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Taking the Waters: A Swim Around Hampstead Heath Paperback – 17 May 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Frances Lincoln (17 May 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0711232385
  • ISBN-13: 978-0711232389
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 1.3 x 18 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 272,516 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


It's terrific, I was totally immersed. Loved it!

(Melvyn Bragg)

A glorious, evocative, watery treat. Get in, quick!

(Jenny Landreth - swimmingroundlondon.blogspot.com)

I loved Taking the Waters. In this age when Health and Safety seems to shut down anything that’s a little different, the Hampstead Ponds and Lido are one of the last quirky things we’ve got left. It’s a pleasure to have a whole book devoted to them. It will appeal to swimmers and non-swimmers alike, and to anyone with a love for the offbeat.

(Tracy Chevalier)

A really well-produced, rewarding book. Text and marvellous illustrations capture the joys, punishments and unabashed delights of bathing on the Heath. Well worth dipping into.

(Michael Palin)

Heavenly pics and riveting story of the Hampstead Ponds.

(Michele Hanson - Guardian columnist)

Looks gorgeous!

(Kate Rew, author of 'Wild Swim')

As Davies tells the engrossing story of the ponds development, Corney's modern images of life at the ponds blend with historic photographs to create an invigorating look at how people, no matter where they live, will always find a space to enjoy nature.

(Outdoor Photography)

If you're finding it harder than usual to get off the sofa and into a swimsuit, try dipping your toe into Taking the Waters, a scenic celebration of Hampstead Heath's unique swimming spots through memory, history, anecdote and photography

(Fabric Property)

Chronicles the social history of all the ponds and the lido on the Heath. The book uncovers that people have been swimming at the ponds for more than 200 years and even champion swimmers and world famous divers have been spotted there.

(Ham & High)

Whether you're passionate about the Hampstead pools (as clearly many people are), or wouldn't touch them with someone else's bargepole, you'll find plenty of fascinating history, politics and sporting endeavour in the pages of this book. We suggest you pick up a copy, put together a hamper, toddle along to the lido and enjoy this book cover to cover by the poolside.

(The Londonist)

4* With so much already written about north London's most beloved green space, it's hard to think what else there is to say about Hampstead Heath. Yet Caitlin Davies and photographer Ruth Corney have risen to this challenge with spectacular success, their words and pictures evocatively conjuring the pleasure of swimming outdoors... An enjoyable, refreshing read for those impatiently waiting for summer to kick in.

(Time Out)

I defy anyone not to find some pleasure in the pages.

(The Kentish Towner)

Well researched and colourfully told.

(The Observer)

Corney is an award-winning photographer who provides intriguing, atmospheric images of the Heath waters - a subject she has made her own... Davies has a mischievous sense of humour and an appreciation of social history and knowledge of local affairs which makes for compulsive reading. And viewing too, as there are lavish illustrations of archive photographs, paintings from Constable onwards, newspaper cuttings, advertisements – including a fine array of vintage bathing suits - and other ephemera.

(Ham & High)

About the Author

Londoner Caitlin Davies has been swimming at the Heath ponds and Lido since she was a child. A writer, teacher and journalist, she is the author of three non-fiction books, four novels and several short stories.

Ruth Corney is an award-winning photographer. She has had several exhibitions that bear testament to her passion for the ponds and Lido. She is also trying to be a year round pond swimmer. In addition to her commercial work, she has led photography and oral history projects, her most recent being the photographic documentation of life at the Ironmonger Row Baths, and its refurbishment.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By M. Thompson on 6 May 2012
Format: Paperback
Having swam on Hampstead Heath throughout the 1980s and just accepted it as a timeless never changing place it is good to have a history of the swimming ponds and lido.

Taking the Waters the Waters: A Swim around Hampstead Heath is a well written, fascinating account of the ponds, lido and swimming on Hampstead Heath from the 1700s to the present day. Beautifully put together with atmospheric contemporary photographs and wonderful archive photographs from the 1900s onwards.

I particularly liked reading the accounts of the various controversies and disputes that have occurred throughout the history of swimming at the ponds and lido. As a user of the ponds I was blissfully unaware of these but would echo the commentary that most swimmers at the pond did not really have any issue with nude sunbathing and the gay crowd. I never sunbathed naked at the Men's pond and my only memory of it was to think that the walrus beach effect on a hot day was vaguely amusing.
Another insight I found interesting was the high level of drowning during the Victorian age and beyond. Most of us would now say that Health and Safety has got out of hand but some good work must have been done by the RLSS and H&E lobby to bring the number of swimming drowning down to the very low levels we have today.

If you have ever swam on Hampstead Heath or are interested in the development of open water swimming in this country this book is highly recommended. After reading the book I cannot wait to swim again on Hampstead Heath.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Theodora on 3 Sept. 2012
Format: Paperback
I never imagined that a book about swimming on Hampstead Heath could be so fascinating and charming. This is a gem of a book-- beautifuly written and designed, meticulously researched and packed with interesting but little known facts. It details the 200 year history of the development and use of the Hampstead Ponds (Mens, Ladies and Mixed) and the Lido(swimming pool) as public swimming facilities, how they were used to sponsor competitive swimming and diving events at the turn of the 20th century, and how they became and remain so immensely popular among Londoners.

It is packed with fascinating historical photos of bathers of all ages and walks of life, Pond and Lido staff, and gorgeous contemporary photos of the waters, bathers and wildlife. I found the personal stories of the hundreds of year round, cold water swimmers, including many well known personalities, were especially riveting. The public takes for granted the existence of the Ponds and the Lido but it has been a struggle to maintain adequate funding and accessibility while protecting the safety of swimmers. Especially alarming is the account of the recent controversy over the battle to preserve the unique character of the Ponds while proceeding with plans to rebuild the banks and construct dams as required by the Flood and Water Management Act of 2010.

Most visitors to London-- whether from the UK or abroad--are unaware of the spacious natural beauty of Hampstead Heath, and its variety of delightful, refreshing waters available for swimming (and gazing at). This book will surely entice them to go and take a dip themselves.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By B. Waring on 21 Sept. 2012
Format: Paperback
I am a recent immigrant to this part of London and as such have only swum the LIDO and ponds over the last couple of years but I have fallen for them. This book documents the life stories of these oases of calm in the heart of London.

One is aware, when swimming here, that generations have done the same and this book beautifully provides a digest of the history of the swimming on the heath. The stories are deftly told by Caitlin Davies and illustrated with some very fine photography by Ruth Corney and also supported by some archive pictures.

What I particularly like about this book is that it is a book, not about a place that is dead and gone, but somewhere that goes on living and breathing. Space in the book is dedicated to documenting the current use of the LIDO and pond with testimony from swimmers and photographs of the heath in its current state. On reaching the end of the book, the overriding feeling is a desire to grab a towel and slide down to the water. It is vivid celebration of a glorious place.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By als on 8 July 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased this book as a gift for my dad on Fathers Day. It has been such a great hit!
My dad(now in his 80's) used to be a member of the Highgate swimming club. He always went swimming on Christmas day and loved doing swallow dives into the murky water beneath. He was overjoyed to read about the early history of the ponds and also about some of his fellow members. The map was a useful reminder of the area He was so happy to see that the ponds are still in good use - even the changes. I'm sure he would recommend this to anyone who has ever swam in them or is thinking of doing so.
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