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Alison Hinton, Hampstead Heath lifeguard
Andy Parsons

Things you only know if you’re a Hampstead Heath lifeguard

By Time Out London contributor

…according to Alison Hinton, 46.

A radio can save lives

‘It can feel remote up here at the Ladies’ Pond. It’s like the countryside in the city: I call it the Bermuda Triangle. There’s limited mobile phone reception, which is a positive in many ways, but it means our radio is our communication with the outside world. We can listen and speak to the constabulary, the rangers, the lifeguards at the other ponds. It’s essential in emergencies.’

Swimmers get up very early

‘Some of us have to wake up at 5am just to get here on time. We simply cannot be late for that queue of 7am swimmers lining up at the gate, wanting to get in the water, all year round.’

There are kingfishers in Hampstead

‘When I first started working up here, I was so surprised by all the wildlife. We have moorhens constructing penthouse suites on the life rings, mandarin ducklings hopping across the deck, canada geese calling out to lost girlfriends from our paddle board and the occasional Disney flash of kingfisher across the water.’

Witches love swimming

‘I remember the morning of our first Halloween event, watching all these women in witches’ hats walking across the heath towards the pond. The sight of 40 or so women in pointy hats swimming through the early-morning mist is quite memorable, to say the least.’

The Ladies’ Pond is a sisterhood

‘Swimming is a great leveller. We have swimmers in their nineties, swimmers going through grief, swimmers battling illness, swimmers having joyous birthday dips. There are a lot of people who simply couldn’t live in London if it wasn’t for this place. It feels very special to be a part of it.’

Interview by Nell Frizzell.

Now discover the things you only know if you’re a greasy spoon guv’nor.

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