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Wild swimming places near Bristol and Bath

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This post is divided as South, East and West of Bristol. East includes Bath area.

RIGHT CLICK on the map images to open them in a new tab, some of them are wider with more arrows than the webpage shows.

Please be discreet and respectful where ever you go. Always avoid fishermen, and give them priority. Respect local communities and train / cycle / walk wherever possible. None of these places are appropriate for barbeques, parties or extended stays. If you find litter, tidy up and if you encounter anti-social, use your gentle powers of persuasion to politely engage, explain and educate.

Do also try to find your very own spot using Ordnance Survey maps. You may find old weirs which create pools in rivers otherwise too shallow for swimming. Or examine the bends of rivers, where the inside often creates a beach while the outside deepens into a deep pool. Bridges are often built where the river naturally narrows into a gorge, and these can make excellent plunge pools for bridge jumping! Bridges, fords and riverside tracks indicate there will be few problems with access or trespass.

You can find out more about wild swimming near Bristol and Bath in the Wild Guide South West

Background to this post: Over the last few weeks of May and June 2020 several local communities have written in saying that there are far too many people going to far too few places in the Bristol Bath area, and alternatives should be provided for those looking. This post hopefully opens up a few new ideas (along with some old favourites) so as to try and avoid local over-crowding in the hot spots. I believe removing information about wild swimming spots exasperates over crowding at existing places: people  go to the over popular places they know already, or that are online in other posts. So I think it’s better to encourage people to explore new places and engage with Ordnance Survey maps to find new and different stretches of riverbank / lakeside. 

South of Bristol

 

River chew wild swimming

Publow, River Chew
Large pretty pool with shelving beach and rope swing, next to church, just downstream of the road bridge.
Publow is off the A37, S of Bristol.
1 min, 51.3754, -2.5433

Pensford, River Chew
Also nice pools upstream (west of) of Pensford with footpaths on both sides . Follow narrow lane next to the Rising Sun pub, under the viaduct and down through Culvery Wood
51.3730, -2.5534

Woollard, River Chew
Secluded pool beneath old weir on edge of meadow.
E of Publow, off A37. From E side of Woollard bridge (opposite Brook Cottage) follow footpath over stream and into meadow, to find pool on R.
3 mins, 51.3767, -2.5297

Blagdon Lake, Butcombe
Nestled in the folds of a long lush valley, with the Mendip escarpment rearing up opposite. There is a beautiful meadow on the lake shore. Early in the season it is a blissful place to swim and paddle, but then the water levels fall and the weeds proliferate. NO SWIMMING but people always have.
Follow the shore path from the N end of the dam road. After about 10 mins, having crossed two footbridges, and passed through some woodland, find a lakeside meadow on R. It’s a lovely cycle ride out here from Bristol via Long Ashton, Barrow Gurney and Felton. Do not disturb the fishermen.
15 mins, 51.3427, -2.7039

blagdon wild swimming

 

Litton reservoir
A footpath follows the N shores of this secret lake on the upper Chew. Primroses, wood anemone, violets and red campion in spring. A quick dip is possible if there are no fishermen, and levels are high. NO SWIMMING –  but people always have. Or paddle in the stream at pub.
Coming from Chewton on B3114, take the second R down Back Lane, shortly after the Kings Head in Litton (pretty stream-side garden and gastro-dining, BA3 4PW, 01761 241301). Take R at end, and find footpath on L after 200m (after stream).
10 mins, 51.2921, -2.5821

River Yeo, Yatton
Small river with miles of meandering steep grassy banks – a great place to sunbathe out of sight. This is a small river and can dry out, but after rains the water is clear, silky and reedy –perfect for a long swim.
Heading into Yatton from A370, pass railway station and then turn L at mini- roundabout (Wembersham Lane/Horncastle Chapel) and continue the to the end (1¾ miles). Follow footpath straight ahead (along a ditch) to reach the river after 300m, then bear R downstream for 5 mins. Cycle Route 26.
10 mins, 51.3827, -2.8587

Abbot’s Pool, Abbots Leigh
CURRENTLY CLOSED. A large, dark lily-pad pool in the woods with a little stone grotto. Originally a fishpond. This is part of Abbots Leigh nature reserve with a delicate ecosystem and has recently been overwhelmed with swimmers and day trippers – car park closed 2020 so please only cycle – take a bag to remove other people’s litter as this location suffers from anti-social behaviour related to litter / barbeques etc. More updates on issues / problems here and here
From Abbots Leigh (A369) turn down Manor Road, by the George Inn, and find track on R after about 1 mile (signed to the pool).
5 mins, 51.4566, -2.6690

East of Bristol / near Bath

Avon Valley Park, Bitton / Swineford, River Avon
A remote grassy picnic and riverside area, by old railway bridge (crazy fools jump) and an easy cycle on the cycle path. There’s a wooden landing stage and it’s fun to dive in.
In fields next to the cycle route, where the bridge crosses the river. Or walk across field 15mins from pub in Swineford
20 mins, 51.4171, -2.4600

bitton wild swimming Screenshot_1

 

The Jolly Sailor in Saltford is also a popular swimming spot with a good rope swing on the opposite bank, above the weir. Don’t play on the weir.

Warleigh Weir / Claverton Weir, River Avon
Sometimes closed due to the sheer volume of people who come here, and best avoided due to huge problems with anti-social behaviour and litter. Come with a bin bag and help clear up. Long curving weir with cascade by beautiful meadows. Find the old ferryman’s steps below and a long deep stretch above. Very popular but very limited parking. Best reached on the cycle path from Bath or from Dundas aqueduct, or via Bus 264/265.
3 miles E of Bath on A36, turn L at Claverton, down Ferry Lane, just before sign for The American Museum on R. Cross railway to field on R.
10 mins, 51.3772, -2.3003

Dundas aqueduct, River Avon
Descend the steps to this bucolic stretch of the river Avon, to the boatclub pontoon. The head dwonstream for a secluded riverside picnic and swims. Or hire a Canadian canoe/electric boat and pootle along the canal.
Follow the A36 from Bath S for 5 miles and, just beyond Claverton, turn L at the traffic lights onto B3108 (signed Limpley Stoke). The Canal Centre is immediately on L (BA2 7JD, 01225 722292). From the aqueduct descend to the boathouse below. The path continues as far as Claverton weir (1 mile). Buses 264 and 265 half-hourly from Bath stop at the Old Viaduct Inn.
5 mins, 51.3613, -2.3104

 

Avoncliff weir, Bradford on Avon
Large, fun river-pool above weir, with rope swing. There’s a long deep stretch upstream leading to a willow maze. Continue further into Barton Farm riverside park to find several more places to swim en route to the Tithe Barn in Bradford on Avon. There is a rowing club on this stretch and it can be very dangerous with rowers, so swimmers need to be reminded to be vigilant and visible (tow float/bright hat) if swimming up the river.

Alight from train at tiny Avoncliff station, cross aqueduct (Cross Guns riverside pub, 01225 862335, also accessible by road from Westwood.) and continue 200m along canal to find a path on L that drops down through woods to the weir. The maze is ½ mile further upstream (51.3426, -2.2599). Or a 20-min walk downstream from Bradford on Avon, (where you can hire open canoes or cycles at TT Cycles, BA15 1LE, 01225 867187).
5 mins, 51.3391, -2.2797

Bradford-on-Avon upstream, River Avon
This is a long and beautiful stretch of the Avon, with lots of space, empty riverbank and trees to climb as well, form the old golf course all the way up to and past the sailing club. Park at Southville Road, St Aldhelms Road and head to Mythern Meadow cul-de-sac (bit tricky but find in google maps BA15 IHF) then take footpath through field and left through gap in hedge, down across the old golf course.

51.34203, -2.23355  or https://goo.gl/maps/TnskJcWTLBJZUSWF7

bradford on avon wild swimming

 

Farleigh Hungerford, River Frome
This deep, narrow, pleasant stretch of the Frome, above a weir, is home to England’s last river-swimming club. There are lawns, steps and a changing hut. Close by is a ruined castle, and good campsite
just upstream.
Descend into the village from A36 (signed Trowbridge), over two bridges then enter field immedately on R.
2 mins, 51.3179, -2.2810

 

West of Bristol

Clevedon’s Marine Lake.

This huge saltwater lake, refilled occasionally by high tides, is 200 metres long and there’s a floating platform. Great at sunset over the estuary /sea. Free.
Clevedon Marine Lake, Old Church Road, Clevedon BS21 7TU.

Middle Hope, Weston-Super-Mare / Sand Point
The steep, wild headland of Sand Point has a secret cove and offers spectacular views out over the Severn estuary. You can find Rock Samphire here, a tasty wild-food treat. High tide only – careful of currents so stay close to shore. Great for sunsets.
Continue up along Sand Bay via Beach Road from Kewstoke (pass Kewstoke Hospital) on N side of Weston-Super-Mare. Then continue up onto the headland, bearing E for Hope Cove, W for caves. Hill fort fans might also like to explore Worlebury and Weston Woods.
15 mins, 51.3895, -2.9682

middle hope Screenshot_1

More information

You can find out more about wild swimming near Bristol and Bath in the Wild Guide South West

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