Search

Hampstead Heath: Searching for spring in the chilly waters of Kenwood Ladies’ Pond

PUBLISHED: 12:00 08 April 2013

Dressed up for spring: Early morning swimmer Ruth Draper at Kenwood Ladies' Pond. Picture: Polly Hancock

Dressed up for spring: Early morning swimmer Ruth Draper at Kenwood Ladies' Pond. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

The water may still have been a chilly four degrees Celsius, but that did not deter the swimmers at Kenwood Ladies’ Pond from trying to usher in this year’s much-awaited springtime.

Lizzi Luminati dressed for spring at Kenwood Ladies' Pond.  Picture: Polly HancockLizzi Luminati dressed for spring at Kenwood Ladies' Pond. Picture: Polly Hancock

Decked in daffodils, festooned with fairy wings and daubed with body paint, the women turned up en masse to the pond on Hampstead Heath to celebrate the spring equinox – a date they hoped would mark the end of a long, cold winter.

The event saw about 20 women dance to a wind-up gramophone – which played music such as The Floral Dance – before throwing daffodils, asters and primulas into the water.

The women – many of whom swim at the one-time reservoir every day of the year – then braved the still-chilly temperatures to take the plunge.

The event on March 21 was organised by lifeguard Jane Smith and psychotherapists Lizzi Luminati and Ellen Wade, who recently staged a suffragette-themed swim in honour of International Women’s Day.

Ellen Wade and Lizzi Luminati at Kenwood Ladies' Pond. Picture: Polly HancockEllen Wade and Lizzi Luminati at Kenwood Ladies' Pond. Picture: Polly Hancock

Ms Smith, 57, of Upper Tollington Park, Finsbury Park, who sounded a horn to summon the spring, said: “If you work there as a lifeguard, you see all the seasons changing.

“One day it’s snowing and there is ice on the water. A few months down the line, there is brilliant sunshine, with a kingfisher flying over, fish swimming in the water and the scent of flowers.

“This year has been the longest, hardest winter since the 1980s.

“It’s just been grey. So we just wanted to celebrate this amazing change where – allegedly – spring comes in. We just wanted to wake spring up and say ‘where are you?’”

Swimmer Valerie Dunn, 72, of Weedington Road, Gospel Oak, added: “The pond was beautifully decorated with branches and ivy and flowers and there were a good many of us there.

“I have been swimming year-round at the pond for 12 years.

“I sometimes go across the Heath and the wind is blowing and the rain is coming down and I think ‘this is awful’.

“But after the swim, I am a different woman. It keeps me sane.”

* PHOTO GALLERY: For more pictures of the swim click the link at the top right hand side of the page


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Ham&High. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Hampstead Highgate Express