Houghton, Test

  • IMG_2137

A wide, white chalk bay at the end of bridleway in beautiful countryside. Water flowers in early summer (crowsfoot and water buttercup). Shelving white gravel bed. 1m deep under bridge with swift flow.

Place Categories: River Swims and Wild Swim.Place Tags: current, paddle, plunge and wildswimming.

Profile pic JimChampion says:

As previous reviewers have said, there’s not too much swimming for adults here. Its basically a ford in a channel of the River Test, in the village of Houghton (in the Test Valley between Stockbridge and Romsey). Large stony area downstream of the recently re-built wooden footbridge, knee- or thigh-deep at this time (late August 2013). Some children passing by today were complaining how shallow it was at the moment.

There is the potential to do some ‘stationary swimming’ by pointing yourself upstream where the current flows strongly immediately under the footbridge. Away from this spot you’re more likely to be floundering and kicking the bottom. My 4 year old son had enough fun there, just wading and splashing around and rearranging the floating weed that gathers around the bridge supports. Highlight was seeing a snake swim across the river from east to west bank, just upstream from the bridge.

You’re most likely to drive here as the village is fairly remote; there is a gravelly verge that could accommodate about five cars on the road through Houghton at the end of the public footpath that leads to the western side of the ford. Failing that you could find a spot in one of the village side streets, or park discreetly at the village hall then walk back south on the pavement alongside the road for 5 minutes. Village hall has the added benefit of children’s playground next to it.

If you’re not in the water at the ford there’s not a lot of space to hang around – there are gravelly areas where you can sit at both entrances to the ford. Business was brisk there today (a hot and sunny weekday in school holidays), maybe half the visitors were interested in going in the water and the other half just passing through on the footpath. Imagine it could get a lot busier in the water on weekends or bank holidays.

Attached photo is looking upstream at the footbridge, from the west side of the river. The green ‘island’ under the footbridge is just an accumulation of floating bits of weed – shelter for tiny trout etc.

Jo says:

This is a lovely little spot, but to call it a place for wild swimming is pushing it, unless you are four years old. The water comes to you knees, and its a super place for cooling your feet on a hot summers day or for taking the children to splash around. However, it’s not a place for swimming in any conventional sense of the word. The area is clean, the water crystal so, and there are a couple of small spots where you can leave you bag, but there is insufficient space to settle in for the day. Do take the children though, they’ll love it, and it’s a pleasant place to spend some time on a summer day.

Ian Baird says:

This was my place 35 years ago when I was a boy! Absolutely beautiful, we used to ride over there from Kings Somborne and jump off the bridge into the water. Freezing cold though! In 1974 I knew an old man, must have been in his 80’s then, who used to swim here too in the `1920’s. Timeless – go and enjoy and add your spirit to this beautiful place. Ian.

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