corporation encourages all swimmers to acclimatise slowly to winter swimming under the watchful eyes of our lifeguards to avoid cold water shock and hypothermia.

Plans for the winter season include a new contactless payment system, the reinstatement of season tickets, and increased swim times. The booking system and session times will no longer be in place, paving the way for all three ponds and the lido to operate on a one in one out basis after maximum capacity is reached.

A free morning swim for under 16’s and over 60’s between 7am-9.30am will be introduced at the 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 9 September for decision.

All proceeds from the swimming charges and season tickets go back into running the facilities which are currently run at a high subsidy from the City of London Corporation. Hampstead Heath operates as a charity, with its major donor being the City of London Corporation.

Anne Fairweather, chair of the City of London Corporation’s Hampstead Heath Management Committee, said: “Swimming in cold, open water has many benefits for our physical and mental health. It allows you to get close to nature in such a unique way that cannot be described, only experienced.

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“The Heath’s swimming facilities are becoming more popular every year and it’s not hard to see why. Everyone who is fit and able should try cold water swimming at least once.

“We have fully prepared for the winter season and I hope to see many people, regulars and newcomers,  come to enjoy the fantastic benefits of swimming in our beautiful, clear ponds and exceptional Lido over the coming months.”

The winter plans include the continuation of safety measures aligned with Government guidance on COVID-19, which are subject to change and comply with the NHS Test and Trace requirements. This includes a limit on capacity and social distancing measures.

In January 2021, plans will be drawn up for the summer 2021 swimming season for consultation.

Following a brief closure due to Covid-19, Hampstead Heath’s outdoor swimming facilities reopened early July. New temporary measures are currently in place to allow visitors to swim safely and comply with the Government’s latest guidance.

An online survey designed to learn more about the experiences of swimmers who attended the swimming facilities at the Heath during this year’s summer season has now launched.

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