Finding a new swimming home

First off, a quick apology to the blog for having neglected it for so long! So many things have popped up – we’re turning a back wasteland into a proper garden, I’ve started a new job after eight years of working at the same place, there has been honey to harvest from our bees, and I took up running (and then subsequently got an ankle injury).

But where I’ve idled away the most time, when I could have been writing, is at this beautiful spot above – the Great Ouse river in Olney, Buckinghamshire. It’s different from my former swim spot, the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond in Hampstead, London. Kenwood has its own character, through a sense of bohemian ideas, and a strong identity through the women who swim there. It’s unashamedly London – alternative, feisty and bold. When I moved away from London in May 2016, I didn’t know what I’d do without it. Luckily, a tip from the Open Water Swimming Society  pointed me to a bend in the river, behind a rugby club, 10 miles up the road from my new home.

Olney is striking in one particular way, which is the diversity of people who go to swim there. Next to the ‘swimming is not recommended’ sign (hey, that means it’s legal, right?) and specially carved out steps leading to the water’s edge, are groups of teenagers daring each other to jump into the deep drop near the riverbank, small children paddling on the bottom step where the water just about reaches, families in blow-up boats with swimming dogs in tow, elderly couples reading on the benches under the willow trees… In short, everyone is here. It’s a spot that belongs to the whole village and is intertwined with their everyday lives. Until I found it, I didn’t know that still existed, and it makes me so happy.

The water here is great to swim in, clean and full of little fish. You get in at the steps, and swim up a narrow section through a gentle current. On turning the corner, the river widens out, with banks gently sloping up one side, and a huge sky of swifts gliding a across a huge open expanse to the other. If you’re lucky, you might see the kingfisher hiding amongst the tree cover.

So I’m sure you can understand my neglect of the blog, but as the nights start to draw in, hopefully we can start spending some more time together again. Although…winter swimming has its appeal too… 

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Kenwood Ladies’ Pond: a love letter

I have been fortunate to swim in some wonderful places, but nowhere compares to the chilly, slightly muddy patch of water found on Hampstead Heath, known as Kenwood Ladies’ Pond. It’s the place where the inner drone of everyday worries and grumbles magically disappear and where you emerge shivering, full of happiness, back into a world that always seems a bit more wonderful than it did before.

Kenwood Ladies’ Pond is 89 years old, being opened to the public in 1926. Until then, women had only limited access to the other swimming ponds of the Heath, which were open to male swimmers only for most of the week.

A number of people ask “why do you need a pond for women only?”, and I suppose my answer would be that for many women, perhaps it isn’t considered strictly necessary. But it is a place where we dress and undress together, laugh, share ideas, debate, dance, celebrate the seasons, bring food to share, pin articles, swap books…and sometimes even swim! Continue reading “Kenwood Ladies’ Pond: a love letter”

Slovenia: Green, blue and green. Part 1 – swimming

Paradise, also known as Lake Bled, Slovenia
Paradise, also known as Lake Bled, Slovenia

Hello! It’s been rather a long time since I last wrote a post here. Happily, there’s a good reason for that and it’s because we’ve been away on holidays, living it up in the green and beautiful Slovenia. I must admit to knowing very little about the country before we went, but I left besotted with its gorgeous green landscapes and equally gorgeous green attitude.

A place so lovely deserves more than one post, so I’m going to break it down into two, covering my two favourite things, open water swimming and sustainability/eco-stuff.

Now I love a good swim outdoors, and can be found Continue reading “Slovenia: Green, blue and green. Part 1 – swimming”

Why not have a swim in a building site?

Kingscross1

Yesterday, N and I went to try out ‘Of Soil and Water’, an art installation/swimming pond sitting in the middle of the giant mass of building work happening around King’s Cross station.

I must admit to being a little sceptical about how nice swimming in a building site could be, but it was surprisingly pretty! The edges up to the pool have been turned into little grassy slopes, ideal for lazing about and warming up, and watching people walk past look slightly surprised at the emergence of people in bathing suits. They’ve also planted up some wild flowers and decked it all out in a rather cute red and white striped theme. The striking difference between the pond area and the surrounding blocks of flats and piles of concrete means that the overall effect is less ‘pond made in a building site’ and more ‘pond unexpectedly teleported into a building site’.

But what about the swim itself? Continue reading “Why not have a swim in a building site?”