Wetsuit Swimming in the London Area and Safety Guidelines
London offers plenty of opportunities to swim in a wetsuit and doing so is certainly recommended if you have never used one before. The following list is by no means comprehensive; you can find a complete list of London Lidos (open air swimming pools) at www.lidos.org.uk but check first that they are happy for you to swim in a wetsuit.
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Serpies showing various degrees of bravado on a spring day at Serpentine Lido. Not even their swimming genie can keep them warm!
Serpentine does not currently organize any Club open water swim sessions. Instead our members tend to visit the lakes, lidos and reservoirs listed. Below are some suggested guidelines you should follow to ensure your safety when swimming in open water.
- All swimmers are advised to wear a wetsuit. Not only will this keep you warm but it will help you float.
- Wear a bright coloured hat so boats and other swimmers can see you. Try a bright coloured silicon hat (warmer and thicker than latex) and easy to see. Black, green, white, silver and blue hats will not be easy to spot in the water.
- Acclimatise to cold water gradually. Don't push your time in cold water if you're unused to it and always take warm clothes to put on afterwards (yes, even in summer - it's amazing how fast you get cold). You will feel colder when you get out.
- Always go in sober.
- Raise your arm for attention if you cannot make it back to land.
- Swim with a buddy if possible. Please also swim responsibly and know your limits.
- Swimmers should swim parallel to the bank / shore when possible.
- Try to ingest a minimum amount of water when swimming.
- Cover all cuts and abrasions, however minor, with sticking plasters. Do not swim if you have deep cuts.
- Wash hands in fresh water before eating after you have swum and take a full shower at the earliest opportunity.
- In the unlikely event that you develop any flu-like symptoms after swimming with an open cut/wound please tell your doctor that you have been swimming in open water.
Tooting Bec Road, SW161RU
Tel: 020 8871 7198
Open 24 May to 31 May - 6am to 6pm; 1 June to 31 August - 6am to 8pm; 1 to 30 September - 6am to 5pm
Year round swimming is possible 7am – 2pm by joining South London Swimming Club. Membership costs £25 + £100 annual lido pass (discounts for some members). Allows swimming October to May 7am to 2pm (dawn in Dec, Jan)
Serpentine lake, Hyde Park
Open June to Sept 10am to 6pm
Joining Serpentine Swimming Club allows you access to the Lido between 6.30am to 9.30 am year round for just £20 per year. The roped area of the Lido is 110m but the swimming club can swim down the lake to a buoy about 200m away. This is a friendly club with cross channel swimmers and folks just taking a morning dip come hell or high water. As with the Hampstead Ponds, please respect this, chat to your fellow club mates and avoid doing anything to create ill-feeling towards black neoprene outsiders. Afraid of what lies beneath? Richard Melik is a regular swimmer and has had no stomach problems but keep an eye on the website for information on algae etc and be sensible if immuno-suppressed.
A 50m outdoor heated pool. Maintained at 25°C it might be a bit warm in your wetsuit!
London Fields Westside, E8 3EU
Open all year round
Monday to Friday 6.30am - 8pm
Weekends 8am - 6pm
Cost is £4.75 for non-members
Another huge outdoor swimming pool. Opening times are more restricted than other lidos on this page because there is no swimming club based there.
Brockwell Park, Dulwich Road, SE24 0PA
Tel: 020 7274 3088
Open July – Sept
Monday to Friday 6.30am – 8pm
Weekends 8am – 6pm
Cost: morning swim £3.10, adult swim £5.90
Refurbished and reopened in June 2014 this lido is similar to London Fields in that it is a 50m outdoor heated pool.
Open Monday to Friday 7am to 7.30pm, weekends 9am to 5pm
An outdoor pool on the edge of Hampstead Heath and a stone's throw from the running track. Now re-opened with an impressive stainless steel lining to help retain heat.
Parliament Hill Fields, Gordon House Road, NW5 1NA
Tel: 020 7485 3873
Open May – Sept 7am to 9am, 10am – 6pm
Oct – Apr 7am to 12pm
Cost: morning swim £2, adult swim £5.50, summer season ticket £116
There are 3 spring water fed ponds with changing facilities, roped off swimming areas and diving boards but otherwise are exactly as you would expect a "pond" to be! They appeal to a dedicated community of local swimmers who recently won a battle to be allowed to swim year round. They are also a thriving gay hangout on hot summer days. They offer real open water swimming, swans and all, but at busy times the life guards may object to wet-suited free-stylers. I have never had any problem explaining that I only want to do a few lengths at the outer edge of the pond. Five of you doing drafting drills may destroy this goodwill.
Located on the west side of Hampstead heath in various locations.
Mens/ladies ponds open year round, mixed pond summer months only. Open dawn to dusk. Cost £2 (Parliament Hill Lido season ticket can also cover the ponds).
This is one of a several water-ski lakes surrounding London that has opened its doors to swimmers and even has marked courses for those intent on logging the miles. One definite minus is the restricted opening times for swimming which you will find on the website. However, rolling up early on a Saturday you'll see loads of swimmers to encourage you that it was worth the early start. When you leave the water there are bacon rolls, coffee and showers to freshen you up for the rest of the day. One good feature for lone swimmers is that you are checked in and out of the water. Unlike the lidos, these lakes are proper open water swimming, offering the chance to practice sighting and rounding buoys etc. The cost of a swim is £5.
Datchet is outside Windsor just off the M4 at junction 5. Follow signs to Datchet from the motorway and on arrival take the first left and then left again at the T junction. Liquid Leisure is 500m on the right. (SL13 9LY is the postcode to type into your favourite mapping website). Datchet (1km) and Eton (5km) both have railway stations. Liquid Leisure is open Monday and Thursday evenings and Saturday and Sunday mornings.
A lake just West of London is Heron Lake. The lake is run as a charity and donations made support the lake to stay open. Wetsuit hire is available. For regular swimmers, Heron offers voucher books making the price for regular swimmers lower than an indoor pool. The price for one swim is £5.
Heron Lake is situated just outside the M25 junction 13, at the end of the Staines bypass. The nearest rail station are Egham (1.5 miles), Staines (2 miles). The postcode is TW19 6HW. Heron Lake is open Monday and Wednesday evenings and Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday mornings.
A unique water sports facility that offers open water swimming in the centre of London in the Borough of Hackney. The centre regular holds open water coaching & training sessions and is very easy to access from Manor House tube. It has fantastic changing rooms / showers and the reservoir water is really clean. One loop is approximately 750m, so the equivalent of 15 lengths of an Olympic pool, and another loop is 400m. Wetsuits are mandatory. Regular open water swimming sessions will run every Thursday evenings and Saturday and Sunday mornings from April to October. Note you must attend an induction before being able to just turn up and swim. Contact the centre for details of times and dates of induction.
Stoke Newington West Reservoir Centre is on Green Lanes, London N4 2HA. The nearest tube station is Manor House (Piccadilly Line).
A swimming and boating lake in East Sussex. There is public access during some afternoons during the week and triathlon training Tuesday and Saturday mornings. During the programmed sessions there is a safety boat and first aid cover, with shore spotters. The swimming area is between the two pontoons (238m) or around the marked course of 750m. Changing facilities with showers are available during set training times. Triathlon swimming costs £6.00 each (2012).
Address: Weir Wood Reservoir, Forest Row, RH18 5HT
Turn off the A22 at Forest Row on the mini roundabout between the church and the The Swan Mountain Range restaurant, 800m turn right opposite Michael Hall School. Follow the access road into the grounds, turn left into the car park. From the Turners Hill direction A2028 south turn left into the Selsfield Road, through West Hoathley, Sharpthorne, across the forest and into the edge of Forest Row, turn left just before Michael Hall school. follow as above.
A nice swimming and fishing lake in Harlow. It's a good 20 min walk from Harlow train station so driving is advised. One lap is 750m. There are also regular open water swim races, aquathlons and triathlons run from the lake. The post swim bacon sandwiches are excellent. There are also changing facilities with hot showers. The lake is open Tuesday and Thursday 6.30 to 7.30pm and Saturday 8 to 10am. There are also coached swim sessions there from 7 to 8pm Wednesday and 8.30 to 9.30am on Saturday. Cost is £6. The website hasn't been updated for while but the lake continues to be open and popular with swimmers.
Address: Redricks Lake, Redricks Lane, Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, CM21 0RL
A popular lake amongst Serpies. There is a shorter 400m lap and a longer 750m lap. Safety canoes are provided. The lake also runs regular swim races and aquathlons. There are also changing facilities with hot showers. There are also secure bike rack if you fancy a post swim ride brick session or you can run around the lake on the grass for a post swim run brick session. The lake is open 5.30 to 8.30pm Monday and Wednesday, 6 to 9am Wednesday, 6.30 to 11am Saturday and 7 to 11am Sunday. The later opening times may suit some swimmers. Cost is £5.
Address: Ferry Lane, Shepperton, Middlesex TW17 9LH
Thorpe lake is located in Surrey between Staines and Chertsey. There is parking available along with hot showers and post swim refreshments. There are 3 different loops 400m, 750m and a longer 1500m lap. The lake is open 5.30 to 8pm, 6.30 to 10.30am Saturday and 6.30 to 9.30am Sunday. Cost is £5 once you are a member which is a one off cost of £6.50 otherwise it's £10.
Address:Thorpe Road, Chertsey, Surrey. KT16 8PH
A recent addition to open water swimming opportunities in London. The nearest DLR stations are Royal Victoria or West Silvertown. There are 3 different loops 400m, 750m and a longer 1500m lap guided by a Rescue boat and Kayaks at all times. The dock is open for swimming Sunday 7 - 10am, Wednesday 4 - 8pm, Thursday 6 - 9.30am and Friday 4 - 8pm. Sessions cost £8 and you must purchase a NOWCA band for £10 before your first swim. The band also gives you access to Thorpe Lake. Discounts available to all Serpies on production of valid membership card.
Address: London Royal Docks Open Water Swimming, King George V Lock Pierhead, Woolwich Manor Way. London E16 2NJ