Did you know that one of the largest swimming pools in the entire UK lies hidden in woodland adjacent to Northwick Park Hospital?
A local public school sold the land more than 30 years ago and since then the ‘Ducker’ has fallen into disrepair.
The huge L-shaped pool, which was originally opened in Harrow in 1886, closed a century later and has since been reclaimed by nature. During its heyday, it was a favourite place for school pupils to hang out during the summer months.
One of its most famous visitors was a young Winston Churchill who forged a lifelong friendship with an unsuspecting boy he pushed in.
Churchill wrote about the incident in his memoirs: “The school possessed the biggest swimming pool I’ve ever seen. It was more like the bend of a river than a bath and it has two bridges across it.
“Thither we used to repair for hours at a time, and bask between our dips, eating enormous buns on the hot asphalt margin.
“Naturally, it was a good joke to come up behind some naked friend, or enemy and push them in.”
Winston’s victim, Leo Amery, had a clear recollection of the incident.
“My first impression of Winston was characteristically forceful when I suddenly felt myself propelled into the water by a foot in the small of my back, while unseen hands reft me of my towel.”
The pair later became prominent politicians in the Conservative Party warning about the growing danger posed by Adolf Hitler in the 1930s.
The Ducker’s name lives on to this day in the Long Ducker, an annual festival of sporting events which includes a 10km run from Wembley to Harrow-on-the-Hill station.
Hardy souls can also complete the Double Long Ducker which starts with a pre-dawn 10km swim and 20km run.
It may be three decades too late for a swim but the staff at adjoining Northwick Park Hospital have replaced the Ducker with the Downward Dog using in-house yoga classes to keep trim.