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Swimmers bid three-month farewell to Hampstead Heath Ladies’ Pond with skinny-dipping, graffiti, and a 200ft-long scarf

PUBLISHED: 17:50 01 February 2016 | UPDATED: 11:07 05 February 2016

Swimmers line the perimeter with the 200ft long scarf they have knitted before swimmers left the Ladies' Pond on Sunday to make way for three months of building works related to the Ponds Project dam works. Pictures: Polly Hancock

Swimmers line the perimeter with the 200ft long scarf they have knitted before swimmers left the Ladies' Pond on Sunday to make way for three months of building works related to the Ponds Project dam works. Pictures: Polly Hancock

Archant

It’s been years since many of these swimmers went to school. But on Sunday, regulars of Kenwood Ladies’ Pond acted like teenagers, as they bid farewell to the open-air pool for three months while the next stage of the controversial dams project goes ahead.

Some stripped off and went for a skinny dip, while others left rude messages for the builders moving in the very next day on the walls of the soon-to-be demolished changing rooms.

It wasn’t all school-like hijinks, though, with a performance from the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond Association (KLPA) choir, as well as home-baked cakes served up to hungry swimmers.

Dozens of members also spent two months knitting a 200ft-long multi-coloured scarf, which was draped around the perimeter of the Highgate pond to mark the bittersweet occasion.

Mary Powell, secretary of the KLPA, said: “We were obviously sad to be leaving the pond for three months, but we wanted to keep things positive and leave the Ladies’ Pond on a high.”

The scarf stretched from the changing rooms to the sunbathing to mark the day the swimmers left the Ladies' Pond on Sunday to make way for three months of building works related to the Ponds Project dam works. Pictures: Polly Hancock The scarf stretched from the changing rooms to the sunbathing to mark the day the swimmers left the Ladies' Pond on Sunday to make way for three months of building works related to the Ponds Project dam works. Pictures: Polly Hancock

While the pond is closed, the swimmers will use the Mixed Pond, which will be women-only until they move back to the Ladies’ Pond.

But, as the Ham&High reported last week, delays to works at the Mixed Pond have left the KLPA without a single-sex bathing pond on the Heath until Monday, February 8.

Until then, they can use the Men’s Pond for mixed swimming sessions between 7am and 10am, or take part in women-only sessions at Parliament Hill Lido between 1pm and 4pm.

Many of the Ladies’ Pond swimmers use the single-sex pool for religious reasons, while others simply prefer to swim in a women-only pond.

“It’s very disappointing,” Ms Powell said. “Because it’s only a week, it’s annoying, but manageable. But if it goes on longer than a week, there will be grumbling.”

The delays may have prompted some of the cheeky daubings on the walls of the Ladies’ Pond changing rooms, which are to be demolished and rebuilt as part of the Hampstead Heath Ponds Project to raise the green space’s dams.

One wrote: “We’ll be back soon”, while other messages were too rude to be printed.

Some swimmers also left a series of cheeky “instructions” for builders working for Ponds Project contractor, BAM Nuttal.

They wrote: “1. Feed the coots.

“2. Have a skinny dip.

“3. Be quick!

“4. Protect this place.

“5. Connect with your feminine side.”

They added: “Please take care of our plants.”

Swimmers will return to the Ladies’ Pond in May.

A spokesman for the City of London Corporation, said: “Desilting at Mixed Pond will take one week longer than programmed and ladies will be able to move there from Monday, 8 February.

“Mixed swimming for ladies will be provided at the Men’s Pond and the Lido this week with ladies-only sessions in the afternoon.

“We are building a new changing and lifeguard facility at the Ladies Pond which will be a big improvement.

“It provides indoor and outdoor changing, indoor and outdoor showers, toilets and a first aid room.

“The new building is sympathetic to its surroundings and was designed in consultation with swimmers.”

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