Make a splash!
Where to cool off when the heat is on: 30 of the best lidos, freshwater and marine lakes, water parks and wild swimming in Somerset, Dorset, Bristol and beyond.
Come on in, the water’s lovely…
LOVELY LIDOS & OPEN AIR POOLS
The Bristol Lido, hidden amongst the pastel-coloured houses of Clifton is the closest you’ll get to the Med in the city – with infinity pool, spa and poolside cafe, excellent restaurant and pizza oven.
The Art Deco Portishead Open Air Pool right on the coast, has brilliant views over the Bristol Channel from its sun terraces; book here before heading over. The Greenbank Pool in Street, which was built in the 1930s by the Clark family (of Clarks Shoes/Clarks Village fame – not typos, they don’t use the apostrophe), as an alternative to men swimming nude in the river Brue, has a main pool, children’s pool, a splash area with slides and fountains, and lots of space for picnics. Other local lidos include Shepton Mallet, the Wivey Pool, in Wiveliscombe, Shaftesbury Oasis and Tintinhull Pool.
Britain’s oldest lido, the Georgian Cleveland Pools in Bath, is scheduled to re-open in September after years – and £6m – of restoration. Ultimately the pool will be heated, but for now it will be cold water swimming only.
Not far from Langton Matravers on the Isle of Purbeck on the Jurassic Coast, the super dramatic Dancing Ledge is a sea swimming pool blasted out of the rock in an old Portland stone quarry. Best enjoyed at low tide. Access is via a very steep path – possibly not for the faint-hearted – see the National Trust Spyway.
You can swim, stand-up paddle board and scuba dive at Vobster Quay, 36 acres of open water in a former quarry near Frome and Radstock, but you have to become a member.
Newly re-opened after a big re-furb, is the 1920s Weston-super-Mare Marine Lake, an infinity sea lake on the seafront, filled by tides from the Bristol Channel.
Henleaze Swimming Club, a mile from the Downs and three miles from Bristol city centre, is a lake with a springboard, high diving boards and a sauna (to warm you up afterwards) in a former quarry surrounded by lawns and trees. You have be able to swim 50m and sign up to become a member.
Swineham Open Water Swimming, a lake on Swineham Farm near Wareham is a wonderful natural location suitable for competent swimmers, with marked courses of 400 and 1400m. It’s hoping to open for the season soon – check their website.
Clevedon Marine Lake is a sea water tidal pool the size of two football pitches on Clevedon seafront, dating back to 1929 and re-opened after restoration a few years ago. The lake’s around shallow around the edges and about 3m deep by the sea wall, with a splash pool for younger children. Swim or take your kayak, canoe, paddle board or dinghy, or rent a little rowing boat.
A firm Muddy favourite – Tarr Steps, near Dulverton in the Exmoor National Park. An ancient stone clapper bridge crosses the crystal clear waters of the river Barle with shaded wooded walks, shallows for paddling, deeper section of water for swimming and an excellent pub, the Tarr Farm Inn on the banks, for lunch if you can’t be bothered to bring a picnic, and long, cool drinks.
Farleigh and District Swimming Club at Farleigh Hungerford near Frome, was established in 1933 and is the only river swimming club in the country. Swim in the fresh, deep waters of the river Frome above a little weir, with a meadow for picnics (and parking), loos and changing rooms. Sounds a treat.
Not far away, on the same river, and also fab for a dip and deep enough to jump into are Tellisford Weir near Rode.
Swim in the river Frome at Moreton Ford near Dorchester (DT2 8RJ), a wide and shallow ford, with a footbridge, willow trees and rope swings. FYI TE Lawrence, aka Lawrence of Arabia, is buried in the nearby St Nicholas Church; and at Wareham Bridge (BH20 4LW) in Wareham, with a picnic area on the banks.
Take a dip in the river Brue at Lydford on Fosse (BA7 7PT), accessed via the footpath which runs for over 3km, with spots for picnicking along the way.
On the river Avon is Claverton Weir (Warleigh Weir), a 100m long weir with deep water and shallow bits, surrounded by meadows. To get there, take the A36 to Claverton and turn left down Ferry Lane BA2 7BH. It can get busy on a hot day.
All along the River Parrett, which runs through Langport, with four pontoons, Bow Bridge, Cocklemoor, Huish Bridge and west over the bridge. Refreshments at Kitchen at the Wharf and The Bridge Bakery & Canteen.
You can swim in the river Stour at several places, including at Eye Bridge in Wimborne (BH21 4EL), where there’s a weir and riverside beach; by Colber Bridge (DT10 1EG) a footbridge crossing the river in Sturminster Newton, with an open stretch of water good for long, lazy swims and grassy fields nearby for sunning your bod; and the nearby mill pool at Fiddleford Manor (DT10 2BX).
SPLASHALICIOUS WATER PARKS
Bounce around on the floating obstacle course on lakes with the ruins of Corfe Castle as the backdrop at Dorset Adventure Park. There’s a mud course too if you want to get really, really dirty.
Test your nerve on the Grand Canyon, Velocity and The Screamer (you will, I did) and other exhilarating slides, flumes and rapids at the indoor/outdoor Splashdown Water Park in Poole.
Swimming, watersports and a giant obstacle course (aka Aqua Park) at the West Country Water Park 10 mins off the M4/M5 north of Bristol and 20 mins from the city centre.
A little further afield in Cirencester, the Cotswolds Water Park will keep everyone busy with a huge inflatable village plus waterskiing, speed rides on inflatable doughnuts and bananas, sailing, swimming and wakeboarding.
Another whopper, the New Forest Water Park in Fordingbridge in Hampshire has two trampolines, monkey bars, flippers, slides, hurdles, rockers, rollers, an overhang climbing wall, a swing *pause for breath* – and a giant iceberg.
Any more places to recommend? Let us know below…