London Lidothon – Saturday 16th June

by Sandford Parks Lido

London Lidothon – Saturday 16th June

Cheltenham Spa Rail Station

Time: 07:31 Ride: 0 Miles, Swim: 0Km, Lidos: 0

Nine excited, if slightly bleary eyed ‘Athletes’ gather in the drizzle at Cheltenham Spa Station to catch the early train to London, each on a mission to visit five London Lidos and Lakes via Boris Bikes (London’s Cycle Hire scheme) and swim 1km in each before catching the last Cheltenham train home in time for tea and medals. Serpentine Lido Time: 10:03 Ride: 1.5 Miles, Swim: 1km, Lidos: 1

Serpentine Lido Time: 10:03 Ride: 1.5 Miles, Swim: 1km, Lidos: 1

As the train pulled into Paddington, the sun was breaking though the cloud and the colours of the city conspired to overwhelm the grey. Spirits were high, we hopped on our first Boris Bike and headed for the glorious Serpentine in Hyde Park. Founded in 1931, a cordoned off 100m stretch of lake, the water was smooth, cool and rejuvenating as we shared our first swim of the day with Swans, Moorhens and intrigued Serpentine locals. Brimming with enthusiasm, it didn’t take long to tap out the first 1000m, a quick bit of banter with the lifeguard and back on the bikes. Onwards.

Tooting Lido Time: 11:59 Ride: 9 Miles, Swim: 2km, Lidos: 2

We head south, 7.5 miles through the glorious summer sunshine, over the Thames, a quick stop at Battersea Park to re-dock our Boris Bikes and pick up fresh ones (only the first 30 mins of each journey are free), through Clapham Common and onwards to Tooting Bec Lido. The iconic Tooting Lido, built in 1906 is the the largest fresh water swimming pool by surface area in the UK with vitals of 100 x 33 yards and, on this day, 17 degrees C. With the reflection of the water dancing majestically on its brightly coloured changing room doors, Tooting looked magnificent and we plunged straight in. 11 bracing lengths of London’s finest gave us an appetite and so a trip to the lido café was in order before pressing on.

Brockwell Lido Time: 13:30 Ride: 12 Miles, Swim: 3km, Lidos: 3

A grade II listed, Art Deco structure set in South Brixton on the flank of Brockwell Park, Brockwell Lido wrestled with closure for many years before lobbying from local lido enthusiast convinced the council to re-open it. We’re glad they did. The arms were getting heavy by now but a healthy rivalry which had developed between the team kept the swim pace high as we push on and bang out another thousand.

London Fields Lido Time: 15:44 Ride: 22 Miles, Swim: 4km, Lidos: 4

The ride back north exposes us to the rich and varied cultural and architectural tapestry that is London Town, an immersive experience only truly achievable when travelling by bike. Multi-million-pound mansions starkly juxtaposed with council estates, expansive park land, the high-rise decadence of The City, the mighty Thames, garden allotments and street parties. The smells, sights and sounds a true feast for the senses.

Our nine-strong peloton snakes out along the city streets, the menacing stares of a group of lads on bikes hanging out under a tower block are soon soothed to smiles as Steve and the pink inflatable flamingo which he has been wearing for the duration of the ride, swing into view.We cross London Fields as families’ picnic under the shade of the grand Plane trees, the smell of BBQ enticing. Closed from 1988 to 2006 when it received a transformational makeover, London Fields Lido is pristine and had the feel of a high-end health club, the pool is shallow and felt fast. A warm shower, a shot of espresso from the welcoming café attendant and we were off to face the final swim of the day.

Hampstead Heath – Mixed Pond Time: 17:34 Ride: 28 Miles, Swim: 5km, Lidos: 5

Hampstead ponds are a true urban treasure, three open water swims (Male, Female, Mixed) nestled atop the rambling expanse of Hampstead Heath located to the North of the city. Originally serving as drinking water reservoirs for Londoners, the ponds are positioned at one of the highest points in London and after 28 miles of cycling, our 25 kilo Boris Bikes took some encouragement to get to the top.

The noise of the city substituted for the rustle of Oak trees and reeds, the water, full of algae and green as pea soup, Hampstead Pond has a strangely nourishing and soothing feel to it. The last swim of our adventure, we completed what felt like three victory laps under the watchful eye of a nesting Heron to close out our 5Km swim target.

The Beer House - London Paddington Time: 19:00ish Ride: 34 Miles, Swim: 5km, Lidos: 5

By now, the sun is soft and low in the sky and we cast long shadows as we freewheel past Lords Cricket Ground and London Zoo back to Paddington station.

A quick beer, high fives all round and a sprint to catch the last train out of town, each of us with a warm glow from our big day out in the city, a rainbow halo around our souls. Thank you, London.

Thank you, cheers, ta very much!

Thanks to your generous support, the team raised over £1500 for Sue Ryder and Sandford Parks Lido, two fantastic charities which will benefit from and greatly appreciate your contribution.

Special thanks go to Serpentine Lido, Tooting Bec Lido, Brockwell Lido, London Fields Lido and Hampstead Ponds not only for hosting us but also providing priority entrance to allow us to keep on schedule and graciously donating our entrance fees to the charities. Kudos.