Splash! 6 outdoor swimming spots
Open-water swimming is a big trend at the moment thanks to (a) the fact that every woman and her dog is training for a triathlon and (b) er, the heatwave, silly.
So we grabbed our goggles and headed out into the wide blue yonder to find the pick of the swimming spots in our ‘hood – no sea waters obviously but we found a lake or two and some great river locations. First though, some wise words of advice from author and wild swimming guru Alexandra Heminsley, author of Leap In: A Woman, Some Waves And The Will To Swim.
“It’s highly inadvisable to go swimming in open water alone unless you are an exceptionally experienced swimmer in water that you know very well,” she says. “It’s too risky and also it’s quite boring, not to mention lonely. For the purpose of finding nearby swimmers, the Outdoor Swimming Society website is an invaluable tool.” So there you have it, people. Grab a friend and your favourite flowery swimming cap, and dive in!
Marlow Open Water Swim, Westhorpe Lakes, Little Marlow, Bucks
Over 45 acres of lake space for a £5 swim – that sounds pretty good to us. They’ve also got swimming coaches, safety marshals, hot showers and a café. Again, opening times tend to be limited to mornings/evenings so do check their website.
Port Meadow, Oxford
A friend of mine who works in city pops down here for a cooling, calming swim before her commute home – how groovy is that? This stretch of the river in Jericho runs through the meadow and is so gorgeous it inspired sections of Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland, apparently. There’s free parking at the north end of Port Meadow, just off Godstow Road in Wolvercote.
Buscot Weir, nr Faringdon, Oxon
A Muddy reader recommended this one (thank you!). The weir gently waterfalls down into a large pool area that’s perfect for a cooling dip and family-friendly with it. There are tea rooms, free parking and toilets nearby.
Marsh Lock, Henley, Oxon
This is a 10 minute walk from the Mill Lane car park in Henley and you get to float along admiring the town’s multi-million pound riverfront grand designs. For more info, see Henley Open Water Swimming Club – the site also has details of nearby swims further along the river in Hurley and Medmenham.
Queenford Lakes, nr Berinsfield, Oxon
I take my daughter to the open water swimming sessions at this lovely, clean lake – people regularly travel from neighbouring counties to swim here too as it’s regarded as one of the best outdoor swimming options in the region. You need to register for a chipped wristband and sessions are limited to early morning and late evenings (there are a lot of other watersports taking place on the lake) so do have a proper read of the website rather than just rocking up.
Clifton Hampden, nr Abingdon, Oxon
Head for the bridge in this village near Abingdon and you’ll find a stretch of the river lined with mini beaches. If you work up an appetite, the Barley Mow pub is nearby – Jerome K Jerome used to prop up the bar here in the late 19th century when he wasn’t writing Three Men In A Boat.
Kenwood Ladies’ Pond, Hampstead Heath, London
Heading into the Big Smoke? This long-standing institution at Hampstead Heath is your dead cert in London. Only for the girls, it’s open 7 days a week to all and is lifeguarded.
PS – The best open water swimming spots tend to be word -of-mouth affairs, so do pop a note in the comment box below if we’ve missed anywhere good near you. I couldn’t find many in Bucks but perhaps you know different?
PPS – Looking for more outdoor water fun? For lidos and splashparks, read this!