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Hampstead Heath has some thirty ponds on or adjacent to it. The main Hampstead Heath Ponds were originally dug in the 17th and 18th centuries as reservoirs to meet London's growing water demand. These main ponds are divided in to two groups: the three Hampstead Ponds (West Heath Side) and the eight Highgate Ponds (East Heath Side). Both sets of ponds are officially numbered incrementally from South to North, the southernmost pond being Hampstead #1 pond and the northernmost being Highgate #8 (Kenwood House’s Wood Pond).
The majority of the ponds on Hampstead Heath are fed by the headwater springs of the River Fleet. Three of the main ponds are now large freshwater bathing/swimming ponds: two designated single sex (male/female Highgate #2 & Highgate #5 respectively); and one for mixed bathing (Hampstead #3). The bathing ponds aren’t the only special-use ponds however, Highgate #3 pond is the Model Boating Pond and it, along with a few other ponds, are open to anglers. A number of the other ponds are set-aside as wildlife reserves or are purely ornamental (such as the more minor Viaduct Pond).
In 2004, the City of London Corporation, which holds the Heath in trust since the abolition of the Greater London Council in 1986, tried to close the bathing ponds on the grounds that they were an unsustainable drain on their expenses and posed a health risk to swimmers. The swimmers challenged this and won a victory in the High Court. To defray costs, the Corporation introduced a charge for admission of £2 per session, £1 for concessions. There was some opposition to this on the grounds that swimming there had been free since at least the 1920s, and some ticket machines were vandalised.
Highgate Bathing Pond Reviews
The best place to stay cool on the hottest day of the year. Wonderful experience and only £2 (take coins with you for the machine). Changing facilities are basic and nowhere to lock valuables. Cold... more »
I have wanted to swim in Hampstead ponds for a long time. This dream was fulfilled on Sunday. It was a pleasant, warmish day- just right for a cold dip. It was cold too! But soon warmed up and it was.... more »
I had watched a program on Tele about the ponds and haven't stopped thinking about them since which was months ago. Yesterday I jumped on the train and went to Hampstead ponds. What a place. I haď the best time ever. I just wish it was nearer to me as I'd go every day
Great place to sunbathe and cruise. Shame the nude sunbathing has now been relegated to a tiny section, thanks to the orthodox religious community
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