I can't explain quite how reluctant I was to head up to the famous 'mens pond' in Hampstead. Even though everybody told me such great things about it, I have been inclined to believe what I've read in literature - books such as Alan Hollinghurst's 'The Line of Beauty' where it is a hotbed of cruising and aggressive, if not unwanted, sexual encounters.
As it happens, it's nothing like that - and in fact I can't easily remember a friendlier, more gentle and glorious place to spend a summer afternoon. There is a bathing pond, with changing facilities and showers free and open to access. Yes, there is a 'clothing optional' sunbathing area within the changing area, which I certainly opted to visit. And there is also a grassy area where everyone basically just hangs out, smokes, listens to music and, as seen above, performs acro-balance routines.
All in all, it's just fabulous, and I will be heading up again as soon as the bloody sun comes out once more!