Make a splash!
Hey hot stuff! Bit sweaty? Break out the Muddy bikini, we’re diving in. Read on for the best outdoor water fun in our 'hood.
In the UK you can’t get further from the sea than here in Bucks and Oxon. However there’s still plenty of choice for al fresco aqua fun on sultry summer days. So for those times when the garden paddling pool isn’t quite cutting it, here’s the Muddy guide to watery wonders, all of which work if you have nippers in tow. (Have we missed anywhere amazing? Do tell us in the comment box below.) Just make sure those bikini straps are firmly secured before you cannonball in…
LOVE A LIDO?
First of all, exciting outdoor pool news. Abingdon Meadows in – go on, guess? – Abingdon has reopened after a whopping £1.3million refurbishment. There’s now one big pool (rather than two smaller ones), a gentle beach-style sloping walk-in area for little ones and those with disabilities and spruced-up changing areas. Plus a large picnic area and a decent park. Let me know if you give it a whirl. Talking of lidos, if you’re in central Oxford, Hinksey, just off the Abingdon Road, is fantastic – I reviewed it here. Then there’s the equally excellent Wycombe Rye, in the midst of a vast park. This is a big favourite with my children.
In Wallingford, you’ll find Riverside Park on the banks of the Thames with a 23 metre heated swimming pool and a splash park. You can also camp there, if you’re a braver woman than I. Then there’s the Chippy Lido in Chipping Norton, run by locals as a charity. They’re doing a Summer Solstice Sunset Swim on 22 June, from 7.30pm-11pm which sounds lovely (and children are welcome). Woodstock also has an open-air pool,as does Chesham, not forgetting the Woodgreen Leisure Centre in Banbury. Do carefully check their websites and call up before you travel though, as sometimes public sessions are limited and info isn’t brilliantly communicated, especially with council-run pools.
Oxford Wet ‘N’ Wild aqua park in Berinsfield has been spruced up by its new owners and now has a decent café (note – no picnics allowed). The inflatable obstacle courses are suitable for children aged 6+ who can swim 50m. We tried it the other day and it was masses of fun, the kids loved it. Advanced booking is recommended – and cheaper, £15 per person as opposed to £20 for walk-ins. Head to Willen Lake in MK for an enormous splash park, Splash’n’Play with 60 water features (including tunnels and cannons). There’s a dedicated toddler area but it’s suitable for children up to the age of 13. If you’re forward-planning for the summer hols already (and if you are, can I employ you as my diary co-ordinator please?), take a look at Longridge Activity Centre, on the river in Marlow, which has fantastic one day and residential watersports courses for children aged 8+.
MESSING ABOUT ON THE RIVER
Prefer to survey the scene from the relative dryness of a boat? (Assuming you don’t fall in, obvs). Head to Oxford and hire a punt from Magdalen Boat House or Cherwell Boathouse – the riverside restaurant at the latter is lovely, plus it’s slightly cheaper and less touristy. You can also hire punts from Folly Bridge or take a boat trip – or even charter one – from the historic Salters Steamers, who’ve been messing around on the river since 1858. Hobbs of Henley, meanwhile, offer a similar service in, well, Henley. Hello sailor!
PS – if you’re looking for open water swimming, watch this space – a separate marvellous Muddy guide is coming soon!