Hampstead Heath (locally known as "the Heath") is a large, ancient London park, covering 320 hectares (790 acres). This grassy public space sits astride a sandy ridge, one of the highest points in London, running from Hampstead to Highgate, which rests on a band of London Clay. The Heath is rambling and hilly, embracing ponds, recent and ancient Woodlands, a lido, playgrounds, and a training track, and it adjoins the stately home of Kenwood House and its grounds. The south-east part of the Heath is Parliament Hill, from which the view over London is protected by law.
Running along its eastern perimeter are a chain of ponds - including three open-air public swimming pools - which were originally reservoirs for drinking water from The River Fleet. The Heath is a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation, and part of Kenwood is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Lakeside concerts are held there in summer. The Heath is managed by the City of London Corporation, and lies mostly within the London Borough of Camden with the adjoining Hampstead Heath Extension and Golders Hill Park in the London Borough of Barnet.
The Heath is home to a range of activities, including 16 different sports. It is used by walkers, runners, swimmers and kite-flyers, and is regarded as the home of cross-country running in Britain. Running events include the weekly Hampstead Heath parkrun and Race for Life in aid of Cancer Research UK. Until February 2007 Kenwood held a series of popular lakeside concerts. The West Heath is regarded as one of the most notable and safest night-time cruising grounds in London. George Michael has revealed that he cruises on the Heath, an activity he then parodied on the Extras Christmas Special.
Swimming takes place all year round in two of the three natural swimming ponds: the men's pond which opened in the 1890s, and the ladies' pond which opened in 1925. The mixed pond is only open from May to September, though it is the oldest, having been in use since the 1860s. Facilities include an athletics track, a pétanque pitch, a volleyball court and eight separate children's play areas including an adventure playground.