Hampstead Heath: Filmmaker plans ‘impressionistic’ documentary to celebrate London’s wild sanctuary

Patrick McLennan Picture: Patrick McLennan

Patrick McLennan Picture: Patrick McLennan - Credit: Archant

A filmmaker is hoping to send a cinematic love letter to Hampstead Heath by recording life in the park all year round.

Watch The Ponds promotional trailer

Posted by The Ponds Documentary on Monday, 23 January 2017

Patrick McLennan wants to make the documentary, titled The Ponds, as a way of celebrating the “unique community” built around outdoor swimming – and as a tribute to one of London’s great wildlife oases.

He said: “I want to capture all life that exists on the Heath – the people, the birds, everything,” adding the film will be “impressionistic” and “observational”.

“What’s amazing is it’s not changed in about 200 years. You can’t say that about many places in London – or many things in life.”

Mr McLennan, 52, has lived in London since 1992 and has swum in the Heath for ten years.

The ponds Picture: Patrick McLennan

The ponds Picture: Patrick McLennan - Credit: Archant

Coming from Christchurch, New Zealand, he explains he “still loves the great outdoors” and looks to the Heath as a sanctuary.

“There’s really nothing like it anywhere else in the world – a place to swim in natural water right in the middle of a huge city,” he said.

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“But what’s fascinating is that there is a real sense of camaraderie and connection between the swimmers, which I think is based on going through a Spartan experience together.”

Mr McLennan, who lives in Kilburn and works as a journalist and TV producer, said he is going to become a year-round swimmer for his film, which will begin in spring this year and be released next spring.

The opening title of the documentary's trailer Picture: Patrick McLennan

The opening title of the documentary's trailer Picture: Patrick McLennan - Credit: Archant

Working alongside co-producer Samuel Smith, Mr McLennan is promising to create a film with state-of-the-art HD cameras with super slow-mo shots and underwater scenes all backed by an original score.

As part of his preparation for the film, Mr McLennan went for an icy swim last week.

“It was 4C – absolutely freezing – but the benefits are great,” he said.

“You feel a real sense of euphoria doing it – you can see why it becomes quite addictive.”

He added: “But it’s remarkably therapeutic. You get so close to wildlife by swimming in the middle of nature.”

Mr McLennan is funding the enterprise in part by appealing for donations, with more than £2,000 already raised on crowdfunding site Kickstarter.

But with the support of the Outdoor Swimming Society and many Heath lovers who wish to see their precious patch of green on the big screen, Mr McLennan said raising the cash has been “very exciting”.

He added: “No matter what, it’s a labour of love for me.”

Visit the Kickstarter site here and learn more about the film here