18. Swimming with ducks in Hampstead Heath.

We Londoners easily loose touch with nature (my interaction with nature is nowadays limited to the disease-ridden basil plant in my kitchen – or an occasional dog poo on foot incident). That’s why I have found taking a dip in mossy water amongst semi-naked Londoners and other equally obscure forms of wildlife so…restorative.

A century old tradition, bathing in the wooded Hampstead ponds was once a way to clean North London’s working class. Now the murky ponds are used for quite the opposite - to sully over-sanitised Hampstead yuppies who affirm the cardio-vascular benefits of the icy water.

Stereotyping aside, the ponds really do cater for all. The Highgate Men's Pond enjoys a sheltered and leafy spot where nudity is de rigeur and curiosity encouraged.

Here you will find everything from keen swimmers to chess players, weight lifters, readers and sunbathers. The Kenwood Ladies' Pond is well hidden by sweeping willow trees and has the purest water. The Hampstead Mixed Pond is brilliant fun in the summer. It does get crowded on very warm days and you can expect to be three on a towel; but once you have exhausted your diving board tricks, you have the rest of the rural oasis that is Hampstead Heath to explore. Bring a guitar, a volleyball, a BBQ and make a day of it.

TOP TIP Never look a duck in the eye.

Author: Claire Bradley

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