London

Forget Hampstead Heath. Beckenham Place Park is London’s new wild swimming spot

We’ve found the perfect place for cooling off in the heatwave

With temperatures rocketing into the mid-30s over the next few days, we’re in for a week of sweaty commutes, airless offices and no sleep. But there is something that’ll make London that much more bearable this summer. After two years of landscaping and planting by Lewisham Council, Beckenham Place Park has just unveiled its brand new look – and it’s where we’re planning on spending the rest of the heatwave.

The Georgian park, which started life as a private home and garden in 1762, spent much of the last 100 years as a golf course. However, with the help of a £5 million National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, it has now been transformed into a 96-hectare natural oasis, complete with formal gardens, meadows, woodland and a 283-metre-long wild swimming and boating lake. There’s also cycle tracks and a 5km running route that circumnavigates the park. A triathlon is already scheduled to take place there in October.

And at the centre of this new community-focused park is the lake, which is already a hit with visitors. It has a man-made sandy beach and shallow areas for children, as well as a roped-off lifeguarded zone for swimmers. More adventurous types, however, can strike out on their own to explore the lake, or rent one of the canoes or paddleboards. Just the thing for surviving a hot summer day.

The reopening of the park has been timed to coincide with the London National Park City Festival, which runs from 20-28 July. This marks the capital becoming the world’s first National Park City, a scheme run in conjunction with the Mayor of London that proposes to make the city a greener, healthier and wilder place to live through projects like Beckenham Palace Park.

With the heatwave that’s about to come this week, heading down south to relax on the beach or under shady trees is a pretty tempting prospect. See you in the lake.

Beckenham Hill Road, Beckenham BR3 5BS, lewisham.gov.uk