Bikini atoll

Paradise regained: how the world’s wastelands are regenerating

Ignoring the padlocked gate, my six-year-old son Nicholas and I climbed through a break in the metal fence and pushed into the mesh of undergrowth. This was the site of Ducker, the open-air swimming pool that once belonged to Harrow School. Here the young Winston Churchill romped (naked, since trunks were for prefects), as, in his day, did my dad. When I arrived at Harrow in the 1980s, the pool — far bigger than Tooting Bec Lido, which is now the UK’s largest — had just been abandoned. It was covered with graffiti, the haunt of skateboarders. Returning in 2021, I looked for changes wrought by three decades of neglect.