I’ve always been vaguely aware that you can swim in the Serpentine in Hyde Park, but never investigated further. I was in Hyde Park on a hot day recently and caught glimpses of people swimming in the Serpentine through the ivy screening at the edge of the lake. It looked so inviting that I decided that we had to come back as a family.
My solo swim in the lake was every bit as wonderful as I had hoped. The water was cool and dark, with shoals of minnows and water weeds under the surface and waterboatmen skating on top. It was surprisingly peaceful, with only the muted sound of children enjoying the paddling pool up the hill, and a band performing at the other end of the park occasionally breaking the silence. That and the odd duck quacking as it swam past.
The children had a ball both in the paddling pool and the lake itself, squealing at the sliminess of the pond weed and hunting for aquatic creatures.
London has around 16 Lidos, mostly open during the summer months. The Hyde Park Lido is swum in year round by members of the Serpentine Swimming Club, including their legendary Christmas Day race, in water usually below 4°C. The facility is open to the public from May to September, and for the princely sum of £9 for a family of six, you have access to a children’s paddling pool with fountains, playground and sandpit, lovely fenced gardens, clean changing rooms, cafe, outdoor shower, lifeguards and a 100m long fenced off swimming area on the south side of the lake. And where else in the world can you swim in a Queen’s garden pond?