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Peter Pan Cup 2019
Photograph: Steven Lippitt/Serpentine Swimming Club

Hyde Park’s Serpentine Swimming Club has returned to the lido

Britain’s oldest swimming club has resumed open-water dips in the Serpentine Lido, with some safety restrictions


Some of London’s most hardcore open-water swimmers returned for a dip in the Serpentine Lido in Hyde Park yesterday for the first time in months after an easing of lockdown restrictions. Access to the water is limited to members of the Serpentine Swimming Club, which was established in 1864, making it the longest-running club of its kind in Britain. The group is famous for its Peter Pan Cup race, an event that sees dozens of its swimmers get together in Hyde Park on Christmas morning to plunge into the icy waters of the lido. Many of its members visit the open water at the Serpentine every morning, rain or shine, somewhere between 6am and 9.30am, but swimming has been prohibited during lockdown. 

On Monday May 18, the Royal Parks permitted the Serpentine Swimming Club members to return to the lido, albeit with strict social-distancing measures. All swimmers visit the lido at their own risk, and timings are strictly limited from 5am to 10am. Members have been advised to wear goggles, and to bring alcogel to apply before and after swimming, as showering has minimal effect on the virus. As the club stresses on its website, ‘there is to be no touching of the buoys’, got that? The guidelines also say if you’ve never tried open-water swimming before, now is not the time to take it up as a new hobby, no matter how tempting it may seem when temperatures hit 25-27C this week. 

Other designated open-water swimming locations in London, such as Hampstead Ponds, remain closed for now. The City of London Corporation’s (CoLC) choice not to reopen the ponds appears to have split the opinion of regular pond swimmers, some of whom gathered to protest the decision on Monday May 18. 

Interested in signing up for the Serpentine Swimming Club? There are some restrictions right now, but they are taking applications, which you can submit here. Just be warned, you might not have enough swim training time ahead to prepare you for the bone-chilling experience of the Peter Pan Cup.

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