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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
John Dunne

Plan for swimming ponds in Waltham Forest a step closer after Crowdfunder hits target

The site where camapigners want to create Waltham Forest Ponds.

(Picture: Waltham Foreat ponds plan instagram)

Campaigners have raised £500,000 through a crowdfunding campaign to create outdoor swimming ponds in Waltham Forest.

East London Waterworks Park’s two ponds, measuring around 1,600 sq metres and 1,400 sq metres, would be fed by rainwater cleaned by reed beds and aquatic plants.

They would be built on a brownfield site being used for industrial storage.

The community group is hoping to transform the east London plot into what is believed to be the capital’s first new wild swimming ponds since Hampstead Ponds were created in 1777. The site would run on hydro and solar power, and have a capacity of 1,000 people a day.

The site on the river Lea would also include a cafe and a make-and-repair hub. Campaigners set up a crowdfunder and this week hit their £500,000 target after 450 different donations. They will now continue to raise funds as they look to get enough to buy the site.

A statement on instagram said: “We’ve reached 100% on our crowdfunder. Thank you everyone who has supported us. The East London Waterworks Park plan is a big, ambitious project to turn a fenced off concrete expanse into a living, green habitat for all.”

The idea for the swimming ponds came from members of the community after government plans to build two free schools on the site, which they purchased from Thames Water, fell through.

If the purchase of the land goes ahead and planning permission is given, it is hoped the ponds will open to volunteers in 2027 and to the public two years later.

Demand for wild swimming has soared following rising interest during the pandemic.

Abigail Woodman, who is leading the project, previously said: “There’s a real desire to swim in open water to reconnect with nature, and there just isn’t enough capacity at the moment to respond to that desire.

“This is about saying we can make things better, we do have the capacity and the power to do that if we come together and work hard.”

William Upton, chair of the City of London Corporation’s Hampstead Heath management committee, said last summer “a record number of swimmers” were using its Mixed Bathing Pond, Highgate Men’s Bathing Pond and Kenwood Ladies’ Bathing Pond.

The ponds were originally created in the 17th and 18th centuries as reservoirs before some were later turned into bathing pools.

Other wild swimming sites, West Reservoir in Hackney and Beckenham Place Park lake in Lewisham, have opened, but the new project believes its ponds will be the first created in centuries.

There is a 42% child poverty rate in the Waltham Forest. Making the facility free to use is a vital aspect of the project.

“We will divorce our ability to bring income and make sure that we can sustain the site from its usage so that it is open and inclusive to all,” said Ms Woodman.

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