King's Cross Bathing Pond: London's Coolest New Attraction

23 May 2015

I wasn’t quite sure which of the senses to engage first when I took the plunge earlier today at London’s hottest new attraction: the extraordinary open-air bathing pond at the northern end of the development surrounding King’s Cross.

Hottest is possibly not quite the right word. On a cloudy morning with rain beginning to fall, there was nothing too hot about the temperature of the water – an estimated 13 degrees Celsius – or the surrounding air. It was distinctly chilly.

On first impact I took a deep intake of breath, my heart started pounding more strongly and then I broke into a steady breaststroke and started swimming up and down. Once moving it wasn’t too bad.

And it got better. Acclimatised, I looked up. To the rear, there were reeds in the water and evidence of plant life; to the front, further afield, I could make out - even on a poor day - the distinctive shape of the BT Tower, some shiny new apartment blocks and a fleet of cranes swinging into action on what was clearly an ongoing building site.

 King's Cross' newest bathing pond

As a keen wild swimmer, I have ventured into a number of unlikely bathing spots, but this really was something completely different.

Of course the pond will attract swimmers, particularly the growing number who prefer to indulge their passion in the open air. But its appeal is far broader. Of Soil and Water: King’s Cross Pond Club - to give it is full title - was conceived as an art installation, one of several cultural projects included in a development of some 27 hectares of space around King’s Cross that incorporates residential, commercial, educational and retail sites.

And the idea is that those who use it will at one and the same time be able to engage with nature while contemplating one of the most ambitious programs of urban renewal in the capital.


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The nature is all too evident: plants at a sealed-off end of the pool form part of the process of chemical-free filtration using natural processes, while banks on the lower slopes nearby have been filled with variations of indigenous plant life.

The urban development, too, is all around you: within touching distance of the bathers are men in hard hats engaged in a full-on programme of building.

There is something thrilling about the juxtaposition; something to give pause for thought.

“By making this a venue for swimming we hope people coming here will experience the cycle of nature with their own bodies,” said Eva Pfannes of Ooze Architects, the designers of the pond. “We hope this will enable Londoners to strip away the layers and to be more contemplative about the city all around them.”

 The King’s Cross Pond Club and surrounding development

Once I had stopped shivering and enjoyed a reviving cup of coffee, I felt extremely contemplative.

I’d had a wonderful swim and seen London from an entirely new perspective. I also came out glowing thanks to the silky smooth, clear quality of the water.

If not the hottest, the new pond at King’s Cross is without doubt London’s coolest new attraction.


King’s Cross Pond Club will be opening to the public this summer. In order to ensure water quality, visitor numbers will be limited to 163 a day and there will be time limits on sessions.


Ten more capital spots for an outdoor dip

Charlton Lido, SE18

Reopened to the public in 2013 following a £2 million refurbishment, this 50-metre outdoor pool in south east London is a popular spot in all weathers as the water is heated.

Tooting Bec Lido, SW16

Measuring 90m x 30m, this South London treasure is the largest freshwater open-air swimming pool in the UK and has been a popular spot for bathers and leisure seekers since 1906.

Hampstead Heath Ponds, NW3

There are three ponds set aside for swimmers on the Heath – two (the Men’s and Ladies’ Ponds) are on the Highgate side, the other (Mixed Pond) is closer to Hampstead/Belsize Park. Beautiful settings and a quirky, dedicated troupe of regulars, including the ducks and swans, set these apart.

 Locals cooling off at Hampstead Heath Ponds

Brockwell Lido, SE24

This 1930s Art Deco classic was almost lost to London. In 1990 the swimming pool was closed but an outcry led to its reopening four years later.

Parliament Hill Lido, NW5

Built in 1938, it underwent an extensive refurbishment in 2005 and now boasts a swanky stainless steel liner which gives the water an extra shimmer.

Oasis Sports Centre, WC2H

A popular spot for those wanting to cool off before or after work in Holborn or in between shopping sprees in Covent Garden. The pool is well heated but rather small (only 27.5 metres long) so better for those wanting a quick splash rather than a serious swim.
London Fields Lido, E8

Perfect for those with little tolerance for chilly temperatures, London Fields Lido is London’s only 50-metre-long heated outdoor pool.

 Heat wafts from the London Fields Lido

Serpentine Lido, W2

As with the ponds in Hampstead, you share the unheated, unchlorinated waters of the Serpentine Lido with plenty of wildlife - and dedicated fans of wild swimming.

Pools on the Park Richmond, TW9

Built in the 1960s. A session here can be combined with a visit to the deer park at Richmond and a walk along one of the most attractive stretches of the Thames.

Hampton Pool, TW12

A classy establishment situated in two acres of woodland close to Bushy Park which offers a large space in which to swim (the pool is 36 metres long) and grassy areas on which to relax and soak up those rays.

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This article was written by Adrian Bridge from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Adrian Bridge

Adrian Bridge combines the role of travel production editor with commissioning, editing and, on a good week, travelling and writing. A former foreign correspondent, his specialist regions include Berlin, central and eastern Europe and the Far East.