The Perfect Summer Wild Swim


In our new Wild Guide book, Daniel Start searches for some of the best wild swimming spots in south east England. Here, he shares his favourites for a dip during the hot weather:

Pangbourne 3 by Daniel Start

Pangbourne, River Thames

Nearest train station: Pangbourne

Meandering through rolling countryside and stone villages, the River Thames offers some of the most civilised swims in England. The river is as unspoilt as it was 100 years ago, and a whole lot cleaner. At Pangbourne you can find an undeveloped and picturesque stretch of river along the edge of the Chiltern Hills, with chalk beaches.

Walk from Pangbourne to Goring on the north east bank (and return by train), or you can gain access from opposite the bank at Lower Basildon (signed off A329 north of Pangbourne). 40 mins, 51.5080, -1.1109.


Grantchester Meadows by Daniel Start

Grantchester Meadows, River Cam 

Nearest train station: Cambridge

A wonderful spot for a wild swim with over two miles of meadows and swimming from Sheep’s Green down to the Orchard Tea Gardens in Grantchester. On a hot summers day the languid mile-long stretch of river is dotted with leisurely picnic parties, while punts and canoes glide by. Deep banks make this a good spot for diving too, but it can be muddy!

From A603 / Barton Rd take Grantchester St by lights and find the footpath at the bottom, left, heading to the river and a fallen tree 200m (Paradise Pool). Continue on and park at the bottom of Grantchester Meadows. 5 mins, 52.1907, 0.1046


Brampton by Daniel Start

Houghton Mill and Brampton, River Great Ouse

Nearest train station: Huntingdon

Wide meadows and calm deep water make for the perfect long swim. There are fun millstreams for paddling too. At Brampton you can find a wide, secluded stretch of bucolic river bank with a few beaches.

The Mill is signed from A1123 between Huntingdon and St Ives. Park and walk down the path, beyond the caravan site, bearing right across  the wooded mill streams to reach open riverbank. The opposite bank is accessible from Hem ingford Abbots. Or you can walk the river path, an hour from Huntingdon train station. 10 mins, 52.3282, -0.1171

For Brampton, turn down River Lane by Frosts, as approaching from south on the B1514. At the bottom head right, upstream. 2 mins, 52.3142, – 0.2116



Ulting and Hoemill Bridge, River Chelmer

Nearest train station: Hatfield Peverel

Weaving to the west are rivers and streams rich in wildlife. The river Chelmer offers lovely clean swimming and canoeing, for up to two miles downstream of the bridge, or opposite a pretty church. Watch out for the boats!

Signed Nounsley/Ulting off B1019 at the south end of Hatfield Peverel. From Ulting (after CM9 6QU) head south to the causeway and lock. Follow the footpath downstream. Limited parking, cycle route 1. Also explore downstream from Boreham Bridge, upstream (51.7485,0.5596). 5 mins, 51.7485, 0.6081


Frensham Great Pond, Farnham

Nearest train station: Bentley

I first glimpsed Frensham Great Pond on a fuggy summer afternoon. This shallow, warmish lake has two bays with natural sandy beaches marked out for swimming. The pond, built by the Bishop of Winchester in 1246, is set among fore st and open heathland, and has parking, a café and a small museum nearby. It is popular with young families in the summer.

5 miles south of Farnham (A287) signed Frensham Pond Hotel on the right, then first left after ½ mile. 5 mins, 51.1575, -0.7919


Fordwich 2 by Daniel Start

Fordwich, River Great Stour

Nearest train station: Sturry

Flowing through England’s smallest town the river is first open and sunny, then becomes wooded and secretive, leading to a wild lake. This is a great spot for canoeing.

Off A23, 2 miles north east of Canterbury (Sturry train station). Follow the river’s left bank from the bridge to an easy entry point after ½ mile or continue another ½ mile to find a wooded glade on the right. Westbere Marshes lake is accessible to the left, though best reached on the north shore from Westbere (turn down Walnut Tree Lane after Ye Old Yew Tree Inn, CT2 0HH, 01227 710501, over railway line then continue along lake shore to 51.3047, 1.1462). Cycle route 1. 40 mins, 51.3001, 1.1513



Barcombe Mills, River Ouse

Nearest train station: Lewes

Just north of Rodmell and Charleston, upstream on the Ouse, the open fields of Barcombe Mills are a perfect place for cricket, leapfrog and other riverside games. The Ouse here is deep with pretty grassy banks, ideal for cooling down after cartwheels or diving in for a long swim among the rushes. You can hire a blue rowing boat from the Anchor Inn or swim for over two miles through remote countryside, the spire of Isfield church the only building in sight for the entire journey.

Off A26, 2 miles north of Lewes. Park on the left after a mile and head upstream past sluices to meadow. Another mile leads to the Anchor Inn. 5 mins, 50.9151, 0.0411

You can find information on staying safe when wild swimming here

The Wild Guide (£15.99, Wild Things Publishing) features over 1000 wild places to explore, eat and stay in southern and eastern England. A South-West edition is also available. From The Wild Guide App, £4.99, is also available to download.