7.30am every Saturday morning around thirty people from 18 to 80 years old meet on the banks of the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, London, each with the purpose of stripping off their clothes to jump in for a morning swim. This tradition dates back to 1864, and appears to form a life-long addiction. Members of the club swim every day of the year, but Saturday is the morning for official races. There is a certain undeniable enchantment to watching the swimmers dive into the murky browns that threaten hepatitis, typhoid and botulism. Although one would not associate the matured gentility of the average Serpentine swimmer with extreme sports, weekend hobbies rarely require the spirit necessary to dive so cheerily into freezing cold water whatever the weather. It is oddly inviting and after initial hesitation I filled out my application form for my first swim. I start next week.
7.45 am, the first race of the day.
The 50 yard dash to the buoy.
The finishing line.
The ‘Serpentine Shade’.
The post race warm-up.