One of my favourite swims from last year was an early morning dip in the Serpentine Lake in London’s Hyde Park, also the venue for the marathon swimming event at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Thanks to my friend, Nick Adams, I was able to swim in the lake with the Serpentine Swimming Club at 8:00 am on Tuesday, 29 May.
The Lido Café is situated right next to the Serpentine SC clubhouse and is a great place to grab tea/coffee and some breakfast after an early morning swim…
During the summer, the Serpentine Lido is open to the public. This means that, during the day, you must pay an entry fee to swim in the lake and you are also restricted to a very small and crowded area. If you want to do a proper swim, you must swim with the club early in the morning. Thankfully, Nick and the others were kind enough to let me swim with them on this particular morning.
An early morning view of the Serpentine Bridge from the lake.
One of the great things about swimming in the Serpentine is that, although you are in the centre of one of the world’s great cities, you feel as though you are in the middle of the countryside. I’m generally not a fan of cities, so big parks like Hyde Park make them seem much more tolerable places!
Again, you’d never guess that this was a seen from central London. The Serpentine is a great place to escape the sights and sounds of the city.
What these photographs don’t give you a sense of is the sound at the lake that morning. As I was on my way there, there were numerous military bands and mounted brigades rehearsing for a very big occasion that weekend – the Diamond Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II. This was one of the great events of the summer and marked the sixtieth anniversary of the Queen’s coronation. Queen Elizabeth II is now the second longest reigning British monarch and I had the great honour of meeting her and her husband, HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in Cork on the momentous occasion of the first state visit by a UK head of state to the Republic of Ireland.
The line of buoys that you can see in front of the large tree encloses the Serpentine Lido.
It was great to have the freedom to wonder outside of the buoys demarcating the Lido and have the feeling of proper open water swimming rather being constrained to a very small stretch of shaded, shallow water.
One building on the London skyline serves as a reminder that you’re not actually in the middle of the countryside.
Another advantage to swimming early in the morning, of course, is that there aren’t too many people about the place and you swim without worrying too much about having a collision. I always feel a great sense of satisfaction when swimming early in the morning, especially in the open water…
Just another view…
One more thing that made my Serpentine swim extra enjoyable was the water temperature, a very toasty 18ºC. This was far warmer than anything that I had experienced at home that summer. The lake was warm as London had just had a spell of very warm and dry weather, but still some of the swimmers at the Olympics complained of the cold!
Flowery hats still seem to be popular amongst recreational swimmers. I don’t think that we’ll be seeing them in the Olympics anytime soon, though.
There are lots of different kinds of swimmers at the Serpentine: some just go for their daily dip while other are training for marathon swim, some wear wetsuits and some prefer to swim in their skin. Everyone still seems to get on though, which is very encouraging.
A family of mute swans at the edge of the lake. They seemed quite time compared to our swans on the Blackwater, who can be quite vicious if you get too close!
One nice thing about ornamental lakes such as the Serpentine is that many birds like ducks, swans and divers are encouraged to stay around the lake and make it look less sterile and urban. The Lough, in Cork City, is a good example of this!
Exiting the lake in good spirits and set up for the day in the city…
All of the above photographs were taken by myself with my Pentax Optio WG-1 waterproof camera. I’ve used this camera on many swims now and it has been holding up pretty well and producing some good shots, though it must be said that the video quality isn’t the best. I’m more interested in the stills anyway so am very happy with this camera.