The Reader: Wild swimming is the way to boost our health

PA Archive/PA Images

Yesterday, I swam in a pond with a kingfisher under a morning moon. I was euphoric the whole day, buffered against the stress of urban life. As a psychologist, I hope people have been led to Hampstead Ponds by the recognition that wild swimming might improve their mental and physical health. For this reason, the ponds should be accessible to all.

The ponds are worthy of investment as a resource to improve London’s well-being: the upcoming review should focus on equal access, rather than contributing to already-rising health inequalities by pricing them out of the reach of many people.
Puffin O’Hanlon

We are surprisingly well served for swimming spots in London, and as we realise the benefits of a chilly paddle, lidos and lakes are becoming busier. Many were set up when the Thames became too polluted for swimmers. Outdoor swimming is enjoying a moment, so let’s think of more ways to open up the water.

The London Waterkeeper campaign is trying to put our river on a par with other European city waters, which are clean enough for a proper swimming culture to have taken hold. Cold-water swimming is highly addictive: the more places to do it, the happier Londoners will be.
Isabel Hardman

Editor's reply

A swimmer braving the cold in the Hampstead Ponds (AFP/Getty Images)

Dear Puffin and Isabel,

As you say, there is nothing like a dip in an exhilaratingly icy body of water to give your body and mind a reboot. At £2 entry, subsidised by the City of London Corporation, swimming in Hampstead’s Ponds is one of the cheapest thrills in the capital — but because paying is by “honesty box” many get away with going for free. I’m ashamed to say it but I rarely have £2 in change. A contactless card machine like buskers now use would be an easy way to fix this; ensuring lifeguards are properly paid and the pond maintained. As it is, the Heath is hard to reach by public transport and rudimentary changing rooms with only one warm shower deters many. Upping the price risks making it seem more exclusive, and is futile if no one will pay anyway.
Susannah Butter, Comment Editor

Exclusion figures can’t be compared

Your article on school exclusions [January 7] highlights the difficulties of comparing boroughs’ figures.

The number of “managed moves” in Tower Hamlets has remained broadly constant in the past four years, with a success rate of over 90 per cent of pupils remaining in their new school. Many boroughs have an informal system for “exchanging” pupils between schools, but often does not show up in their figure — our model ensures all moves are monitored. Without a national measure it’s not accurate to compare figures. Our approach may inflate the numbers but it’s the reason for our success.
Danny Hassell, Cabinet member for children and schools, Tower Hamlets

Peers must save child refugees law​

I wish I could share your optimism regarding the Government’s decision to revoke its obligation to reunite child refugees with their families [The Reader, January 14].

Syrian refugee boys walk together at a camp in Lebanon (REUTERS)

Three years ago, the Government convinced Lord Dubs and others to drop a requirement to welcome 3,000 unaccompanied children. No longer bound by law, it then capped the Dubs scheme at 480. Today the Government is trying to revoke the only binding protection left. I hope peers keep the legislation in place.
Beth Gardiner-Smith, CEO Safe Passage International

Tackle poverty to end knife crime

In medicine we learn about the “symptom iceberg”; the most visible symptom that a patient presents with is often just the tip of a much larger issue beneath the surface.

I am concerned that Rory Stewart’s primary solution [“Londoners deserve a safer city — and that starts with the Mayor”, January 13] to our city’s knife crime crisis is more policing — this surely is the tip of the iceberg.

Its unintended consequences may also include arresting and jailing more young people, who already feel that they have few opportunities or alternatives.

Having been a doctor in the accident and emergency department looking after people affected by knife crime, what has always struck me is the youth and fear of those involved. Poverty is not an ‘excuse’, it is the root cause. Tackling poverty is harder and needs real impetus, along with cross party co-operation.

I believe that Mr Stewart could be such a leader as to move those mountains, should he so choose.
Dr Rosie Soffair