Swimming in Hampstead ponds

Can you help. I am a year round swimmer at Hampstead ponds in London. I had two strokes two years ago caused by Covid. The Stroke Association has been hugely supportive of me as I recover. Bear with me on this post.

For over a decade I have been swimming year-round at Hampstead Ponds, where the water can get very cold. There are lifeguards, who are attentive and aware of health risks.

The City of London, which is in charge of Hampstead Heath, is trying to make them more open to people with disabilities. They have asked me to liaise with their senior swimming supervisor and give him any advice that may help accessibility.

Do you have any thoughts that I could relay to the pond authorities if they wanted to improve access for people with disabilities - especially hidden disabilities? Cold water swimming may be a niche sport. But it has proven health benefits: The Benefits of Cold Water Swimming | Sea Swimming Benefits – Swim Secure and Could cold water hold a clue to a dementia cure? - BBC News .

Thanks so much


@Manxman, good idea and well done for championing open access for disablement. I would imagine a designated swimming area for those of us with disability would be a starting point, somewhere where the water entry and level are suitably chosen for swimming or paddling. I’m a very good swimmer, having grown up in a nation of swimmers and beaches, but since the stroke, the movement of water plays havoc with my visual-spatial awareness. I am getting better with it, having recently returned to being able to enjoy a bath. It depends on how much non-evasive infrastructure can be applied. I imagine grip poles in the water would help.

Thanks so much - and this feedback will go to the City of London. Huge thanks again!

Good luck with the swimming. I got back into the water for the first time since my Stroke on Friday but I only swam for seconds - far too cold here on the West Coast of Scotland for any longer. Rails and a safe entry point sound a very good idea

Thanks so much. I enjoy the cold - and the medics say it probably kept me alive (the cold conditioning) after my strokes. But you need to acclimatise slowly (over months if not years) and (obviously) try not to swim alone! Swimming in Scotland sounds like my dream!

where I swam with my daughter and her friend. It looks tropical but I can tell you it wasn’t


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Good morning,
Purely from personal experience as a (now) one armed swimmer, I need easy access (sloping) to the pool, and an even surface to walk on. I’m afraid I couldn’t envisage swimming in cold water, as any cold stiffens my muscles, but I love swimming and strongly believe it is good for the mental health.

Thank yu so much - this is really useful!

Hi Alan - and my sympathies. I do hope you get back to surfins. As well as swimming, my passion was diving (scuba) and I’ve had to give that up. As to your question, well, I was very lucky to be at UCLH with some excellent medics. I had Covid in March 2020. I have no memory of about three weeks. In that time, I’d been on C-=pap - a form of ventilation - but the doctrs seemed to think I was recovering,But I then had a stroke - originally thought to be a TIA - and then, despite very high doses of anticoagulants, another stroke. I’ll attach here the papers on the case - but the medics were in no doubt that the two - the Covid and the strokes - were linked. Maybe show your medics these: Opinion: Coronavirus may be increasing risk of stroke | UCL News - UCL – University College London , Characteristics and Outcomes in Patients With COVID-19 and Acute Ischemic Stroke | Stroke , and Stroke and COVID-19: impact on outcomes, care and lived experience - Dr Arvind Chandratheva - YouTube . Nw I am not an expert, but it does sound as if your stroke - being so close to the Covid - was indeed linked to the Cvid, If it was, your doctors should be looking out for a host of other things… Your doctors could get in touch with my doctor, Dr Arvind Chandratheva of UCLH (Dr Arvind Chandratheva : University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) who I am sure would discuss his research with them. Let me know hos you get on…


I am so sorry, but I hope that hope can still spring eternal. I have - I hope you don’t mind - asked my specialist physio team if they can do anything for you. They run classes online and these have been absolutely invaluable for me - and they have also created a support group that meets electroicallly every week. Do not give up - and I will see what I can do. You (admirably and rightly) are controlling your anger, buut allow me to have it for youo… I shall see what else I can do. Hang in there and courage (much better said with a French accent!)

((One tiny thing. Not sure why I came up in the system as John - it’s a lovely name, but I’m actually Paul :grin:)

All the best, and don’t let the b***tards get you down! Anything I can do, I’m here…

Hi is open water I good thing to aid stroke recovery?

Hi and thanks. I am utterly convinced it is, and I believe (and the doctors think there is some merit to what I believe) that it was my regular open water swimming that saved my life. HOWEVER - AND I DO MEAN THIS SERIOUSLY - open water swimming does put strains on the body if you are unprepared, and I would discuss this with your doctor first (and insist they check it out if they dismiss it ouot of hand). If you do start, start swimming in the summer, make sure you are swimming with others, ideally at a place with lifeguards, and remain as close as possible to somewhere you can get out. Also, do not push it! Start slow and ease into it. And do not feel you have to go through a full winter - swim only as long as you are comfortable. I have been swimming for over a decade, which is why the doctors were so relaxed with me. But even I, when returning to swim, took it extremely easy, with lifeguards able to pull me out at the slightest issue. Now I am back to full swimming length, but the lifeguards know my health history and keep a special eye out. I know this is a long response, but I wanted to make sure that you don’t endanger your health by just leaping in!

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Don’t worry. There are may other ways of recovery , both in body and mind. Throwing yourself into cold water is probably a sign of madness! But the one thing above all it has done for me is to create a group of friends who, while sympathetic about my strokes, do not treat me as an invalid but as a friend, at times wayward and forgetful, but above all a friend. And I have benefited from their friendshi;p. The lesson there is, therefore, forget about the cold water swimming and find people who ake you feel good. Your family can’t do it all. So whether it be reading, gardening, collecting bottle tops, or raving about a little heard of indie band - find people who share your interest, and ejnoy the sense of belonging it brings. Good luck!