swimming in the docklands

Swimming around the first London dock built to accommodate large steamships in 1855 wasn’t on my list of things to do this week, until I noticed that NOWCA had opened a new Open Water Swimming area in the docklands East of London.


I caught the first post-5pm DLR out of the city to get to the Royal Victoria station with lots of time to swim with my friends Charlie & Emily until 8pm. It’s also really easy to cycle to along the superhighway from Tower Bridge. We joked that one car of the DLR should be reserved for swimmers and act as a changing room so we can dive right in when we get there.


You need to buy a NOWCA membership (£10) online before you go and it’s £8 per session to swim. You can also rent wetsuits (unless you are a M or L woman but we found out that the small man sizes fit well too) for £10 a session. Once you get there you pick up your NOWCA bracelet to wear while you’re swimming. It’s checks you in/out of the water and tracks your time/distance if you want.

The spacious and clean change rooms are on a nearby boat (with a bar on top!) and have hot showers. You leave your bags in the registration tent and then head down to the dock to get in. When you tell people you are swimming in the Docklands the obvious reaction is slightly disgusted face that British people are so good at. Traditionally it’s not known for its fresh clean and flowing waters, but the water is obviously at a safe level for swimming. Also, according to my “jump in and get all the water in my mouth no matter how hard I try” official study. It’s fine. I’d put it up there with Stoke Newington’s West Reservoir in terms of freshness & clearness, and there are no weeds!


There are currently 400m & 750m laps set up, very helpfully with different sized buoys so sighting is easier. There will be a 1500m lap eventually when they have a few more in-water support staff. As we did our laps the planes from London City Airport were taking off right over above our heads. You can’t hear much while swimming, but a jet above you is pretty cool. I only did a 400m lap due to an already exhausting day, but Charlie & Emily stayed in and got a few more kicks in.


Everyone at the Docks were super friendly, from the staff to the other swimmers.  I highly recommend it as a great place to go in and get wet during the week. It’s open Sunday & Thursday mornings and Wednesday & Friday evenings.

It’s the summer and it doesn’t get dark until 9pm. Why not take advantage of all the things to do outside?


5 thoughts on “swimming in the docklands

  1. hannahmmb

    I lived near here until I moved to Essex last year, I’d be too terrified to swim in such deep/big/scary water (I’m a definite paddler!) but thanks for a little bit of nostalgia for my beloved Docklands and east London!

  2. adarling575

    Do you know how long it stays open for? Moving back to London at the beginning of September and work near the docks so would be great to have somewhere to train!


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