The best lidos and splashparks
Hey hot stuff! Bit sweaty? Our pick of the best pools and river spots to cool down in. Just add sun lotion.
Bit hot, innit? Ideally, we’d like someone to move Bucks and Oxon a bit closer to the seaside right now but, failing that, here’s the Muddy-approved lowdown on all the best local spots for al fresco water fun. (If we’ve missed anywhere good, let us know in the comment box below please). Just make sure those bikini straps are firmly secured before you cannonball in…
First up is the brand new Oxford Aqua Park in Berinsfield, which opened this weekend, with its inflatable obstacle course, suitable for competent swimmers age 6 and upwards. Also on site is the Oxford Wakeboard & Ski Club, which offers water-skiing, wakeboarding and wild swimming for hardcore swimmers and triathletes-in-training.
Looking for a lido? There’s a fantastic one in Hinksey in central Oxford which I reviewed here. Then there’s the equally excellent Wycombe Rye – see my write-up. Between Wallingford and Crowmarsh Gifford, you’ll find the Riverside Park heated outdoor pool and splash park, and there’s also ones in Chipping Norton and at Woodgreen Leisure Centre in Banbury. Woodstock also has an open-air pool, as does Chesham. Do check their websites before you travel though, as sometimes public sessions are limited and you don’t want to turn up with the kids all sweaty in their swimmers only to find you can’t dive in (can you imagine the meltdowns?)
Prefer to mess around on the river? You can hire a punt from Magdalen Boat House in Oxford or Cherwell Boathouse – the riverside restaurant at the latter is lovely, plus it’s slightly cheaper and less touristy. Wild swimmers, meanwhile, should head to Port Meadow in the town centre, a stretch of the Thames so magical it inspired parts of Alice In Wonderland, no less. Then there’s Muddy fave hangout, The Waterfront Cafe in Benson, which I reviewed here – it has great views, you can hire kayaks and there’s a toddler pool just a few metres away. You could also park at The Flower Pot pub, in Aston near Henley, from where you can stroll down to a jetty and have a paddle, or the stretch of the river close to The Barley Mow, in Clifton Hampden near Abingdon, has several decent swimming spots.
Willen Lake in Milton Keynes would make for a great day trip and you can try every kind of water sport going, or just drift around on a pedalo – I wrote about it and the equally fab Marlow riverside Longridge Activity Centre here. Also – NEWSFLASH! – brand new at Willen Lake this month is Splash’n’Play, the UK’s largest splash park doncha know, with 60 water features suitable for children up to 13 years old. It opens on 15 July, so get those swimsuits ready to rock.
And if all else fails: tip a bag of ice into the kids’ paddling pool, jump in and make sure someone is on hand to bring you Cornettos and waft you with palm leaves. I knew the kids would come in handy one day.