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Ladies brace icy Hampstead Heath pond

PUBLISHED: 13:57 08 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:47 07 September 2010

Margaret Hepburn

Margaret Hepburn

BRAVE ladies took an icy plunge into the depths of Hampstead Heath s coolest waters to usher in the new year. Despite early fears that ice would stop the party from going ahead, more than 30 swimmers enjoyed themselves splashing into the Kenwood Ladies Po

BRAVE ladies took an icy plunge into the depths of Hampstead Heath's coolest waters to usher in the new year.

Despite early fears that ice would stop the party from going ahead, more than 30 swimmers enjoyed themselves splashing into the Kenwood Ladies Pond on New Year's Day.

One of the revellers was Margaret Dickinson, the treasurer of Kenwood Ladies Pond Association, who said the freezing temperatures did not put her off going for a dip.

"I'm one of the people who does it regularly so my body was used to it," she said. "We have this party every year. We enjoy it.

"People don't have to swim if they come - some turn up for the food and wine and the general atmosphere of it."

The first swimmers took to the pond at 11.30am and afterwards a gradual trickle of revellers kept the water topped up with ladies.

After recovering from their bracing dip, they enjoyed a festive party, nibbling mince pies and other seasonal treats.

In previous years there has been a fancy dress theme and one or two ladies continued the tradition by sporting outlandish hats.

The lifeguards brewed up some mulled wine to warm up the swimmers after their icy plunges, although one or two admitted to topping up on Dutch courage beforehand.

Before the party there had been concern about whether or not the swimmers would be able to breach the surface of the pond as it had been frozen prior to New Year's Day. But the lifeguards were out beforehand using a machine to churn up the water, oxygenating the depths and dispersing any unwanted algae.

"The machine also seems to have the effect that it delays the onset of ice and so thanks to the heroic efforts of the lifeguards we had a nice big area to swim in that was not iced over," said Ms Dickinson.

The party was particularly special for the participation of one or two venerable ladies including Wyn Cornwell, 95, the mother of former Stranglers singer Hugh Cornwell.

"Until very recently Wyn used to swim twice a day every day, cycling down to the pond by herself," said Ms Dickinson.

Now the KLPA is already thinking about next year and the possibility of recruiting another generation of outdoor swimmers.

While all women are welcome to take part, they especially want to encourage younger swimmers to join them for a dip next time around.


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