Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

The Art of Swimming *

Direction pointer to King's Cross Pool Club

Take a wander around the rapidly changing King's Cross area and you can't help but notice this intriguing sign in several places.

Outside the King's Cross Pool Club

Further on, a fence and a planted mound obscure the view towards the newly minted apartment and office blocks.

The doorway to the viewing platform

A doorway invites you in, so you climb the stairs...

View from the viewing platform towards the pool

... and the mound's purpose is revealed.

View of the changing rooms

My place was booked, so after checking-in I was pointed in the direction of the red and white cabins to make my preparations...

A view from the changing cabin

... and ponder the view.

King's Cross Pond Club's noticeboard

Then I noted the temperature and...

Ready to take the plunge

... ignored the Frenchman still shivering on the side, and plunged straight in.

For a while I had the entire pond to myself.


King's Cross Pond Club swimmers


King's Cross Pond is the UK's first natural swimming pond and the latest in a series of art installations in the Lewis Cubitt Park area of the shiny new King's Cross development. The design uses plants to filter the water, so no chlorine or other chemicals are added for cleaning.

It makes for a different, most surreal swimming experience, particularly when the Eurostar goes past or the area's cranes swoop across the sky with their loads.

The number of swimmers is limited to 160 per day, calculated to ensure the plants can maintain the water's quality. I had to take a cold shower before entering the pool as part of this process, and the surprised cries of later arrivals at this stage, gave those of us in the pool a sense of achievement. We got chatting too, which isn't the usual form when going for a swim.

View of the pond's planting


The plants are separated from the bathers and take up around a third of the pond's area. It was great to lean on the wooden edge of the bathing area and peer down at the plants below. You can see water lilies floating on the surface and the surrounding aquatic plants include Phragmites, well known for its water filtration capabilities.

I loved the feel of the water, even if it was rather bracing, so the order of the day was to keep moving. Afterwards, the most invigorating glow spread throughout my body and later that evening, I had the best night's sleep I've had in months.

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Black & White arty shot of King's Cross Pond Club swimmers

The creator's intention is to provide a contrast between the urban and rural in the heart of the city. They've called the installation 'Of Soil and Water' and say it's a piece of 'experiential art'. I'm too down to earth to feel I've participated in an art installation, but it's interesting to note that since my visit, all I can think of is a massive black and white photography project, which documents the many moods of the pond and its visitors.

* = The Art of Swimming is the name of the book written by the creator of the Shaw Method, a way of teaching swimming developed by Steven Shaw. It's based on the principles of the Alexander Technique and places the emphasis on feeling at ease with the water, rather than swimming fast.

I feel the book's intention matched my experience.

Sepia toned arty shot of the fence, cranes and lifeguard's chair at King's Cross Pong Club

Update: By a strange coincidence Caro was in the same area the day before me and had the chance for a good look around The Skip Garden. This is great because I wanted to have a look round too, but sadly I arrived too late in the day.

8 comments:

  1. I wish I liked swimming as that looks so cool in more ways than one! Thanks for the link to the Skip Garden I am going to check that out next time I am in London.

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    1. I had a look through the fence and thought it well worth a visit. Caro's blog post confirmed it.

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  2. How cool that you were able to give it a try!!

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    Replies
    1. Cool in both senses of the word ;-)

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  3. Wow, 18C – you're brave!

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    1. And no wetsuit was worn Matt!

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  4. Aww, thanks for the link, VP. I loved the look of the swimming pond - great graphics explaining it all outside as well - but I think I'd want slightly warmer weather for a swim than we've had recently! Must be lovely to swim with no chlorine in the water - I always enjoy my bracing dips in the sea when visiting my parents, all that salt and chilly sea temperatures is most invigorating! I hadn't realised that it was an art installation so I hope that the swimming pond is there for a while. Lovely idea for a photo project as well - hope that one comes off! C xx

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    1. Hi Caro, yes the graphics outside are very interesting and reminded me of my Freshwater Biology masters' studies :)

      In some ways it was easier to swim in the cooler weather - less of a shock when you leap in!

      My understanding is the installation's there for 2 years and one of the lifeguard's said she's on a 18 month contract. It'll be interesting to see what happens when the time's up - I can't believe so much money could be spent on something that's not permanent, though as it stands it couldn't be run as a viable enterprise with a maximum of 160 swimmers per day.

      I'd love to be there in the winter - can you imagine a swim through the mist on a cold day?

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