An Autumn Dip


Hampstead ladies pond jetty

Kirsty Atkinson documents her weekly moment of north London in-water escapism. 

We meet every Friday, four friends from different parts of London. It’s starts with a walk down a wooded lane, chatting giddily about our weeks and the weekend ahead. We arrive at the pond and check the board, twelve degrees. It’s dropped two degrees since last week. The chat continues into the changing room, ‘What are you wearing? A cossie? Shorty wetsuit? Socks? Gloves?’ We all opt for a cossie, in solidarity with the many other women who come here every week to enjoy a cold, restorative dip. 

We’re ready. We cross the jetty to the steps in silence. This is the worst part, the first few seconds. We’re in, the cold water overwhelms every inch of your body with an icy smack. We swim a few strokes, vowing this is the last of the season. Then it happens. All of a sudden the beautiful pricking of a thousand tiny warm needles that make you feel alive. The chat resumes and we all agree it’s not the last swim of the season.

The low autumn sun shines through the clouds as we swim through fallen leaves. The resident heron treats us to a slow fly by. We swim two laps admiring the changing season at water level. Back on dry land flasks of hot drinks and homemade cakes are shared, we feel bonded and happy. The first few icy seconds are a distant memory and taken over by the after glow of the swim. We part agreeing to meet next week. 

Woman viewing treelined pond

Temperature board at Hampstead ladies pond

Hampstead ladies pond



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