A huge new wild-swimming spot is coming to east London

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 that a new campaign to turn an east London industrial site into a park for wild swimming and nature has just hit its ambitious fundraising target.

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 in 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. The new pools will be free to use all year round and might become one of London’s safest wild swimming spots – think Hackney’s answer to Hampstead Ponds. The 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.

And now it looks like all of this actually might happen. In just over five months, the campaign has smashed its initial crowdfunding target of £500,000. That’s half a million quid to help the campaigners buy the site and turning it into an open-water swimming paradise.

If you’d like to get involved, it’s not too late: you can head over to the ELWP crowdfunding page and pledge your support towards the stretch target of £600,000. More than 4,000 people have already chipped in. Last time we looked, the campaign was almost halfway to its public fundraising target of £500,000, with more than 4,000 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.

All good, or is it? Should we be more worried about wild swimming?

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