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Swimmers rally behind lifeguards at Hampstead Heath ladies’ pond after Daily Mail attack

07:00 29 August 2014

A stock photo of a lifeguard at the ladies

A stock photo of a lifeguard at the ladies' pond on Hampstead Heath.

Archant

Swimmers have defended a ban on young children at Hampstead Heath’s bathing ponds after a mother complained to a national newspaper about being kicked out with her baby.

Harriet Taylor, 29, told the Daily Mail this week that she felt “upset and embarrassed” after being asked to leave the Kenwood Ladies’ Bathing Pond, because she was there with her three-month-old son Arthur.

Ms Taylor, who was having a picnic with friends at the time, insisted the facility should allow new mums with babies because it is “supposed to welcoming to women”.

However, signposts clearly state that under-eights are not allowed for safety reasons – and the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond Association (KLPA) has backed the rules.

Mary Powell, secretary of the KLPA, said: “It’s fairly clear on the notice boards that children under eight are not admitted.

“It makes sense for safety reasons – the ponds are rather deep. For safety reasons, we would have to be behind that, I can’t see any way around it.Even girls over eight have to have swim tests in front of a lifeguard before they are let loose in the pond.”

The KLPA, a user-led group which represents swimmers, also rallied behind staff after Ms Taylor criticised their behaviour.

The mother, who lives in Mill Hill, told the Daily Mail the lifeguard who spoke to her was “rude” and had “marched” her out of the enclosure.

She also claimed the lifeguard said her baby was especially unwelcome because he “had a penis”, although staff at the pond are understood to deny this claim.

Ms Powell seemed surprised by the mother’s comments, saying the lifeguards are generally well-liked, polite and helpful.

“I have never experienced rudeness from the lifeguards, quite the opposite,” she said.

“I have to say the Daily Mail piece seems to be a bit of a non-story – ‘lifeguard enforces safety-related rule at swimming pond’.”

The ban on under-eights also applies to the mixed and men’s bathing ponds.

A spokesman for the City of London Corporation, which manages Hampstead Heath, said: “We’ve seen a lot of local support for the policy since the weekend and the public reaction towards the lifeguards has been fantastic. They have a very strong bond with the swimmers.

“The wild swimming environment is not suitable for children under the age of eight.

“The Ladies’ Pond can be deceptively dangerous because it has no shallows and is a straight drop into deep, cold, murky water with virtually no visibility.”

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