Young Londoners enjoy free swimming at Hampstead Heath

Over 100 youngsters have enjoyed outdoor swimming at Hampstead Heath at little or no cost this summer.

The City of London Corporation, which manages the Heath, gave free or discounted swimming to local play schemes, youth projects and schools during July and August at Parliament Hill Fields Lido, to give children a chance to exercise during the hot summer months. The free sessions are still being offered.

This included 25 children aged under 12 from Talacre Playcentre, in Kentish Town, who visited during the family sessions, free of charge.

The Dost Centre for Young Refugees and Migrants, based in East London, also took advantage of the offer. They took 24 young people to the Lido twice this summer, assisted by carers. The Dost Centre works with young, unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, aged 13-19 years – many of whom are learning to swim and are afraid of water due to past trauma, says the charity.

Anne Fairweather, Chair of the City of London Corporation’s Hampstead Heath Management Committee, said: “Outdoor swimming has so many benefits to our physical and mental Health, and we are delighted to support young Londoners in this way.

“We are proud that the Heath’s swimming facilities are accessible to people of all backgrounds.

“By giving young people a chance to take part in a fulfilling, fun -and sometimes new – activity like this, we hope to enrich and inspire, helping them to build confidence and develop new skills.”

With new temporary measures in place at Hampstead Heath’s swimming facilities, the City Corporation is continuing to offer swimming sessions at the Lido each day, catering for 120 people per swim, which must be booked online or on the phone.

The winter swimming proposals, which have recently been announced, will see some changes to the current measures, including the removal of the online booking system and reintroduction of season tickets. More information can be found here.

As part of the plans, a free morning swim for under 16s and over 60s between 07.00-09.30 will be introduced at the Bathing Ponds. The City Corporation is also speaking with swimmers about a range of options for a comprehensive support scheme for people who cannot afford to pay to swim – as agreed in the March Hampstead Heath Management Committee. Following these consultations, a number of proposals will be presented to the Committee on September 9 for decision.

In order to comply with the Government’s guidance and the NHS Test and Trace arrangements it is still necessary for all swimmers to book-in-advance. In addition to the online booking system, a telephone booking service was introduced to help swimmers who do not have internet access or require help with booking a swim. The booking system is to help safely manage numbers and give as many people as possible an opportunity to swim whilst respecting social distancing.

Sessions at the ponds and the Lido must be pre-booked on the Hampstead Heath website.

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