Hampstead Ponds

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Hampstead Ponds (171329664).jpg

The Hampstead Ponds or Highgate Ponds are three large freshwater swimming ponds — two designated single sex, and one for mixed bathing — fed by the headwater springs of the River Fleet — in Hampstead Heath, North London, England. The swimming ponds are three out of some 30 ponds on Hampstead Heath.

They were originally dug in the 17th and 18th centuries as reservoirs. A malarial marsh was drained by the Hampstead Water Company in 1777 to meet London's growing water demand.

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 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.

Swimming ponds[edit]

Hampstead has three different ponds for swimming - one for men, one for women and one mixed. Only swimmers over eight years of age are allowed; those between eight and 15 years old must be in the care of an adult.

The men's pond had a diving tower but this was dismantled following an accident in the 1970s and only a low level board remains, along with showers and a small sunbathing and changing area.

Winter swimming is usually possible at all three ponds, which remain very popular with users. The Corporation of London website publishes water quality tests. The three ponds are not to be confused with Parliament Hill Lido, built in 1938, now with a stainless steel lining.

Proposals for the ponds and dams[edit]

It was announced in 2011 that the City of London proposed extensive works to the ponds and dams which it claims is necessary for safety reasons in the event of a major rare storm. Since that date there has been strong opposition from the swimming clubs and the Protect Our Ponds campaign. Much opposition has resulted and in 2013 a united campaign was launched called Dam Nonsense to oppose the works which the campaign says is unnecessary and in conflict with the Hampstead Heath Act of 1871 which includes all the groups opposed to the proposals.

If the work goes ahead it is likely to involve the closure of all three swimming ponds for a prolonged period of time to enable higher dams to be built which will raise the heights, in the case of the dam above the Men's Swimming Pond by 18 feet. The City of London Corporation has said the work should be carried out urgently to reduce danger of flooding in surrounding built-up residential areas in the event of one of the dams bursting. However the chance of such an event is once in 400,000 years which means such an event is unlikely to ever happen. [1] At a public meeting to launch the Dam Nonsense Campaign held on 25 November 2013, more than 200 people voted in favour of the campaign with only one vote against.[2]


The men's and women's ponds are located on the eastern side of the park, off Millfield Lane. The mixed bathing Pond is in the centre of the Heath, and is a 10-15 minute walk from Hampstead Heath railway station and several buses serving South End Green, at the junction of Pond Street and East Heath Road.


  1. ^ Ponds and dams, City of London Corporation.
  2. ^ Protect Our Ponds documents the debate since 2011 up until the present time regarding the proposed works to the dams on the Heath ponds including the three swimming ponds.
  • The London Encyclopaedia, Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert, Macmillan.
  • [1] Highgate Mens Pond Association (HMPA) is an organisation of swimmers set up in 2012. It has a chair, secretary and treasurer plus a committee of 12, all democratically elected. It currently (Dec 2013) has 550 supporters on email list, many of whom pay an annual subscription.
  • Protect Our Ponds
  • The London Encyclopaedia, Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert, Macmillan.* City of London Corporation, Swimming on Hampstead Heath, also gives water temperatures.
  • Diving at Highgate Ponds on the Lost Lidos website.

Coordinates: 51°33′47″N 0°09′25″W / 51.563°N 0.157°W / 51.563; -0.157