Reporter Natalie Glanvill looks back at the history of man-made beauty spot - Hollow Pond. 

Without the manual labour of the unemployed in Waltham Forest over a century ago, a hugely popular beauty spot would cease to exist.

Set on the border of Leytonstone and Snaresbrook, Hollow Pond is described as a “mini oasis in the heart of London” by a tea hut worker who says its lake and natural grassland continue to attract huge numbers throughout all seasons of the year.

The ponds were formed after gravel was extracted out of the forest land to use for road building, but this ceased in 1878 and what was left was a series of water –filled pits on marshy land.

That was until 1905 when an army of unemployed labourers were specially recruited by Leyton District Council and Epping Forest Committee to expand the lake.

In a newspaper extract titled ‘Epping Forest: Annual Inspection’, it states: “The scheme was so much appreciated that each year the lakes has been extended and added to, and the water and islands now cover about 13 acres.”

What came next was Whipps Cross Bathing Pool, situated to the north of Hollow Ponds in grassland by Whipps Cross Roundabout.

Fed by natural springs, the pool became a popular swimming facility but suffered notoriously from build-ups of mud and silt and in 1932, at the cost of £7,000 it was redeveloped into a state-of-the-art lido considered to be the biggest in Britain at the time, containing over 1,300,000 gallons of water.

The oval shaped pool boasted a twenty foot-high diving board, racing lanes and a paddling area, serving hundreds of swimmers every day from across east London and Essex during the summer months. 

Carrolle Jaimeson, 68, of Calderon Road in Leytonstone has been visiting Hollow Ponds for 45 years and has fond memories of Whipps Cross Lido.

“I taught my children how to swim at the lido. It was a fantastic place to come to get fit, cleanse your skin, sunbath, socialise and be amongst the wildlife.

“It was such a shock when it closed as it was so well used by the community.

“To this day Hollow Pond offers tranquillity and a place to get away from tower blocks and depending on what you fancy, a place to pick up some fluff.”

It proved to be an instant success but continued to be dogged by hygiene problems and concerns over the safety of children accessing the pool through the forest.

It closed temporarily in 1971 and 1972 but then reopened again after a £29,000 refurbishment only to be consigned to the history books when it was eventually filled in and reinstated as Epping Forest land in 1983.   

Hollow Ponds has a reputation as being a destination of choice for gay cruising, but Log Cabin worker of 10 years Kathy Reilly, says otherwise.

 “It is one of the safest places this side of Whipps Cross because of the hospital. I have never seen people having sex here in public and this is open 24 hours.

“It’s peaceful and what I like to call a mini oasis in the middle of London.”  

Blurs frontman and Gorillaz artist Damon Albarn paid homage to his upbringing in Leytonstone by naming a track off his 2014 solo album Everyday Robots ‘Hollow Ponds’.

The council are to spend £30,000 this spring on natural play equipment at the City of London Corporation-owned site.