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5 of the best wild swimming spots in and around London

24th July 2020

It is mid July and we are enjoying a seriously on-off relationship with glorious sunshine. These little spells of summer are causing many of us to try and replicate that holiday feeling. Here at Farmdrop, we are huge fans of stay-cations as you may know from our Holiday at Home editions. However, the one thing many of us miss from our beloved holidays is the feeling of a cool morning, evening (or, if you’re a bit of a thrill-seeker, a midnight) dip! For those wanting to escape a hectic lido when the sun beams down across London, wild swimming is becoming an increasingly popular option.

There are plenty of sites within and around London where wild swimming can be enjoyed, below we list five excellent tried-and-tested spots along with some do’s and don’ts when wild swimming.

Beckenham Place Park, Lewisham

Beckenham Place Park is home to London’s first purpose built swimming lake which was created in 2019. The lake is picturesque and a popular choice for Londoners. There is an area for swimmers, paddle boarders, canoes and an area for boat hire so you can really make a day out of it! The swimming area even has a small area of sand for lake entry and exit to really boost that holiday feeling, and the surrounding grounds are a real treat for the eyes.

1-hour swimming sessions must be booked in advance and can be done so on this website. The lake is open for swimming between 7am – 3pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays and it is important to note that all swimmers need to wear a tow-float which can be loaned from the centre on arrival.

Divers Cove Resevoir, Goldstone

 

This wild swimming spot which could easily be mistaken for a Mediterranean cove on a sunny day is less than an hour away from London (a quick train from London Bridge to Caterham then a bus, or a short drive on the M25). The site is an impressive 7.3 acres of turquoise blue water due to its history as a sand extraction site. There are two well marked swimming circuits, heated changing rooms, lockers and an on-site cafe.

Due to covid-19, divers cove is currently only open to annual members. However it is possible to sign up for annual membership at a very small fee (£20) and who knows, maybe this will be your next big hobby? All swimming sessions are one hour and must be booked in advance on their website. Their opening hours are 5-8pm on Mondays-Fridays and 9-11am or 4-7pm on the weekends.

West Reservoir, Stoke Newington

The West Reservoir boasts 2 swimming loops within 23 acres of water in a secluded area of Hackney. The site is cherished by fans of water sports due the on-site centre which caters for many activities such as yachting, canoeing and sailing. There is also an on-site cafe with a terrace overlooking the water for anyone who isn’t feeling brave enough! Unlike some of the other sites on this list, the West Reservoir has its own kind of urban beauty which is quite special to see.

1-hour swimming slots must be booked in advance online or on the Better UK app . It is important to note that these sessions are for those who have some experience in open water swimming as they are currently unable to host inductions. Times change daily so check online before booking.

Hampstead Heath, Hampstead

men's pond hampstead heath

Hampstead Heath’s Mens Pond: Credit Bloodholds

Hampstead Heath is the iconic swimming spot in London, it is home to three ponds: male, female or mixed, and also Parliament Hill lido for those with children or who prefer the lido setting to the wilder ponds. The ponds are surrounded by greenery and wildlife with a great deal of space nearby to sunbathe after a few lengths. If you are visiting on a summer’s evening, make sure to walk up to Parliament Hill for an unbeatable view of the city at sunset.

Booking must be made in advance on their website, times vary depending on which pool you prefer and the time of year so please check this online. Hampstead Heath is a very popular spot and so it is often beneficial to try an outing on a weekday or a slightly cooler day.

River Medway, Tonbridge

The River Medway is a short train from London Bridge – Leigh station, or a quick drive. The perfect spot to swim here is by Ensfield bridge near Tonbridge and though it is a popular spot, you should be able to find a more tranquil patch than at the more frequented areas on this list. The River Medway is surrounded by the classic bucolic English country-side and is a lovely place to have long walks and cool off in the water. This is true wild swimming at its finest – pitch up with your swimmers, a picnic and find yourself a spot.

If you are going to give wild swimming a go, here’s our list tips to remember.


Do:

  • Check the site information from the local councils. This will help you with what to bring, average temperatures and any changes about timings or restrictions. 
  • Make sure anyone under the age of 16 is supervised at all times.
  • Stick to social distancing measures whilst swimming or exploring the local area.
  • Check your entry and exit point when entering the water in order to have safe bearings.
  • Watch out for boats or other possible obstructions. In the more wild spots it is recommended to wear a bright coloured swimming hat in order to increase visibility.
  • Enjoy yourself! This is a truly exciting and rewarding experience.

Dont:

  • Go wild swimming if you are not a confident swimmer. It is important to remember that these areas are not pools and they have their own risks involved. There is useful information on https://www.swimming.org/openwater/covid19-guidance-open-water-swimmers/ for all open water swimming.
  • Swim alone even if you are a confident swimmer, these spots can often be secluded or have a changeable nature.
  • Jump into the water, always wade or use steps if they are provided
  • Forget your undies or a change of clothes!

There are our best spots and tips for wild swimming near London. If you feel that perhaps wild swimming is not quite for you, then take a peek at our ‘5 seaside trips to take a trip from London’ and get that holiday feeling!

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