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There was a charge for swimming when I started there in 2014

30 July, 2020

• WHILE having great sympathy for the person who wrote last week about the need to swim in Hampstead Heath Ponds as benefiting their mental health, there have been many other voices on the Letters pages demanding no-charge swimming.

I find it curious that so much is expected for free. I didn’t dare swim in the ponds until I was told that there were lifeguards on duty and the water was regularly tested.

I started swimming there in the summer of 2014; even then there was a charge of £2 (or £1 concession); and a season ticket was available. Why are so many people asserting it always was, and should remain, free?

There are costs, not insignificant, to be paid; and even when the pond is rammed, that could hardly cover the wages of lifeguards, who are there all the hours the ponds are open, let alone the maintenance and testing.

At the moment the booking system resulting from the coronavirus pandemic militates against season tickets (as well as the casual occasional swim). I completely understand that that makes it really difficult for those who like to swim daily.

Once we’re through Covid-19, a reasonable annual or seasonal season ticket will presumably be reinstated.

Those who need pond swimming for reasons of health perhaps could have it be prescribed by medical practitioners (and therefore free).

And it could be for a variety of reasons, not necessarily mental health, which wouldn’t need to be declared to the Heath personnel and therefore not be intrusive. But come on, folks, very little in life is free.



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