While most families across the UK are eagerly waking up on Christmas Day to unwrap their presents, tuck into turkey and switch on Home Alone, other British residents are starting their day by plunging into ice-cold waters!
One of the most famous Christmas swims is the Peter Pan Cup. This aquatic race is held in London’s Hyde Park which is just around the corner from the Montcalm Hotel.
Before you sit down to your festive cream tea in London this Christmas season, acquaint yourself with this bizarre but extremely admirable tradition. You might even want to go along yourself to check it out and cheer on the competitors.
What is the Peter Pan Cup?
- The Peter Pan Cup is an annual swim race of 110-yards which takes place on Christmas Day. It is held in the Serpentine Lido, in the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park.
- The Cup has taken place every year since 1864.
- The race starts at 9am sharp and takes place on the south bank of the lake, close to the Lido Cafe. The event is a swift affair so you can book Christmas Day spa treatments in London for straight after the winner is crowned!
- The Peter Pan Cup is only open to members of the Serpentine Swimming Club who have qualified during the season. This means they must compete in seven of the nine winter races.
- The icy Serpentine waters are usually below 4C (40F) degrees during the winter, so swimmers must become acclimatised over a period of time in order to cope.
- The competitors in the race brave the waters in only their swimming suits – you won’t see any wetsuits here as they are permitted by the club! Help get the swimmers into the festive spirit by picking up a pair of reindeer antlers or a Santa hat using your Bicester Village discount deal when you book a club room at The Montcalm. There’s nothing like a little comic relief to show your support!
- It is free to attend to watch the Peter Pan Cup, and spectators are very welcome. You are advised to wrap up in layers to combat the cold. You can warm up over a scrumptious cream tea in your London hotel after the event.
The history of the Peter Pan Cup:
- The inaugural Peter Pan Cup was won by H. Coulter. He won a gold medal, which became the customary prize for the winner until 1904.
- The name of the race comes from 1904, when author and playwright Sir James Barrie presented the first ‘Peter Pan’ cup to the winner. This was the first time the trophy deviated from being a gold medal.
- Incidentally, 1904 was the same year that Barrie’s play, Peter Pan, made its debut on the London stage. It was published as a novel in 1929 about a little boy who never grew up. If you are staying in a club room at the Montcalm Hotel you can book the Bicester Village discount package and pick up a copy of the book whilst on your shopping spree – it’s a terrific Christmas gift.
- Last year’s race saw just short of 100 people taking part. It was won by Sakura Adams, age 36, from London. In an interview, she said it felt ‘absolutely amazing’ to win and she felt ‘over the moon’ after being a member of the club for 13 years.
- Swimmer Nick Adams holds the record for the fastest swim – 57 seconds in 2002 event. Nick also holds the record for the 55 and 440yard races.
And what is the Serpentine Swimming Club?
- The Serpentine Swimming Club is one of the oldest swimming clubs in the country. They hold races every Saturday morning, and usually, the distance swum will depend on the temperature of the water. They swim in all temperatures unless ice is present. Guests stay at The Montcalm Marble Arch are welcome to go along and spectate.
- Women and men are welcome to join the Serpentine Swimming Club and take part in the annual races. It is believed that prior to 1930 when the Serpentine Lido was cordoned off, women would not have swum in the Serpentine.
- Women were welcome to join the Serpentine Swimming Club from the early 1970s onwards, and by 1980 women begun to compete in the races alongside the men.
- It costs £20 to join the Serpentine Swimming Club, and prospective members are recommended to visit the premises in person prior to signing up.
- Members talk about the community aspect of the Serpentine Swimming Club. In fact, once the crowds at the Peter Pan Cup have dispersed, swimmers head indoors to exchange gifts and share Christmas wishes!
- In addition to the Peter Pan Cup, 4 additional Championship races are held per year (55 yards, 220 yards, 440 yards and 880 yards). If you can’t make it to the Christmas Day race, book a club room during another race!
- Members of the Serpentine Swimming Club are welcome to swim any day of the week between 6am and 9.30am, many London members like to take a pre-work dip!
About the Serpentine Lake and Lido:
- The Serpentine Lake was formed in 1730-1733. Queen Caroline (wife of King George II) had the idea of providing an ornamental lake to enhance the park’s beauty.
- The Serpentine Lido opened in 1930 when a rectangular part of the lake was sectioned off by buoys.
- During summer, the water in the lake can reach practically tropical temperatures of over 20°C (70°F). Although, we think we’d still want to warm up with spa treatments in London afterwards.
- The Serpentine Lido is staffed with professional lifeguards and is open to the public for a small fee 10am to 6pm weekends and bank holidays in May and then all week from June to mid-September.
- If you don’t fancy taking a dip, you can hire a rowing boat and relax on the lake during summer.