Tucked away along a shady path towards the north-east edge of Hampstead Heath is a sign: Women Only. This is the Kenwood Ladies’ Bathing Pond.
Floating in the Pond’s silky waters, hidden by a canopy of trees, it’s easy to forget that you are in the middle of London. On a hot day, thousands of swimmers from eight to eighty-plus can be found waiting to take a dip before sunbathing in the adjoining meadow. As summer turns to autumn and then winter, the Pond is still visited by a large number of hardy regulars in high-vis hats, many of whom have been swimming here for decades.
Combining personal reminiscence with reflections on the history of the place over the years and through the changing seasons, At the Pond captures fourteen contemporary writers’ impressions of this unique place. A selection of contributors will be reading from their essays on the night.
‘If you’re a pond dipper / wild swimmer / have ever front-crawled alongside a family of fuzzy buttercup ducklings / peculiarly adored silt in your pores / swum in water so cold you can feel your blood wrapping your heart and lungs in an invisible thermal blanket… this beautiful collection of essays is for you.’ Dolly Alderton