Up on Hampstead Heath, one of the highest spots in London, the buried River Fleet makes a series of springwater pools in a chain down the hillside. One of these pools, in a hollow fringed by thick bushes and trees, has a high fence all around it and a sign forbidding men entry past this point. This is the Kenwood Ladies Bathing Pond. It's been in use for over a hundred years by a hardcore bunch of enthusiasts ranging through aristocrats and politicians to writers. I've seen redoubtable old girls of nearly ninety, sailing like stately galleons in ancient swimming costumes across the cold, cold water, which never gets hotter than 12C.  If you want to see English eccentricity in action, this is where to come.

Young children are not allowed, which makes for a nice quiet swim. There are showers and a wooden jetty to dive from, and a wide grassy bank with benches, for drying off.  The pond's seclusion from the main park gives the illusion that you are by a river in some idyllic country meadow, instead of in stanky London. It's open all year round from 7am till sunset, and, especially if you are an overheated girl in the area, is well worth a visit.

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