A year spent with the swimmers at London's unique swimming ponds
In a world of constant flux and chaos, it's almost a shock to discover some experiences remain natural, unhurried and unchanged. In the middle of metropolitan London lies Hampstead Heath, 320 hectares of forest, parkland, wildlife plus three swimming ponds. People swim in them all year round, whatever the weather, just as they did in the time of Keats and Constable, and our cameras filmed them over 12 months as they swam, laughed, sang, complained, ruminated, philosophised and simply sought respite from all that life threw at them.
The Ponds is a feature-length documentary which we aim to show in unique aquatic settings in the UK in 2019, as well as
in cinemas and at film festivals. See the SCREENINGS page
for the latest cinema listings.
What's so magical and addictive
about these waters?
According to one of our swimmers, Russians have an expression that captures the ponds' appeal. 'Zhivaya voda' literally means 'living water' – the idea that everyone who swims in a body of water contributes to its essence. For the daily swimmers the act of getting into the cold water of the ponds brings about a feeling of freedom from the stresses of life, a sense of connection with nature and other swimmers, and a euphoric sensation so powerful it should
be on the Classified Drugs Register.
The Highgate Men's Pond, the Kenwood Ladies' Pond and the Hampstead Mixed Pond are three bodies of water found on the perimeter of Hampstead Heath. The first two are segregated, as they have been for almost 100 years. The mixed pond opens from May to September and is an oasis for the fair weather swimmers who dive in when the temperature rises...
The Ponds will tell the story of all life at the trio of ponds as the heath cycles through all four seasons of a year.
What drives someone to swim in
cold water all year round? Get to
know the pond characters...
We've spent a year getting under the skin of a wide variety of people for whom the ponds are an essential part of their lives.
They all reference the buzz they get from their daily swims.
Without it, they'd be lost.
Among the characters you'll meet are: market research company owner David (pictured), who's lost 2stone since filming began and whose comical asides belie the more serious reasons he swims there; businesswoman Carrie, who had a double mastectomy just before filming began; US mining executive Tom, who first used the pond as therapy after he came out of a two-week coma; advertising man Oliver, who particularly enjoys moonlight swims; the group of women who call themselves the 'Kenwood Slappers'; the East German Ladies' Swimming Team, who are a loose group of men who meet for swims and madcap chat every Saturday and Sunday morning; and Chris, an old school tailor and ex boxer, who first swam at the ponds more than 60 years ago.