Wild swimmers accuse Hampstead Heath of coronavirus cash grab after 100pc price rise

Helena Horton
Angry swimmers have hit out at the continued closure of the famous ponds - David Rose

Wild swimmers have accused Hampstead Heath of a coronavirus cash grab after they hiked the price of a swimming ticket by 100 per cent in their plans to reopen.

The Kenwood Ladies Pond Association, which represents the swimmers of the famous women-only pond in the park, has asked its members to speak up against the proposed compulsory fees.

Currently, visitors are asked to pay £2 to swim, but this is not enforced, so many swim for free.

 New plans for reopening include pre-booking tickets in advance to reduce numbers in the water, and also enforcing a payment of £4.

The price for concessions will rise 140%, from £1.00 to £2.40.

The Kenwood Ladies Pond Association asked the Heath to reconsider, and said in a statement: "We believe that 100 per cent and 140 per cent increases in charges will be unaffordable for many of our members.

"The KLPA membership includes women from a wide range of economic circumstances, as well as women with health and disability needs and faith-based requirements. For many of us the Pond is a lifeline.  We are campaigning for all of you with the aim of achieving the best possible result."

One swimmer, Isobel McCarroll, said in a tweet to the Heath managers: "Very disappointing that you appear to have taken advantage of Covid to both increase the cost of swimming by 100 per cent and change the pricing structure making this facility inaccessible for many swimmers who have nurtured this space for many years!"

Another, Georgia Reeves, wrote: "Wow. It's one thing to adapt to change. It's quite another to destroy the unique and special character of the ponds. Literally an oasis of peace and calm for many. Now the privileged few. Emulating our current political climate of one rule for plebs, and one for the rich."

The City of London Corporation, which manages the ponds, said that it had always planned to raise swimming prices and enforce payment this year.

In May, the ponds were the site of protests by angry wild swimmers who wanted to get back in the water.

At a safe social distance, they held up a banner that declared, 'Stop drowning in bureaucracy. Reopen the ponds now!' in protest at City of London Corporation’s refusal to allow them in to swim.