Whenever someone mentions a lido in England, visions of a near-Olympic-sized outdoor swimming pool tends to awaken. But a lido in the suburbs of North-West London is far from what people would imagine or expect a lido to be.
Ruislip Lido is actually a 60-acre lake with a sandy beach, albeit artificial, surrounded by woodlands. It also features a railway line – which operates during school holidays and weekends only – that runs through the woodlands as it skirts around the lake.
This magical place, a mere hour’s journey from central London by a combination of both tube and bus, is a delight to experience and is likely to shatter any pre-conceived notions of lidos.
Stepping off the H13 bus at Ruislip Lido, a short bus ride from Ruislip Station, I was greeted by a simply stunning and peaceful landscape. Ahead of me was the lake, and much further ahead was the beach, surrounded by thriving woods.
A fan of sun, sea and sand since a child, the beach at Ruislip Lido was what first brought Ruislip Lido to my attention all those years ago. At a time when pop-up beaches in London first began to spring up off Brick Lane and in Camden, I read an article that mentioned Ruislip Lido – but in my pursuit of nearby pop-ups, Ruislip Lido slipped from my attention.
Fortunately, Ruislip Lido made its way back on my radar, and what I discovered was mightily impressive. Many people at Ruislip Lido make their way to the beach via a walk which takes in the woodlands first. However, my child-like desire to “muck around on the beach” took me along a shorter walk along the promenade. The views of the lake and surrounding woods, along the promenade, are spectacular and is a popular spot for taking panoramic photos.
Ruislip Lido Beach is a fair sized beach, which on sunny days and weekends can get busy. When it’s not busy, there’s enough room to roam around and play on the beach. Naturally Ruislip Lido Beach is a great place for children and families. The addition of a wooden pirate ship and nearby playground, make Ruislip Lido a perfect destination for families wanting to combine kids playtime with some nature too.
The artificial beach is effortlessly at home perched on the south bank of the lake. The tranquil waters of the lake provide for an interesting and unique experience of water and land, as opposed to being on a beach, with the rough, choppy waters. Neither swimming nor boating is allowed on the lake at Ruislip Lido anymore, offering visitors the opportunity to be at one with the element of water as well as its inhabitants which include swans and geese.
Being able to take a walk along the beach, or rather playfully sink my feet in the sand, surrounded by the stillness and calming waters of the lake was an absolute pleasure. In fact, Ruislip Lido Beach is an example where nature-meets-manmade bodes well for the environment.
Ruislip Lido serves its community’s wellbeing and nature needs effectively, and there’s something for everyone at Ruislip Lido – from children, parents, nature lovers and even joggers. If you do manage to tear yourself and your children away from the beach, there’s a lot more to Ruislip Lido. A walk around the lake will take you within the woods. Ruislip Woods National Nature Reserve is the largest block of ancient, semi-natural woodland in Greater London and includes one of the most extensive oak/hornbeam coppice woods in southeast England.
The walk within the woods also gives visitors the chance to stop off at vantage points overlooking the lake, where you can picnic while marvelling at the wildlife that has made Ruislip Lido their home including green woodpeckers and cuckoos.
A particularly nice touch to the walk at Ruislip Lido is a planet-themed walk, known as Walk the Planets. Aimed at engaging people of all ages, the “planetary” walk starts with the sun, which is opposite the boathouse. Each planet is marked by an informative display board, which tells visitors more about the planets and features images from spacecraft or as viewed in the sky from Earth. It certainly plants a seed for anyone interested in the universe.
Ruislip Lido has a real community vibe to it and residents and visitors are very respectful of their environment ensuring that the area flourishes for generations to come. Although the area is owned and managed by Hillingdon Council, a dedicated team of volunteers also ensure the maintenance of the area, keeping it pristine for all to enjoy. The Ruislip Lido Railway, which travels around the lake and on the edges of the woods, is even made possible by volunteers. That said Ruislip Lido really is a good example of community and nature working together, and what happens when the two embrace one another and work in harmony together.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea