Affordable Swimming Campaign:
Concessions Survey Shows What's Needed
Many swimmers who are eligible for a free morning swim in the Hampstead Heath bathing ponds don’t take advantage of that benefit because they would need to use public transport to get there and are put off by the bus and tube fares, according to the latest survey of pond users and would-be pond users. The survey also showed that many who would prefer to swim later in the day and are eligible for a 40% discount on the pond-entry fee avoid the ponds because they consider even the concessionary price to be unaffordable.
The three pond-users associations—HMPA, KPLA and MPA—conducted the survey in September and are using the results to lobby the City of London for three changes:
We presented these findings to the City’s Hampstead Heath Sports and Wellbeing Forum and await the City's response.
The survey was conducted between 20 and 29 September 2023 and drew 515 responses from the approximately 1,800 members of the three pond-user associations.
Here is a synopsis of the results:
Those swimming later, out of preference rather than necessity, seem to number about 30, based on responses written in; some cited combined health and travel needs—for example, trying to avoid crowded public transport before 9.30 am.
In respect of possible additional concessions, 55.7% of all respondents thought they would be unlikely to qualify for any further concession. Concessions for those on low and irregular income were supported by 17.3%, no recourse to public funds by 6%, carer by 5.6%, under 18 NEET by 2.5% and care leaver under 25 years by 2.5%. Additional possibilities written in included keyworker/NHS/charity employees and those on statutory maternity pay or unpaid maternity leave.
Mixed Pond Association AGM 2023
The Mixed Pond Association elected new leadership at its annual general meeting on 19th June 2023.
Margaret Dickinson and Felicity Moir were chosen to serve as co-chairs for 2023-24. Geoff von Sonsbeek will serve as treasurer and Nilani Chandradeva as secretary.
Other members of the new committee: Richard Boudreaux, Adrian Boylan, Victoria Brittain, Jillian Edelstein, Spencer Hyman, Darian Leader, Charles Marks, Nick Philliips, Mary Pollock, Mike Sands, Kasia Sikora, Lucy Springett and Stephen Yates.
The meeting, held on Zoom, reviewed the past season and agreed on plans for the current one. Outgoing officers reported that MPA membership grew by 4%, to 225, in 2022 and that income for the year exceeded expenses by £827.65. See the full set of minutes for more on membership, revenue, expenses, tea parties, the ongoing construction works and more.
If you have any comments, questions, suggestions or would like to offer your help to the MPA committee, please email us at email@example.com
USER GROUPS MEETING NOTES & CHARGING/CHANGES
26 February 2020
This meeting for members of the pond users’ associations, was called at short notice when swimmers’ representatives feared that the City was not listening to their views over the future management of the ponds. Fears were confirmed when on February 24th the City unveiled their intentions at the Sports Forum.
We now know that despite a supposed consultation with swimmers reps which began in January 2020 and involved many hours of meetings the City is proposing, against the advice of all the associations, to double day charges (to £4 per adult) and to enforce them strictly, probably by staffing the entrances to the pond enclosures.
The full set of proposals and options considered can be found summarised in this article.
The background to this is quite complicated and for those who do not know it there is a short summary at the end of this report.
Attendance at the meeting was counted as 103, (36 from the HMPA, 55 from the KLPA, 14 from the MPA 6 from the Lifebuoys and one from the USA)
Proceedings were moderated by Marc Hutchinson, Chair of the Heath and Hampstead Society. Speakers were Chris Piesold from the HMPA and Nicola Mayhew from the KLPA. Margaret Dickinson from the MPA responded to questions relating to the Mixed Pond.
Chris provided some background about the financial situation. This year the City expects the new pond staffing bill will be £300,000 plus above previous costs. There has been increased expenditure for summer problems over the last two years but the picture of ever rising costs the City presents is not quite accurate. Over the last ten years inflation adjusted net expenditure has been cut 36% for the Heath as a whole and 9% for the ponds. The % of expenditure recovered from income has doubled in the last 10 years indicative of the City's apparent intention to commodify the Heath to the maximum extent. City’s cash, the fund from which the expenses are paid, had net assets of £2.7 billion in 2019.
Nicola reported on the background, the present consultation and the position taken by the KLPAS and other associations.
There was a lively discussion during which many speakers stressed the unique character of the ponds and criticised the notion that they can be compared to open air lido or water sports venues. Most contributions supported the stand taken by the associations in opposing increased charges and heavy handed enforcement; about three speakers cast doubt on this position.
THE FOLLOWING MOTIONS WERE PUT TO THE VOTE AND AGREED BY A LARGE MAJORITY OF THOSE ATTENDING
Brief background to charging at the Hampstead Heath Ponds.
Until 2005 swimming was free and the running costs of the ponds were provided by the Heath management which before 1987 was the GLC. Following the abolition of the GLC, the City of London took over management in 1989. In 2005 the City was looking to reduce its costs and shocked Heath and pond users by proposals to close the Mixed Pond and reduce hours at the remaining ponds. After a major public campaign a compromise was reached whereby swimming was not radically curtailed and the present charges for swimming were introduced but were not rigorously enforced. This scheme in practice did not bring in as much revenue as the City hoped. The City assert that this is because few swimmers are willing to pay but the swimmers’ associations maintain that the City failed to introduce efficient methods to pay. For many years the associations have been telling the City that there is a lack of clear information about how to pay, that the payment machines are often out of order and that it is not easy to get a season ticket. Only this year has it been possible to pay for a season ticket online and even now you do not receive a ticket or even receipt unless you go to the lido.
The present push by the City to reduce costs follows a report by the Health and Safety Executive which recommended that the City increase the staffing of the ponds which will clearly put up costs. The City started a consultation with the swimming associations in January this year about measures they wish to introduce in May. The process for doing this will be to put a proposal to the Heath Consultative Committee on March 9th which will in turn make a recommendation to the Heath Management Committee on March 11th. The public may attend but not speak at these meetings.
During the consultation with the swimmers’ reps the City outlined a series of options about the scale of charges and method of enforcement. The swimmers’ rep.s strongly recommended that for the coming season the City adopt the option of minimal change while putting right the problems with information and payment. In those circumstances they offered to cooperate with these improvements and encourage a culture whereby people play unless they cannot afford to or have strong objections on principle. Instead the Superintendent of Hampstead Heath intend to put to the management Committee the option involving the doubling day charges combined with strict enforcement. The season ticket, however, will be held at the current price this season and more concessions are suggested.
The MPA AGM was held on 24th October 2019 and thanks go to member Rodney for providing the perfect pondside location for the 15 or so attendees present. Full meeting minutes can be reviewed by clicking the button below.
Apart from a general review of the year's activities our formal association Constitution was agreed and signed off and can be downloaded and reviewed on via the link below.
One topic that came up doing something to commemorate the writer, intellectual and Mixed Pond regular, Al Alvarez, who died on September 23rd aged 90. He was an important figure in literary London as you can see from the many obituaries of him such as this one from The Guardian.
Our discussion turned out to be especially appropriate because at the end of our meeting two of Al's granddaughters arrived where we were meeting because they happened to have been invited to dinner. They were thrilled to hear about the plans for him to be commemorated at the pond and we hope to have more news in time for next season (which starts early May).
Membership renewal notices will be sent to mailing list members in April/May next year.
Until then, keep warm!
Winter Swimming in the Mixed Pond
A protracted legal case was required to persuade the City to agree to the club and there is always a danger that the license might be withdrawn if the conditions are not respected. The club has been running fairly smoothly for over ten years with a gradual rise in membership but last winter there was a sharp increase in people joining which was unfortunately accompanied by an increase in problems.
On many occasions the gates were left unlocked both when people were in the water and after they had left and it was evident that some members were giving out the secret lock code to other people. These issues are serious not only because major breaches in the agreement with the City could lead to the license being refused in future but also because they are a very real safety issue for members if gates are left open.
As a result the HHWSC discussed at its AGM proposals to limit membership. The meeting decided not to do so this winter but to try to address the problems in other ways and reconsider the question next year. So, we would like to urge any of you who are winter Mixed Pond swimmers to be careful about signing in and locking the gates and to challenge anyone you may see breaking these rules or inviting in non-members. Locking the gates is, of course, essential but signing is also useful and not just a bureaucratic rule because it helps members to see when they can be reasonably sure of company, it provides evidence for the numbers using the club and it provides a record in case of any event that needs investigation.
There are many places around London where it is possible to swim in natural waters and combining such swims with a good walk makes for a great day out. The book Wild Swimming Walks provides some examples and for anyone seeking companions it’s worth knowing there is a Facebook group Swim Walks where you can see walks and also short swimming holidays that you can join. Most are arranged by Philip Nice who set up the group but other people can and sometimes do use the group to arrange walks.
Philip’s walks are very varied and those of us who have been on them can thoroughly recommend them. You do not need to go with anyone as everyone is very welcoming to newcomers.
In October the Hampstead Heath Mixed Pond Association (MPA) AGM was held. The full meeting minutes can be read via the document link below.
It was a well attended meeting (all paid up members are welcome to come along). Margaret Dickenson stood down as Co-Chair (but remains on the committee) and was replaced by Kasia Sikora who has joined Mike Sands as co-chair's of the committee.
The full list of committee members is now as per below:
Kasia Sikora and Michael Sands - Co-Chairs
Lola Culsán - Secretary
Margaret Dickinson - Newsletter and Web Content Editor
Charles Marks - Membership Secretary/Bank Signatory
Julia Dick - Committee Member
John Weller - Website Development and Merchandising
Michael Sands – Bank Account signatory
Janette Rutterford -Committee Member & Treasurer
Felicity Moir and Ana Szerwo - Events Team
NEWS FROM THE CITY SWIMMERS' FORUM
The reason the MPA exists is to ensure that we (as a group of mixed pond swimmers) have a say in how the location is run and managed and this is done through the City of London and the Swimmers' Forum. We have representatives at all the regular forum meetings.
The main points raised in March 2019 affecting the Mixed Pond were cycle racks, water quality, showers and rubbish bins.
The cycle racks are delayed again because the site chosen has been judged not flat enough and and a new one has been proposed. We expect to be consulted on this when the plan is available. The water aerator in the pond which would help improve water quality further will not be functional until an improved electricity supply is installed and this is now in the City’s plans (but perhaps not happening until next year). We asked again if the aerator could be removed and stored in the meantime.
We raised again the need for swimmers to be able to wash/shower properly in the changing areas. As we are aware, showers cannot be installed until an improved water supply can be brought in but during the winter swimming there are hosepipes in the changing areas. During previous summers these have been removed because the one in the women’s enclosure causes flooding and because the lifeguards consider there is a risk of misuse during periods of peak crowding.
We suggested the flooding in the women’s could be solved by bringing in a stand like the one in the men’s enclosure and fixing the hose over the drain. We suggested that the risk of misuse could be solved by disconnecting the hose only during such peak periods which normally occur during only a small part of the season. By contrast every day swimmers come in the morning wanting to be able to swim and shower before work. Our request seemed to be accepted but we will have to see what happens.
We have asked for the bins with holes in the lid to be replaced because squirrels get caught in them. One or two have been replaced but others are still there. We learnt that the City is planning to make radical changes to the way it collects and disposes of litter and that we cannot expect much change before these plans are implemented.