Yesterday I had one of the most delightful mornings…riding the commuter train, reading my lovely book-of-the-moment (Caitlin Davies’ ‘Down Stream’) and alighting at King’s Cross Station to wander in the sunshine to the King’s Cross Pond Club. I had been hearing rumblings about this swimming pond opening in the heart of King’s Cross so had kept my ear firmly to the ground, feeding on little titbits of information on Twitter and the like. Opening just over a week ago, it couldn’t be better timed for me and my open-water swim challenges, so I was booked in by Fusion Lifestyle, who run the site, and hoped for a fine day (I really am lucky!). I felt a little rush of excitement as I departed the station and heavy-faced commuters and skipped my way up to the pond, big arrows pointing the way (it’s an interesting walk, with so much going on in the area, you could get distracted). As you approach, you pass a small park area and really wouldn’t know there was a pond nearby until you spot one of those tall lifeguard seats, cue jump for joy from me 🙂
The staff were super friendly, but I’m guessing it would be hard not to smile when everyone who wanders in is full of curiosity, enthusiasm and eager to dip their toes. I was given a padlock for one of the metal cage lockers and directed towards the changing cubicles (which are very seasidey) and informed I would need to shower before climbing in, this is to wash off body lotions and so on, so the plants can do their work and to prepare you for the water…the showers are cold!
The area around the pond is full of life, covered in beautiful wild flowers and concealing the treat ahead…
At this point I was a bit giddy and wanted to photograph everything, so got one of the lifeguards to take my photo before I locked my phone away…
As I had arrived quite early (you could arrive even earlier and take a dip before work or travel as the pond opens at 6.30am), I had the pond to myself briefly, which was bliss! Taking it slowly, I chatted to the lifeguard as I sat at the edge and dipped my toes. Yes, it’s cold.
I wanted to savour everything: the sounds of the building works going on around me, trains rumbling by, aeroplanes cutting across the bright blue sky, the subtle smells of grasses and colourful flowers…Eventually I decided to go for it and abandoned my towel on one of the pond-side sunbeds and gingerly descended the steps into the deeper end (it reaches a depth of 2.8m at one end). Pausing while my body adjusted to the cold, I looked around to see a crowd of suited people surveying the scene from the viewing platform. Oh dear, an audience! The lifeguard chuckled and said I couldn’t chicken out now, as if! So down I went with a gasp as the water reached my chest and shoulders. It felt amazing as I swam a wide-reaching breaststroke, hugging the water all to myself and taking in my surroundings. I had asked how long the pond was, and told it was around 20m, depending on whereabouts you swam, so I carved up and down, keeping warm and smiling as a couple more people gently brushed their fingers across the surface of the water, wondering if they had the nerve to dip fully. It took some time, but I worked slowly towards submerging my face and trying a ‘proper’ breaststroke, which allowed me to look under towards the clear bottom and to take in the plants that naturally filter the water so there’s no need for chlorine. At the shallow end there are wooden booms keeping swimmers away from the filtration area and these are perfect if you want to lean back and float, looking at the clouds and birds go by. A couple of women joined me on the shallow platform with a baby, who quietly expressed her distaste at the temperature and was quickly wrapped up in a towel. Children can swim here with an adult, but I’m guessing they would have to be hardy types!
I now tried some front crawl and was confronted with the fact that I am heavily dependent on the line at the bottom of the pool and have a *lot* to learn about sighting…I managed two zig-zaggy lengths before some more sky-gazing. As I floated, a fellow pond-goer chatted to me and I realised my chin and lower jaw were set hard and I had trouble speaking, maybe time to get out! The ground at the edge had been warmed up in the sunshine, so I sat, with towel wrapped around me and absorbed some of this heat. It wasn’t long though before I started to shiver and shake and knew this was definitely time to get my dry clothes on. I could really have done with a hot drink at this point and there are signs of a little cafe opening at the entrance, so this could be a possibility soon, until then I advise a flask of tea to hand when you get out! The whole feel of the Kings Cross Pond Club is very laid back and I handed back my padlock so I could sit on the grass and watch as other people repeated my process (one man told me he was in London from Leeds for a meeting and decided to pop in before catching a taxi). The pond is due to stay in place for two summers, but it would be incredible if the planners decide to keep it instead of flattening the area and covering it with grass as I heard when I mingled with the suits on the viewing platform later.
The thing that is really special about this project, and is quite understated on visiting, is that it’s an art project, commissioned as part of the ongoing King’s Cross Public Arts Programme. ‘Of Soil and Water’ is a collaboration between artist Marjetica Potrc and architects Ooze of which the artist says: “We have to rethink how we live with the city and with nature. Here, we are collaborating with nature, and the artwork encourages the viewer to participate in that experience. Water is a source of life but it is also a metaphor for regeneration. We want to understand people’s influence upon nature but also our balance with nature.” If you want to read more about the project and to book a slot (the number of swimmers each day is restricted, to allow the plants to work efficiently), visit the website here.