Leisure: Moments from Death at King's Cross Ponds
Written by: Violet Myers
Rose got a lot of shit for not letting Jack share that big door she was floating on at the end of Titanic. Like many people, I too was quick to criticise, couldn’t she have budged up just a bit? That was until the day I took a quick dip in King’s Cross swimming pond in November.
The thing with freezing to death, and take this from me, is logic, honour and sympathy for your loved ones goes out the window and all is left is remorseless pain and shrivelled internal organs.
The pond opened earlier this year and has been described as ‘An immersive piece of land art’ – which can only be described as copywriting gone mad. It’s the country’s first manmade fresh water swimming pool, it’s open year round and is a mere ten minutes walk from King’s Cross station.
Our first clue to the horrors we were about to entail was meeting the only other swimmer who, unlike us, was wearing a wetsuit and referred to the 7c water as ‘fresh’. As I approached the pond, pulling at my Next halter neck bikini whilst wondering if open water swimming in winter could be considered as a form of self punishment and whether I should get back in touch with that therapist, the lifeguard pointed out a school of fish that had set up shop in the deep end. “The water’s has no chemicals so we get a lot of nature here” he explains “I’ve been right down to the bottom before and have seen all sorts of things.” Fighting every natural urge to not get into the glacial pool, I made the plunge.
Our first clue to the horrors we were about to entail, was meeting the only other swimmer who, unlike us, was wearing a wetsuit and referred to the 7c water as ‘fresh’
Now I’ll be the first to admit that freshwater swimming in November may have been a foolish idea and by no means did I think it would be warm. I wasn’t expecting the Mediterranean, I wasn’t even expecting Tooting Lido, but on my second width the fear of death was upon me. Nothing can quite prepare you for how hard the water hits you at these temperatures. I’m ashamed to say of the two hour allotted time my £3.50 ticket got me, I had approximately 114 minutes left when I got out.
But although my third length was easier due to the later phases of hypothermia in which the body gives up on feeling in order to survive, the whole experience was exhilarating. It felt strange to feel so alive and so close to death at the same time, but the freezing green water was invigorating.
Outdoor swimming has really taken off this year, with thousands taking to the water on a daily basis in all seasons and I can almost see why. I felt sharp, awake and pretty bloody badass.
It’s definitely not for everyone, anyone with any kind of heart problem should probably stick to The Sobell Centre, but there is something remarkable about swimming in the open air. I may still loose a toe to frostbite, nor will I ever watch Titanic in the same way again, but these fabulous post-swim endorphins are worth all the toes on my feet.
King’s Cross Pond Club
20 Canal Reach
(entrance on Tapper walk)
Open from 8-4pm on weekends and 10.30 – 4pm on weekdays.
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