Hey sisters! If you, like me, have spent most of your life searching for the feminist separatist enclave of your dreams, guess what?


Today was a gloriously sunny day, so Ted and I went for breakfast at Rosie’s. (Which is not the enclave, but probably could be considered a worthy second best.)

We had smashed avocado, feta, sumac and pickles on ciabatta, and it was oh.so.delicious.

Smashed avocado at Rosie's Deli

Smashed avocado at Rosie’s Deli

Then Ted realised he was also drinking a flat white, wearing a craft ale t-shirt and sporting a beard, and promptly had a hipster identity crisis. (I reassured him that he was much too old to be a hipster, which thankfully made him feel MUCH better.)

He set off to the library and I headed to Hampstead Heath in search of … the Ladies’ Bathing Pond.

It’s marked by this rather stern sign:

"No men! Off to the bogs with you!"

“No men! Off to the bogs with you!”

And is officially known as the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond.

There are spacious, clean wooden changing areas with changing rooms, showers etc. – it’s very well set up. The lifeguards are vigilant (the water is cold, deep and cloudy) and equipped with canoes. No men or boys allowed, no under-8s either, and girls aged 8-15 need to pass a swimming test – I saw one child failed hers and they removed her from the pond and encouraged her to the nearby lido, which is shallower and safer.

They’re very strict about no photos there, so I have no pics. But if you can imagine a large, deep, green pond with a smart wooden deck and changing huts, surrounded by trees, then you can understand why I felt a little like Rusalka as I slipped into the water.

There seemed to be three main groups of patrons:

  1. Tough-as-boots regulars
    Triathlon-lean ladies of a certain age, mildly amused by everyone else squeaking at the cold water as we got in. I expect these formidable women swim 365 days a year. Even more vigilant than the lifeguards at enforcing The Rules, and also Swimming Etiquette. (I aspire to be one of these ladies.)
  2. Terribly nice North London mothers
    In groups, accompanied by slightly sulky daughters. They all looked as if they’d packed off their husbands and sons to some kind of sporting activity, and were delighted at having done so. Generally found in the sunbathing area rather than in the water.
  3. Tourists
    A bit loud and squawky. Weren’t paying attention to The Rules, so were getting quite a lot of attention from the lifeguards.

At just under 21 degrees even on a hot August day, it’s deliciously cool. I swam a couple of laps of the pond, accompanied by ducks, a moorhen and some rather impressive dragonflies. Bliss.

Swims cost £2 – probably the best £2 I’ve spent all summer.

And if something catches your foot as you’re swimming, don’t panic – it’s a waterlily stalk.