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6. The Ponds; movie review

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Title : 6. The Ponds; movie review
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Cert TBA
73 mins
BBFC advice: TBA

As I was growing up, "We learned to swim in the river," came in the same breath from elders as "I remember this when it was all fields".
Their claims didn't seem far-fetched because even we city-dwellers were still at one with nature, regularly playing in woods and going for long walks in the nearby countryside.
I knew I could swim at the age of five when I over-reached with a fishing net and fell into the Coventry Canal.
I can still recall its dark green murkiness 50 years later.
Those were also the days of lidos. Indeed, even our children enjoyed swimming in Kenilworth's outdoor pool which I notice has recently been shut down.
Thankfully, the axe has been avoided at the Hampstead pools which are an unspoilt throwback of hundreds of years.
As Patrick McLennan and Samuel Smith's documentary shows, this is where men and women still bathe in the open air whatever the weather and temperature of the water.
Yes, in this world of computer-driven chaos, the ponds are an invigorating bolt-hole where people come to swim, chat and allow stress to disappear.
They look like a slice of heaven although most of us would be daunted about leaping into cold water.
The ponds are remarkable because they are situated in the middle of London, one of the busiest cities on earth.
Their swimmers are evangelical about what they believe are physical and psychological health benefits.
Over a year, the makers of The Ponds filmed many devotees as well as occasional swimmers as they explained their addiction to the waters on beautiful Hampstead Heath.
They alight upon fascinating stories - particularly of those who have suffered startling adversity but have found solace in the ponds and the camaraderie of fellow dippers.
The Ponds is a gentle portrait of a part of England which should never be lost.
It is not a challenging movie but it is enlightening and takes us back to attitudes of which our parents would have approved.
Indeed, it led me to think it is a shame every city hasn't got a pond.

Reasons to watch: A beautiful portrait of old England which is still here in 2019
Reasons to avoid: Might be too gentle for some

Laughs: A couple of chuckles
Jumps: None
Vomit: None
Nudity: Yes
Overall rating: 7/10

Did you know? 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

The final word - Patrick McLennan: "The cold water unites swimmers in a way you don’t often see in ordinary life. We’ve heard a lot of stories over the year: some funny, some sad, many of them heart-warming. There’s a shared bond over the pleasure and benefits of swimming in the ponds that brings the regulars together.Heath And Hampstead Society

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