10 August 2015

A Cool Swim in the King's Cross Pond

King's Cross is, as I often mention, an area in a constant state of flux. When it was announced last year that they were going to create an outdoor swimming pond among the building sites, most people at my office — a mere hop, skip and a jump along York Way — thought it was scarcely more likely to materialise than the Regent's Canal 'LidoLine'.

However, the doubters were proven wrong and the King's Cross Pond Club opened up in May. I've been meaning to visit, but a) I've been pretty busy and b) I've been waiting for the weather to warm up. Despite years of enforced Christmas Day swims in the Mediterranean, I am a total wuss when it comes to cold water. I checked the weather forecast for last week, though, and Friday was set to be sunny and warm for the whole day, so I booked in for a post-work slot, figuring I would give the pond the maximum chance to warm up.

The pond is located on Stable Street, about five or ten minutes' walk north of King's Cross Station (walk up King's Boulevard, cross the road and the canal, and then cut across Granary Square). There's a grassy picnic area just outside — or you can pop into the adjacent Skip Garden CafĂ©. Various informational signs tell you about the history and ecology of the pond, and there's also a viewing tower that you can climb up to enjoy the aerial view.

My ticket, which I booked online, was £6.50, but there are cheaper tickets for less popular slots. They only let a limited number of swimmers in per day to allow the pond to 'breathe' in between, so it is worth booking in advance. Inside, there are a few minimalist changing rooms and lockers; they lend padlocks, but had run out by the time I got there, so I just kept my things next to the pond. There are mandatory cold showers — as the lifeguard told me, the showers were the coldest part!

At 6 pm on a sunny Friday, there were were a few people swimming and bobbing in the pond and several more lounging near the water on the sun loungers. Naturally, being me, I wanted to leap into the water, but the lifeguard told me I had to do it from the top step, which made it hard to get momentum. I like to think the expression on my face reflects the intense concentration of trying to take off rather than my trepidation about the impending coldness.

And yes, it was pretty cold in the water. Being able to jump in made it much better than having to wade, although there are tiered steps at the shallow end. The pond is kidney shaped and not entirely suited to a lot of people doing laps, but most people were only really swimming enough to take the chill off. The water was clear and super-clean — they don't use chemicals; instead, they purify the water using submerged water plants that filter the water. The plants are kept in a separate section of the pond that you can't swim in, and the bottom of the swimming part is smooth and not at all muddy or slimy, so in that sense it isn't truly 'wild swimming', but I rather liked this artificial wildness.

After I'd done about 20 lengths, my fingers were starting to feel really frigid so I got out and lay in the sun for a while. I didn't fancy a cold shower, so I just got changed and headed home for a hot shower instead.

The King's Cross Pond Club is likely to be around for two years, although I suspect that if it stays open during the winter, it won't be quite so much fun — unless they turn it into a hot tub! You can book tickets here.

King's Cross Pond Club. 20 Canal Reach, London, N1C 4BE (Tube: King's Cross). Website. Twitter.

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