Ready for 2020: Kenwood Ladies' Pond swimmers on the Heath welcome New Year with a splash
PUBLISHED: 14:18 03 January 2020 | UPDATED: 14:18 03 January 2020
On an overcast New Year's Day, hundreds of hardy women donned their swimming costumes and threw themselves into Kenwood Ladies' Pond.
As part of the annual New Year's dip, the women - complete with wooly hats to stave off the worst of the winter weather - leapt into the water and welcomed 2020 in style.
Nicky Mayhew, who co-chairs the Kenwood Ladies' Pond Association (KLPA) told this newspaper that the chilly water - it was five and a half degrees celsius on Wednesday - saw what "must have been more than 300" people dive in.
Nicky said: "I think we had more people than ever before at the New Year's swim. We realised we had more than 300.
"It reflects the growing interest in open water swimming and we have noticed a general increase in the numbers of women coming to swim. It's spreading."
The dip, which takes place each year at 12 noon on New Year's Day, always sees hot drinks provided for those who take the plunge.
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Nicky said: "We had tea and coffee, and for the only time in the year, mulled wine. It was a great event, we were very happy to welcome so many people to the pond for the first time."
And although the temperature was testing, Nicky explained that it was positively balmy compared to other more bracing years.
"It was cold, but not as cold as it has been, even already this year it's been chillier!"
Nicky explained that this year, one of the things the KLPA were most keen to emphasise was safety as the boom in open-water swimming continues.
She told Heathwatch: "While coming along to the Ladies' Pond which is sheltered and watched by lifeguards is one thing, going into a river somewhere without much experience can be really dangerous.
"We are very conscious that people who come and swim at the Ladies' Pond shouldn't try swimming in very cold water without supervision. It's not something to be taken lightly."
Each year the dip gets the KLPA's year off to a flying start, and 2020 was no exception.
The next highlight may well be January 25, when a team of four KLPA volunteers will be taking part in a race with other swimming groups at the Parliament Hill Lido in aid of homelessness charity Crisis.