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Proposal to build East London Waterworks Park in the Lea Valley
Image: ELWP

East London could get a huge new wild-swimming spot – here’s how to help

Campaigners want to turn an industrial site into a park for nature and open-water dips

James Manning
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James Manning
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Open-water swimming is a) great and b) increasingly popular these days. And yet London is still a bit crap when it comes to splashing around under wide-open skies. Sure, there are a few decent outdoor swimming places, but they’re heavily oversubscribed – especially during the heatwaves that roll around increasingly frequently these days. Dip demand is definitely higher than supply. So we’re thrilled to bits at a new campaign to turn an east London industrial site into a park for wild swimming and nature.

The site in question is a waterworks depot on Lea Bridge Road, between Clapton and Leyton. You’ve probably been past it on the 56 bus. Seen from above, it’s a big grey blob on the otherwise blue-and-green lower Lea Valley. It was once a Victorian water-filtering facility, then a Thames Water lorry park. Now an opportunity has come up for the local community to buy the site, rewild it and let the public back ion for the first time in centuries.

The East London Waterworks Park campaign wants to buy the site and create two Olympic-sized, naturally-filtered swimming areas. Its plans also include restoring natural habitats, reconnecting walking routes between the Hackney and Walthamstow Marshes (alongside part of the Capital Ring), and turning depot buildings into places for learning and community-building, including a café.

If this looks and sounds as excellent to you as it does to us, then you’ll want to head over the ELWP crowdfunding page and pledge your support. Last time we looked, the campaign was a quarter of the way to its public fundraising target of £500,000, with more than 800 people already chipping in.

Sure, that’s a lot of people ahead of you in the queue for a dip already. But the more swimming spaces London gets, the better we’ll be able to deal with whatever the climate crisis throws at us in years to come.

We hang out with Alex Scott, the Londoner bringing women’s football to the world.

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