Splash! Best outdoor swimming spots
It's getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes! Now dive into our guide to the best open water swimming locations in Bucks and Oxon. Just kindly refrain from bombing, running or petting please.
So the weather may have been a leeetle rocky of late (what do you mean you’re not used to hail in July?) but the Met Office assures us that warmer and altogether less erratic days are on the way. So in preparation for scorchio weather and with summer holidays to fill, here are our favourite outdoor swimming destinations in Bucks & Oxon. Sunscreen. Towels. Drinking water. Salty snacks. Go!
HIT THE POOL
Hinksey Heated Outdoor Pool, Oxford
Maybe not one for the serious swimmers out there but certainly a fab way to while away an afternoon with the kids. It’s run by Oxford City Council and has been in place in Hinksey Park since 1934. If it’s hot (and even if it’s not) you’ll need to book of course but what’s a bit of forward planning when there’s this much fun on offer?
Chipping Norton Lido, Oxon
A heated lido in Chipping Norton, you say? Yes, that’s exactly right and it’s been a pillar of the community since 1970. Due to Covid, the timed sessions need to be booked and rules need to be followed. But if you live close, you can also get the minis signed up for swimming lessons as it’s a much-loved and well-used local facility. There’s a cafe too if you’re in need of a post-swim pick-me-up.
Wycombe Rye Lido, Wycombe
Newly renovated and very much open for business, at Wycombe Rye park in the centre of town there is a heated outdoor pool, heated children’s pool and grassed and terraced sunbathing areas. It’s open all year, and doors swing open at 6.30 every morning for a bracing dip. Online booking only.
Chesham Open Air Pool, Chesham
Down at Chesham Moor you’ll find the open air pool, which is heated and remains open all year. However, due to Covid it is currently only available to lane swimmers only but you can choose your lane – slow, medium, or – steady now – fast. Buy a membership or swim as you go, for £6 a session.
Thames Lido, Reading
Yes, it is officially in Berkshire but it’s just over the border and it’s very pretty so we felt it deserved inclusion. The 25m pool, heated to 26 degrees all year round, is part of a very plush package of spa facilities and restaurant and tapas bar. Alas, due to Covid, they’re only accepting members in the pool at present and to become one of those you’ll need a joining fee of £50 and then a monthly outgoing of £65. But if you swim over 10 times a month, it’s cheap.
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’re now open for the season – so that’s kids and adults – but welcome competent swimmers only. If you meet the criteria this beautiful lake is well worth an early-morning dip (it opens at 6am on Wed, Sat and Sun). Don’t forget to check the opening times.
Queenford Lakes, nr Berinsfield, Oxon
I take my daughter to the open water swimming sessions at this lovely, clean lake. 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 heading down.
Denham Waterski Club, Denham, Bucks
This 20-acre lake just outside of Gerrards Cross is home to plenty of watersports (clue’s in the name), but open water swimming is popular here. You’ll have to book a slot with a wristband, which are currently available on weeknight evenings and weekend mornings.
Port Meadow, Oxford
This stretch of the river in Jericho runs through the meadow and is so dreamy it inspired sections of Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland. There’s free parking at the north end of Port Meadow, just off Godstow Road in Wolvercote.
Willen Lake, Milton Keynes, Bucks
This one offers so many activities (it’s practically a mini Center Parcs) that you might not have known open water swimming was even an option. The team here are currently operating sessions on Sat and Sun mornings and Tues and Thurs evenings.
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’s currently free National Trust parking nearby, too.
Bicester Performance Lake, Bicester
This is a purpose-built 200m performance lake that is designed to help both amateur and experienced swimmers get to grips with the open water experience. It’s part of Bicester Hotel & Spa and while guests have free access, visitors can access the lake on a pay-as-you-go basis from £7 a session.
Taplow Lakeside, Taplow, Bucks
Open water swims take place on Sat and Sun mornings and Tues and Thurs evenings at this family owned business on the Berks border. You will need a National Open Water Coaching Association (Nowca) membership to swim (membership is £12 a year including the wristband) and then single swims are £6.50. No children under 8 allowed and 8 to 12-year-olds will need to be accompanied by an adult.
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.
Olney, Milton Keynes, Bucks
A popular wild swimming spot on the River Great Ouse, partly due to nice clear water and partly because the shallower spots make it perfect for those with little swimmers. Access the water via steps at the nearby playing fields, or further along by the church.
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. Once lockdown lifts proper, combine your swim with a visit to the nearby Barley Mow pub – 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.
PS – The best open water swimming spots are often word -of-mouth affairs, so do pop a note in the comment box below if we’ve missed anywhere good near you.