What did you do on Christmas Day morning? A nice fresh dip in the pond

Big take-up for a freshwater swim

Friday, 31st December 2021 — By Dan Carrier

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Mandy Gordon, Candace Moses and Sofia Olins enjoy their Christmas Day swim

FROM the serious swimmers executing perfect dives to gangs of friends throwing themselves in with festive themed hats and swim suits, Hampstead Heath’s annual Christmas Day swim saw bumper crowds enjoy a wake-you-up dip in the open spaces ponds.

It was not so much for the brave or foolhardy this year, as the waters reached an almost balmy six degrees.

Atticus Tyler, Lily Sinko and Melanie Coleman ready for a swim

Saul and Ventiko Peleg do not fear the water

Bring it on!, says Andy McLeod

Savannah, Aaron and Leanna George had a great time

Heath manager Paul Maskell said: “We have has over 1,000 people just at the Men’s Pond – and that is phenomenal. We have had to do things a bit differently, and we have kept the Ladies Pond open so more people can get to have a swim.

“And because the water is very warm and the weather mild for this time of year, it means more swimmers.

“The Heath staff have given up their Christmas morning, and covered for each other as we had four life guards isolating due to Covid. They have been amazing all year, and they are the bedrock and a key reason the ponds are just so special for so many people.”

Lifeguards Paul Jeal, Mick Annegarn and Dan Fawkes did an amazing job keeping everyone safe

Seyoum Solomon and Penny Draper ready for their swim

Splish, splash splosh…

As with last year, due to the pandemic, the usual all-comers races were once more cancelled, though the 125-year-old tradition of a race between members of the Highgate Lifebuoys swimming club took place once the pond was closed to the public.

Instead swimmers were allowed in in controlled numbers and on top of the Men’s Ponds merry dippers Heath staff made the decision to open the Ladies Pond too, helping ease the sheer numbers.

The Lido also had a new record attendance, with well over 600 people appearing at the Parliament Hill Fields swimming pool before 10 am to blow away Christmas Eve cobwebs and build up an appetite for a hefty lunch.

Friends Glyn, Emma and George get together for a dip

Pond regulars Holly Jones, Camilla Bruggen, Fran Laws and Sue Storey met up to wish each other good cheer and take a turn round the waters together.

Holly said: “We are known by our friends as The Dippers – and we wouldn’t miss our Christmas swim.”

The Knowles family jumped in en masse – with the youngsters following their parents leads.

Mother Elizabeth said: “We swim here all the time – but the children, not so much. They needed some gentle parental persuasion that this was a good idea.”

The George family have swum in the ponds before – but not during the winter months. Dad Aaron said: “I sometimes come in the summer, but not made the Christmas Day swim before. It’s a terrific way to get your day started.”

And for Daisy Terry and Tom Sanders, their post-breakfast trip to the Men’s Pond did not pan out quite as they had planned. They arrived as the gates were closing – leading to a secret sighs of relief.

Daisy said: “I’m not sure we really wanted to do this – we were egging each other on. In fact, getting here as the gates shut means we have had actually had a bit of a result.”

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