Warning as bathers ignore ‘no swimming’ signs at Model Boating Pond

The Model Boating Pond at Hampstead Heath. Picture: Harry Taylor

The Model Boating Pond at Hampstead Heath. Picture: Harry Taylor - Credit: Harry Taylor

Anglers on the Heath have warned that signs telling people not to swim in the Model Boating Pond are ineffective, as dozens plunged in over the weekend.

With temperatures reaching 36c, sunbathers on the edge of the pond on the Heath couldn’t resist dipping their toes in the water, before ignoring the 6ft tall orange signs completely and jumping in.

The Heath Constabulary, which patrols its 970 acres, asked them to get out - but as soon as they were walking back towards the men’s bathing pond, the splash of people leaping in could be heard.

The issue is a common one on the Heath in hot weather, and has worsened this year as the Lido and authorised bathing ponds have restricted numbers allowed to swim due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Groups including the Hampstead and Highgate Angling Society have warned that enthusiastic bathers face dangers including broken bottles, tins, discarded concrete, blue green algae and a 14-16ft drop at the south end of the pond.

According to one fisherman, a woman last summer was seriously injured after she fell into the Model Boating Pond late at night while on a date.

Charlie Padfield, who fishes on the Heath, said the signs were pointless.

“You might as well have a clown on here,” he joked. “It would be the same use of money. Someone else will get seriously hurt. I’ve seen all sorts. I’ve seen people diving in head first and banging their head. It’s dangerous.”

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The society’s chairman, Bob Gibbs, said: “Part of me can understand it, I was young once - but our window to fish is clearly limited. There are no reserved places for fishing, without people in the pond or behind you, on the Heath. We feel pushed in a corner, where we can’t ply our quiet craft.”

John Beyer, the Heath and Hampstead Society’s Heath committee chair agreed it has been worse this year, but said: “The constabulary are trying to walk a very tight line between being community-facing, and light handed, to ‘come on guys, out of the water, you know you’re not allowed to be in there’,” he said.

A City of London Corporation spokesperson said: “We strongly urge people against entering waters on Hampstead Heath which are not lifeguarded.

“Signage and notices are clearly displayed at those ponds where swimming is not permitted. We offer lifeguarded facilities with the ability to book sessions online should people wish to swim on the Heath.”

On Tuesday the corporation tweeted: “Yesterday, Hampstead Heath Lifeguards responded to a male in difficulties in the Hampstead No 2 Pond. The male had cramp in his leg and began to tire. There is clear signage at this pond not to swim. Please don’t put yourself or others in danger, understand the risks!”