The Hampstead Ponds or Highgate Ponds are three large freshwater swimming ponds - two designated single sex, and one for mixed bathing - fed by the headwater springs of The River Fleet - in Hampstead Heath, North London, England. The swimming ponds are three out of some 30 ponds on Hampstead Heath. They were originally dug in the 17th and 18th centuries as reservoirs. A malarial marsh was drained by the Hampstead Water Company in 1777 to meet London's growing water demand.
In 2004, the City of London Corporation, which holds the Heath in trust, since the abolition of the Greater London Council in 1986, tried to close the ponds on the grounds that they were an unsustainable drain on their expenses and posed a health risk to swimmers. The swimmers challenged this and won a victory in the High Court. To defray costs, the Corporation introduced a charge for admission of £2 per session, £1 for concessions. There was some opposition to this on the grounds that swimming there had been free since at least the 1920s, and some ticket machines were vandalised.
Hampstead has three different ponds for swimming - one for men, one for women and one mixed. Only swimmers over eight years of age are allowed; those between eight and 15 years old must be in the care of an adult. The men's pond had a diving tower but this was dismantled following an accident in the 1970s and only a low level board remains, along with showers and a small sunbathing and changing area.
Winter swimming is usually possible at all three ponds, which remain very popular with users. The Corporation of London website publishes water quality tests. The three ponds are not to be confused with Parliament Hill Lido, built in 1938, now with a stainless steel lining.
The men's and women's ponds are located on the eastern side of The Park, off Millfield Lane. The mixed bathing Pond is in the centre of the Heath, and is a 10-15 minute walk from Hampstead Heath Railway Station and several buses serving South End Green, at the junction of Pond Street and East Heath Road.