What do you do on the hottest day of the year (so far)? Go for a run or go for a swim? Well, luckily for me it was the latter. A friend and I had both seen media coverage for King’s Cross Pond Club and we had decided to give it a go. You do have to book in advance so we had picked our date whilst acknowledging the vagaries of the British weather. But we do open water swimming in October/November so we can cope with our temperamental climate, can’t we!! As it happened, we lucked out big time!
So what is King’s Cross Pond Club? Here are a few quotes from their website which should give you the idea.
“A natural bathing pond in the heart of London”
“An art installation you can swim in”
“the piece encourages visitors to enter the water and participate in the installation as a piece of experiential art”
“The UK’s first ever man-made fresh water public bathing pond is a piece of innovative Land Art, within a working construction site area of London’s King’s Cross. The 40m long, natural, chemical-free pond is the creation of Ooze Architects (Eva Pfannes and Sylvain Hartenberg) and artist Marjetica Potrc.”
Entitled “Of Soil and Water” “King’s Cross Pond Club is a bathing pond, in a natural oblong shape, built two metres above ground level and 10m wide x 40m long. Its central pool is surrounded by both hard and soft landscaping, including pioneer plants, wild flowers grasses, and bushes so that the environment evolves as the seasons change.”
Our session was booked for 1pm until 4pm and after meeting up with Lexi at St Pancras, we strolled across the concourse for a bit of brunch at Fortnum & Masons, completely ignoring all advice never to go swimming just after eating! Then, following Lexi’s iPhone directions, we took a mystery tour to find Canal Reach, just off York Way, to the east of King’s Cross. It probably took us about 15/20 minutes to find the venue where our names were efficiently ticked off the list and we were given a padlock for our locker (a caged affair out in the open so if you go on a rainy day, you might need waterproof holdalls).
The website advises there are eight changing rooms and I had envisaged your usual leisure centre style changing rooms so I could not have been more pleased to see they were actually eight individual outdoor changing rooms of the type you find at many a lido around the country.
Once changed into swimming costumes (I had considered taking my shortie wetsuit but the forecast told me I might look a bit stupid), we ventured to the outdoor showers – initially warm but rapidly chilly – and then climbed the stairs up to the pool area itself.
As we’d arrived just after the start of our session, there were only two other people there so we quickly bagged our loungers by territorially positioning our towels and went to suss out the pool itself. We opted for entry via the ladder down into the deep end (2.8m) and gratefully sank into the cool waters.
I’m still struggling to be totally convinced by the 40m long claim even if that does include the natural filtration section at one end where “wetland and submerged water plants” “filter and sustain clean and clear water”. It’s definitely not a venue for a serious training swim but as somewhere to pootle up and down on a hot day, it’s perfect.
On the submerged wall of the deep end, there’s some form of underwater ledge where you can rest your feet while hanging over the side and from our vantage point we could see a big screen area showing the day’s matches at Wimbledon. We weren’t close enough to see play but close enough for me to see it was a Djokovic match. We were also able to see trains coming in and out of King’s Cross and St Pancras and that was reassuring in view of the many announcements about potential train delays due to the hot weather. At least they were still running in and out of these termini!
We spent about 90 minutes in the pool and then chilled out on our loungers while watching other people making use of the pool. Probably due to our weekday visit, the majority of the other swimmers were shall we say of the “older generation” but there were also families and younger people there. The atmosphere was very relaxed and the staff must be commended on their friendly and helpful nature but they were on the ball the whole time. They picked up on a couple of men who hadn’t bothered to shower and they were sent back with their tails between their legs.
The environment is obviously still developing and the planting has yet to get established but it does make the whole area a little oasis amidst the construction sites. And whilst the pond was quite peaceful when we first arrived, by the time we left there were a few more swimmers around. Even so, it never felt uncomfortably crowded. Sessions are apparently limited to 40 people.
During our time at King’s Cross Pond Club we realized that we’d actually taken the “long route” to our destination so having briefly spent some time purveying the area from the viewing platform, we walked back through the more landscaped area of Lewis Cubitt Park, and I was sorely tempted to play in the fountains in Granary Square.
The redevelopment of an area probably more associated with its red light district can only be applauded. The whole area is undergoing a massive makeover and with it only being a 20 minute train journey away for Lexi and I (on air conditioned trains), I can see we will be going back from time to time to see what’s happening and perhaps for a bit more “urban” swimming 😉