Paradise lost: the decline and fall of Hampstead’s ladies’ pond

‘We’re surrounded by sociopaths,’ I whispered to my friend as I scanned the scene before me. We were sitting on a bench overlooking the meadow at Kenwood Ladies’ Pond on Hampstead Heath, and for the first time in my 20-odd years of visiting, I felt a sense of detachment: like I was an observer rather than a participant. A lot’s changed since the pandemic, but nowhere have I felt it more keenly than when I go for a swim at my beloved pond. This last, precious corner of paradise in our smog-filled city has been desecrated, and I am heartbroken. The ladies’ pond opened in 1925, and nearly 100 years

The art of breaststroke

I’m house-sitting for the foreign correspondent while he attends the funeral of his beloved father-in-law Toto, the last of the languid Old Etonian gentleman bankers. And he has a pool. And what a pool it is. The days here are roasting; the sun is now the enemy. Already dead leaves crackle underfoot. So I swim in the evening, when it is a little cooler. The pool is built into the hill above the house. On one side is a wide apron of smooth white stone slabs. Beyond the apron is a rose garden and stone-built pool house with power sockets and a beer fridge. On the other side the water

Floods you with fascinating facts: Trees A Crowd reviewed

Listening to Trees A Crowd, a podcast exploring the ‘56(ish) native trees of the British Isles’, solved one of childhood’s great mysteries for me. Why, when you plant a pip from one type of apple, does it grow into a completely different type of apple tree? The answer — one kind of apple tree will typically cross-pollinate with another variety to pass on a different set of genes — is less interesting than the next bit. Which is that if you do plant, say, a Braeburn seed, and it takes, you’re likely to end up with crab apples. The reason, as explained on the podcast, is that the wild crab

Letters: Police must focus on deterring crime, not responding to it

Deterring crime Sir: Rod Liddle is right to highlight the politicisation of the police as a source of their inadequacies, but I think he misses the crucial point (‘Defund the police’, 27 June). We simply do not have bobbies on the beat to even feel sympathy for, and this means that constructive relationships between a recognisable police officer and their community are a rarity. As Kevin Hurley describes, many black youths in our cities have nothing but hatred towards police officers, and this cannot be a surprise when the only interactions they have with them are being forced to empty their pockets after being suspected of criminal activity. Mr Liddle

Letters: The joy of balconies

The closing of churches Sir: Stephen Hazell-Smith is quite right in writing that churches should re-open (Letters, 18 April), however the issue is now more fundamental. Recent weeks have demonstrated a crisis of leadership in almost every aspect of national life, excluding the Queen, who has exercised a spiritual leadership made necessary by the failure of bishops. The closing of churches may be seen as a defining moment in the life of the Church of England. As the Archbishop of Canterbury broadcast from his kitchen on Easter Day, impervious to the damage his ‘leadership’ has caused, many Anglican clergy and people I know looked to the image of the Pope