The sun was shining brightly on New Year’s Day when I ventured down to the Lido near Parliament Hill to meet a friend for a walk.
‘Parliament Hill Fields Lido was opened on 20 August 1938. At a cost of £34,000, it was the most ambitious and expensive of the thirteen lidos built on parkland sites by the London County Council between the wars. The LCC leader Herbert Morrison vowed in 1937 to make London ‘a city of lidos’. The aims were to provide open-air recreation for all – to bring the seaside to the city.’
Thank you to the history section of delightful Lido site which then goes on to tell you that ‘as was traditional at several other London swimming facilities, people were allowed to swim free early every morning through the year, originally in segregated sessions.’
There are also lovely interviews with early users such as Tom who was 15 when the Lido opened in 1938:
‘I would go over there on my bike after work. One of the novelties then was that you could leave your bike outside and when you came out it was still there. I’d be there until the Lido closed at 8pm.
The supreme attraction of the Lido lay in the possibility of open-air mixed bathing. Before that us young boys had to swim in the ponds and the girls including my sisters had to go to the Ladies open air swimming pond …There was no mixed bathing – You could go to the Hampstead pond but it was right over the other side. So when the Lido was built it was luxury from day one.’
This section of the site then follows the Lido through to its Grade II listing in 1999 as ‘the best representative of an urban lido’ and then its final refurbishment in 2004-5.
Today the Lido remains popular year round – a popularity only enhanced by the excellent café serving the usual café type stuff inside (well at the doorway right now) and delicious falafel salads outside.
Further round from the Lido, past the running track, there was some energetic boxing training going on. Not entirely sure that it is possible to achieve social distancing while boxing – but they were outside.
We then walked back up past Highgate Pond no 1 where, much to my surprise, I saw a swan family – but not a family with two cygnets but with no less than six cygnets! So have all the original six cygnets remained on the heath but just hidden themselves from view for much of the winter – or are these new arrivals from elsewhere?
Anyhow, two adult swans, six late teenage swans and a great number of very greedy gulls were gathered round two boys with a large bag of bread bits.