London can be a surprising city, from its historic architecture to its unexpected green spaces and rivers. What might come as an even bigger surprise to visitors is the amount of clean, safe open water swimming available within the city.
Of course, safety must remain paramount when it comes to open water swimming - so always check regulations with lifeguards ahead of time and follow our safety advice whenever possible.
West Reservoir Centre
Location: Hackney, north-east London
Swim course length: 25m, 100m, 200m & 400m (depending on weather conditions)
Requirements: Red, orange, or pink swimming cap & a wetsuit or a tow float/bag
The West Reservoir Centre in North East London is the perfect spot for water sports lovers. With over 23 acres of crystal clear water, it's the perfect location for swimming and other popular activities like sailing and kayaking. Those who come here can find changing room facilities and toilets, all conveniently located with respect to their activity - no need to worry about anything but having fun.
Hampstead Heath Ponds
Location: Hampstead Heath, north London
Hampstead Heath Ponds is open for the perfect family bonding activity or a peaceful solo excursion from February to September. With three open water swimming ponds, Kenwood Ladies Pond, Highgate Mens Pond, and Hampstead Mixed Pond, everyone in the family can have their own space to enjoy swimming with all the amenities of showers and changing facilities available. All of this under the added security of knowing that lifeguards are always on duty to keep an eye out.
Beckenham Park Place Lake
Location: Beckenham, south-east London
Swim course length: 350m-450m
Requirements: Tow float/bag
Beckenham Park Place Lake is an amazing natural landmark located just outside of London. With a breathtaking 96 hectares of beautiful nature, spectacular 285 meters in length and 3.5 meters in depth, this purpose built wild swimming lake offers a great opportunity for convenient outdoor activities. Not only can you enjoy a relaxing stroll through the ancient woodland that surrounds it, but also take a refreshing dip in the lake on a hot summer day.
Location: Newham, east London
Swim course length: 150m-750m
Requirements: NOWCA wristband, brightly coloured hat, & a tow float/bag
Swimming in the warm, summer sun at the Royal Docks is an amazing experience open to everyone. With professional lifeguards on hand and clean, clear waters to swim in, swimmers of all level can take a dip right next to the Thames right in the center of London. The generous swimming area covers 150-170m, making it ideal for those who want to stick to shorter distances or don't mind doing laps.
Location: Near Isle of Dogs, east London
Swim course length: 600m
Requirements: NOWCA wristband
Taking a little trip upstream along the Thames leads to another open water swimming spot in central London. This venue is situated near Canary Wharf and offers a larger 600m swim area, providing more space for swimmers to enjoy bigger circuits or longer laps.
Location: Hyde Park, Central London
Requirements: Bright coloured swim cap
Hyde Park's Serpentine includes a dedicated open water swim area (where ducks may share the water). Ordinarily, membership with the Serpentine Swimming Club is necessary (although presently not accepting new members). Yet, during June to September, the general public can enjoy a swim at the Serpentine.
Merchant Taylors Lake
Location: Moor Park, Hertfordshire
Swim course length: 150m, 300m, 500m, 750m, & 1000m
Requirements: Bright coloured swim cap
Located at the Merchant Taylors School, Merchant Taylors Lake is a freshwater lake available to the public during the summer peak season. Wild swimmers can select from five swim circuit distances that range from 150m to 1km. Enjoy a soothing dip in the tranquil blue waters at this location.
Location: Ricksmansworth, Hertfordshire
On the north-western outskirts of London, the River Colne offers a calm river swim with an oasis of tranquility and nature. Follow the path between Bury Lake and Stocker’s Lake until you reach the River Colne, which is shallow but fast-flowing at this point. Although this river provides beautiful scenery, we recommend only experienced open water swimmers take part in this swim as currents get increasingly deeper downstream.