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Brrrrr! Meet the brave swimmers who took on the Christmas Day dip on Hampstead Heath

Could you jump into the icy waters?

02 January, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

HE stood well wrapped up but still shivering two years ago, armed with a camera and filming those brave souls plunging into the Men’s Pond for the annual Christmas Day race. And this year, film director Patrick McLennan, whose documentary about swimming on the Hampstead Heath, The Ponds, was a smash hit last year, not only brought his trunks with him but won the annual Highgate Lifebuoys swimming club race.

Bee Rowlatt and her family braced for the water

Airida Diktanaiti

One swimmer thought rubber gloves was the answer to the cold

In water an almost balmy six degrees and crisp December sunshine, he joined the fun-loving or merely Dutch courage-fuelled pond dippers to blow away cobwebs or fulfil tipsy Christmas Eve bets.

Others came with serious intent, hoping to bag some Christmas silverware in the three official men’s, women’s and the Lifebuoys races. Some got into the festive spirit, decked out in Santa hats, while others sought unique ways to stave off the cold, with one first-time swimmer deciding a pair of washing up gloves was the answer – an experiment, he revealed afterwards, that was not going to revolutionise the cold water swimming experience.

Anna Kusner has a nice swim

Race winner Mika Fitzpatrick Suen

Heath events manager Paul Maskell told an assembled crowd of more than 100 how grateful he was to the ponds lifeguards for their work throughout the year. He said: “Without them, running this marvellous, unique space would not be possible.”

Ladies’ Pond regular Airida Diktanaiti shot through the water, winning the first women’s race by two lengths.

Julian de Metz  and Josh Krichefski

Runner up Angus Adams

Lucy Goldsmith won the women’s race

The second women’s race winner was another Ladies’ Pond regular, Lucy Goldsmith, who came through a crowded field to scoop first place.

The men’s race was almost a dead heat, with 18-year-old Mika Fitzpatrick-Suen, a sixth-form student at Highgate School, reaching the ­jetty after swimming the 50-metre dash at virtually the same time as Men’s Pond regular Angus Adams. For Mika, it was his second win on the bounce after he scooped last year’s trophy.

He said: “I swim up here regularly, so it’s lovely to come on Christmas Day.”


The Highgate Lifebuoys

Chris and Elly Condror


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