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Camden New Journal - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published: 11 June 2009
Swimming is healthier than baking in the sun

• MAY I add an observation or two to Dan Carrier’s article (Nudists go stark raving mad over their lack of space at men’s pond, June 4)?
The shortage of laying out space on the concrete slab in the flesh-frying naked men’s section of the Highgate pond changing compound does not arise from its size but from insatiable excessive demand.
As I understand, Michael Peacock wishes to expand the area given over to gay nude sunbathing, in part, by further reducing the area where everyone else changes to go swimming, running, take exercise or, in some instances, actually to sunbathe in swimming shorts. The remaining area for those of the general population seeking physical recreation and relaxation has already been significantly reduced by the creation of an area for exclusive use by naked prone and supine sunbathers. I understand that Mr Peacock proposes that the minority club he represents should now have more space than majority users have.
For a few weeks in the height of summer the now nude sunbathing area is full of tourists brought to the Highgate swimming and bathing pond, I understand, by its national and international promotion in the gay media as a gay meeting place. To judge by the overflow onto the grassy “gay lawn” area outside, and its attraction as an internationally advertised eighth wonder of the world, there is nothing the City Corporation can realistically do to meet this pent-up, promotion-led growth in demand.
I fear Mr Peacock’s proposals are economically flawed. There would not be enough space to meet the demand from gay naked sunbathers, even if the swimmers, runners and others were driven out entirely. That community I might add, includes the short, the tall, the old the young, gay and straight. In short, a cross-section of all of us.
Apart from being economically unviable, Mr Peacock’s ambition is also wrong in fundamental principle. The changing area only exists because it serves, that rarest of things, the Highgate swimming and bathing pond next to it.
Swimming gave rise to and need for the changing area now claimed by Mr Peacock.
It has existed primarily and unquestionably for swimming and swimmers for more than 100 years. Moreover, whereas swimming is healthy exercise, laying sardine-like on concrete, for hours on end, beneath a burning sun, whatever its charms, is dangerous.
Mr Peacock is in effect asking the City Corporation to associate itself with a cause which is contrary to all medical advice and gives rise to the greater social cost of health care. Swimmers generally come and go in half an hour. Mr Peacock’s sunbathers are there much of the day (a major contribution to the overcrowding) along with their cars that help create total day-long congestion and mayhem in Millfield Lane on the best summer days.
Robert Sutherland Smith
Chairman United Swimmers Association of Hampstead Heath

Send your letters to: The Letters Editor, Camden New Journal, 40 Camden Road, London, NW1 9DR or email to The deadline for letters is midday Tuesday. The editor regrets that anonymous letters cannot be published, although names and addresses can be withheld. Please include a full name, postal address and telephone number. Letters may be edited for reasons of space.

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