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‘It’s a total disaster’: Model boating enthusiasts say their favourite pond has been ruined by dam work

'The biggest problem is it's too shallow - whoever designed it has got their head up their arse'

25 November, 2016 — By William McLennan

The new look to the boating pond on Hampstead Heath

HAMPSTEAD Heath’s famous model boating pond has been “ruined” by a recent overhaul, according to life-long enthusiasts.

The pond, which sits above the Men’s Bathing Pond off Millfield Lane, was redesigned as part of the City of London’s controversial £23million dam strengthening project.

But model boaters, who viewed the pond as the most prestigious destination in London, said it is now too shallow, blocked with reeds and is “no longer a boating pond”.

Douglas Burgess, 85, who said he has been sailing boats on the pond “since the war”, believes it has been “destroyed”.

The retired engineer, who lives in Highgate, said: “It’s a total disaster. This was the best pond in north London, but you can no longer call it a boating pond because it’s impossible to sail on it.”

Mr Burgess said that while remotely-controlled boats with electric engines were unaffected, picturesque sail boats could no longer be used as the prevailing wind meant they became entangled in reed beds that can no longer be reached from the bank.

“Now you can only get access to one and a half sides of the pond because they have planted these reed beds. We have already had two little boats marooned on the reed beds.”

He said the City needed to “get rid of those reed beds and dredge the pond so it’s deep enough”.

Richard Harris, who runs 308 Hobbies in Holloway Road, said: “It’s a complete disaster. It’s no longer a boating pond. Someone has been very ambitious with the design, but they’ve lost the plot and have no understanding what model boats are about. It’s like putting plant pots in the middle of the M1. It’s stupidity.”

He said: “The biggest problem is it’s too shallow. Whoever designed it has got their head up their arse. Typical designers who think it will look pretty, but have no idea of its function. They’ve made it prettified and grass-banked, but lost sight of what it’s used for.”

Mr Harris said the pond was now too shallow for model sail boats, which have a long keel beneath the waterline to “stop it toppling over when the wind blows”.

In addition, he said, the “overflow” valve had been place too low. He said: “It’s like the overflow you have in the bath, except they’ve put it so low that you can’t fill the bath up.”

He said in recent weeks he has had a stream of customers complaining about the changes.

A spokesman for the City said: “At Model Boating Pond, we have left gaps in the reeds specifically for model boats and angling, and we have balanced that with the need to improve the ecology and water quality which the reeds help with.

“Model boaters have been using the pond since the landscape was changed. We are grateful for the input from the wider public who have made suggestions and raised concerns along the way, and we hope people have found us ready to listen and adapt as the project has progressed.”

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