According to recent news reports, outdoor swimming has become popular again – with the Outdoor Swimming Society currently boasting more than 23,000 members. And, with the latest outdoor bathing pond in King’s Cross now open, it seems more and more people are bracing the cold and taking a dip in the fresh air in Lidos in London.
I wrote this Urban Monkey Guide Splashing Around last summer, when it was hot and sunny. But seeing as lidos are enjoying a revival – and there a now more than 600 of them across the UK, I thought I would update the guide to include the new King’s Cross pool. If you’re brave enough to swim the bracing waters…good luck. For myself and many others, I’m going to wait for the next heatwave – whenever that may be…
The Urban Monkey Guide: Splashing Around
Yay! Summer has finally arrived and there’s nothing more fun than getting out and about with the kids – and even more so when you can enjoy the glorious weather and pretend you’re on holiday.
Luckily, there are plenty of places for you to cool down – but if you’re a bit bored of the local swimming centre, or the paddling pool in the garden, there are other alternatives in and around London, where you can dip your toes and get wet!
From urban beaches to outdoor swimming, the choice is endless, but here’s The Urban Monkey Guide’s top spots for a splash around.
Find your nearest Lido in London
There’s nothing better than going outdoor swimming – especially on a hot, sticky day. There are several lidos around London, but here are a selection of the most popular. So, best go early to bag yourself a good spot!
Brockwell Lido – Lido in London
Established in Brockwell Park since 1937, this much-loved lido has recently had its Art Deco Grade II listed building renovated and extended. Known to locals as Brixton’s Beach, there are now shiny new facilities including new changing rooms and lockers to store your belongings. Plus the superb Lido Café and Restaurants offer all-day food and refreshments.
Brockwell Park, Dulwich Road, London, SE24 0PA Tel: 020 7274 3088; fusion-lifestyle.com/centres/Brockwell_Lido
Open daily from 6.30am-6.00pm; Adults £5.90/Children under 16 £3.90/Under-5’s Free/Concessions £3.90/Family tickets available
Hampstead Heath Swimming Ponds and Lido in London
Swim on the wild side at Hampstead Heath’s trio of ponds, men’s, ladies’ and mixed – although be warned, they are cold, even in summer months. The ponds are unique as they are the only open-water swimming facilities in London with lifeguards on watch. Children under 8 years are not permitted in the ponds, but have no fear – head to Parliament Hill’s Grade II listed lido further along the Heath, where you’ll also find a paddling pool for little ones and a cafe.
Hampstead Heath, NW5 1QR, near Gospel Oak; Telephone: 020 7485 3873;cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do
Open year-round: Men’s and Ladies’ Ponds 7am-8.30pm summer, winter (Sept-Mar) times vary; Mixed Ponds 7am-6.30pm daily, Weds in July until 8.30pm; Lido: Open daily 10.00am-6.00pm; Adults: £5.50/Children under 16 £1/Concessions £3/Family tickets available
Serpentine Lido – Lido in London
The Lido takes over a small 30mx100m slice of the Serpentine in Hyde Park and is a wonderful place for families. Not only is there an exceptional playground and paddling pool, but as well as sunbathing on the terraces, you can take a dip in open water. And, rest assured, the water is tested weekly to ensure it’s safe. Enjoy a snack and drink from the Lido cafe which has waterside tables.
Hyde Park Corner, Lancaster Gate; Telephone: 0207706 342; royalparks.org.uk
Open daily through to August from 10.00am-6.00pm; Adults £4.50/Children £1.50//Concessions £3.50/Family tickets available
Tooting Bec Lido – Lido in London
The largest fresh water pool was right around the corner from our old flat. And we used to love going there early in the morning when no one else was around! Nestled in Tooting Common, this huge 90m pool also has a little paddling area for young children, a gazebo which provides much-needed shade for the kids on hot, sunny, days, as well as a new Cafe, providing all day food and drink.
Tooting Bec Road, SW16 1RU Telephone: 020 8871 7198; placesforpeopleleisure.org
Main pool open daily from 6.00am-7.45pm; Paddling pool open from 10.00am-6.00pm; Adults £6.45/Children under 16 £3.90/Under-5’s Free/Concessions and after 6.00pm £3.90/Family tickets available
King’s Cross Pond Club – Lido in London
Recently opened, Of Soil and Water: King’s Cross Pond Club is a bathing pond surrounded by both hard and soft landscaping, including pioneer plants, wild flowers grasses, and bushes so that the environment evolves as the seasons change. Swim in an actual art installation and marvel at the industrial landscape around you – it’s not everyday you’ll get to paddle in the middle of a development site. If you want to make a day of it, bring a picnic and enjoy the park across the way or the Skip Garden next to the pond itself. Changing rooms are available but don’t expect hairdryers and dressing tables.
20 Canal Reach (entrance on Tapper Walk), N1C 4BE www.kingscrosspond.club
The pond is open Monday-Friday from 6am-dusk, and Saturday-Sunday from 8am-dusk. Tickets will be available for designated sessions throughout the day, and two weeks in advance. Prices range from £3.50 to £6.50 for peak swims, and non-swimmers will be able to visit the pond at a discounted rate
Play in the fountains
Duke of York Square, Chelsea
The urban water fountains in the Duke of York Square are great fun and the perfect place for children to get really wet whilst you’re out shopping. You can chase your children around the water jets while enjoying ice creams and coffee from the cafes looking out on to the square. Make sure you take towels and a spare change of clothes – as you’ll be sure to want to pop into some of the shops along the King’s Road afterwards – or go and explore the Saatchi Gallery, or the weekly farmer’s market.
Duke of York Square, SW3 4LY; dukeofyorksquare.com
Open daily; Free
Russell Square, Bloomsbury
Russell Square in the heart of Bloomsbury is surrounded by busy roads – but amongst the hustle and bustle of London town you can kick back and relax in this peaceful, Georgian grassy square. The three circular fountains are located in the centre and you’ll be able to grab a bench and watch the children play. There’s an Italian cafe nearby surrounded by the gardens, if you fancy a bite to eat, while the British Museum isn’t too far away.
Russell Square, WC1N 5DU; camden.gov.uk
Open daily from 7:30am-10:00pm; Free
Somerset House’s Edmond J Safra Fountain Court
Right in the heart of London, 55 water jets especially choreographed and with fibre-optic lighting is certainly worth going to check out – plus it’s a huge space in which kids can freely run about. Somerset House is a fantastic setting, and there is often lots going on including exhibitions and workshops.
Strand, WC2R 1LA; Telephone: 0207845 1LA; somersethouse.org.uk
Open Spring-Autumn – except for 6-23 July; 7:30am-11:00pm; Free
Danish artist Jeppe Hein’s water sculpture, The Appearing Rooms, has been a staple fixture at the Southbank Centre for several years. Kids absolutely love playing in between the jets of water and it’s free! Once you’ve dried your little monkeys and changed them into their spare clothes, check out the events at the centre or along the Southbank – there’s plenty going on at this time of the year.
Outdoor water fun!
Kensington Memorial Park
Located off Ladbroke Grove, this is a brilliant water playground. There is an entire section dedicated to sprayers, pumps and soakers in addition to a large sand area, alongside the playground. Grab a drink from the cafe, and bring the kids along to the 1 O’Clock club.
Victoria and Albert Museum’s John Madejski Garden
This fantastic shallow pool is perfect for little feet. Paddle and cool off in the V&A’s courtyard garden before going to explore the many family events on offer inside the museum – including the ‘Drop-in Design’ where kids hunt for inspiration around the galleries before completing a design challenge.
Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL; Telephone: 0207942 2RL; vam.ac.uk
Open daily 10.00am-5.45pm, except Fridays 10.00am-10:00pm; Free
Best Urban Beaches
Bishhop’s Park, Fulham
This fantastic urban beach sits right in the heart of Fulham. Bishop’s Park is one of my favourite haunts and during the summer months all you can hear are the sounds of delighted children running though the shallow pools and splashing under the water jets. We’ve packed a picnic before, and just let the kids soak themselves before drying off on the garden lawns.
Bishop’s Avenue, London SW6 6EA; Telephone: 020 8753 5999; lbhf.gov.uk
Open daily; Free
Southbank Centre’s Beach
So while you are out enjoy the Appearing Rooms (see above), why not pop along to the Southbank’s beach where designer James Bowthorpe has created a sandy neighbourhood: a series of village buildings decorated with materials reclaimed from the Thames. Kids just love slinging their shoes off and playing in the sand – who needs the seaside?
Queen’s Walk, SE1 8XX; Telephone: 020 7960 4200; southbankcentre.co.uk
Open until September; 10.00am-9,00pm; Free
Royal Victoria Beach
London’s largest beach – beneath the Emirates cable car on the embankment of Royal Victoria Dock – has deckchairs, a bar on a barge and a watersports centre. The beach itself is big enough to fit 10 double-decker buses on it, has a children’s area and throughout the summer, there are family events on offer including workshops, games, big screen opera and live music.
Royal Victoria Dock, E16 1RH; newham.com
Daily until 21 September; 10.00am-8.00pm; Free
Ting Dalton loves travelling with her son and writes a fab travel blog called Travel Monkey. She can be found tweeting @my_travelmonkey. This is another brilliant post about Lidos in London.
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