When the temperature climbs and you need to cool off (and you can’t get to a pool), you need to go wild instead. Hampstead Ponds and the Serpentine Lido are great for an open water dip in the city but if you venture just a little bit further out of London, there are some beaut spots for wild swimming, and you can bet they’ll be less crowded than the ponds and pools in town.
Frensham Great Pond, Farnham
The lake, which is five miles south of Farnham and is actually artificial, having been dug out in the Middle Ages, has a sandy beach with two bays designated for swimming. It’s suitable for all ability levels as it’s pretty shallow but you do have to stay within the marked area as sailboats also use the water.
River Stour, Fordwich
Swim through England’s smallest town by following the River Stour in Fordwich. Go downstream from the town hall on the open stretch of river and if you keep swimming you can access a secretive woodland wild lake. If you need somewhere to refuel, head for the Fordwich Arms.
Pangbourne Meadow, Reading
Go for a dip in the Thames in this proper scenic spot on the outskirts of Reading (get off at Pangbourne station if you’re going on the train). The water is clear, there are large grassy banks and it’s totalll undeveloped, meaning you have a clear view of the Chiltern Hills.
River Colne, Rickmansworth
It’s all the way out in zone 7 but it possible to get to the River Colne on the tube. The footpath from Bury Lake will take you into the river, which is fast-flowing but shallow. It gets deeper and slower further along but the banks are steeper so it’s not easy to get out.
River Wey and Wey Navigation, Surrey
There are several spots for a dip in the River Wey and the Wey Navigation including a meadow-lined stretch behind the Manor Inn pub in Godalming and sandy beaches that slope down into the water at Shalford. With old bridges and mills dotting the water, it’s all very scenic too.
Granchester Meadows, Cambridgeshire
Instead of punting on the River Cam in Cambridge, head upstream for Granchester Meadows and swim in it instead. There’s a great 2km stretch that ends at the Orchard Tea Gardens that’s perfect for a dip, and with deep banks you can even practise a few dives.
Here the Thames is calm and wide, making it an excellent spot if you’d rather do more floating than swimming. There’s a good entry point by the boathouse on Wharf Road and once you’re in, you can let the water take you downstream to Shillingford Bridge.
River Thames, Henley-on-Thames
If you don’t fancy attempting the Thames Marathon on the stretch of the Thames between Henley-on-Thames and Marlow, there are plenty of spots for a leisurely dip, including Hurley Lock and Marlow Lock. If you head further east towards Cock Marsh there’s also a beachy patch of the river.