Wild swimming: Old Thames Water depot could be turned into community ponds

More than £200,000 has been raised in the hopes of creating the East London Waterworks Park.

An old east LondonThames Water depot could be set to be transformed into the capital’s first new wild swimming ponds in almost 250 years.

Plans to create rainwater filled swimming ponds, wildlife habitats, a forest school and a make and repair cafe are underway at the site on the border of Hackney and Waltham Forest.

More than £200,000 has been raised via a crowdfunder in the hopes of creating the East London Waterworks Park (ELWP), from a former industrial area owned by the supplier.

An old east London Thames Water depot could be transformed into the capital’s first new wild swimming ponds. Photo: ELWP

Volunteers hope to raise £500,000 to buy the 5.68 hectare plot and transform it into the first new swimming ponds in London to be created since Hampstead Ponds in 1777 - where 1,000 people a day would be able to swim for free.

The project, which would be the city’s very first community-owned natural swimming ponds, has so far gathered more than 1,800 supporters and hit 40% of its fundraising target.

Abigail Woodman, ELWP chairman and volunteer, said: “We want this concrete-covered depot to, once more, play its part in supporting the health and well-being of the community.”

Plans to create rainwater filled swimming ponds, wildlife habitats, and a forest school are underway at the site. Photo: ELWP

She added: “The landowner has identified the site for disposal and we need your support to raise £1m through crowdfunding to help us buy the site.

“Having access to green and blue spaces makes people mentally healthier.

“We will be creating a brand-new place for people to immerse themselves in nature and enjoy the myriad health benefits of wild swimming.”

The former Thames Water depot would feature public swimming areas and a make and repair cafe. Photo: ELWP

And she said: “It will be a wonderful place to walk, swim, hang out, listen to the birds and watch the bees.”

The charity says nearby outdoor swimming facilities are limited to London Fields Lido.

During the recent heat waves, pools were inundated with locals cooling off, they said.

More than £200,000 has been raised via a crowdfunder in the hopes of creating the East London Waterworks Park (ELWP). Photo: ELWP

While 40% of young people in Waltham Forest and Hackney are living in poverty, meaning many of the existing facilities are too expensive, they added.

Plans for the site include sustainably maintaining the 5,000 square metres of rainwater ponds with reeds and aquatic plants, as well as space for the arts and scientific research.

If successful, it would be the largest community rewilding plot bought from the government, volunteers say, and would offer habitats for rare butterflies, invertebrates, bats, and birds.

The crowdfunding campaign raised more than £100,000 in the first few days and has now reached £200,000 of its £500,000 target: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/elwp.

The group hopes to raise a further £500,000 via corporate donations and grant funding.

For more information, visit: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/elwp