Make a splash!
Where to cool off when the heat is on, without going to the sea: the Muddy pick of the best lidos, water parks and wild swimming near you
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, restaurant and pizza oven. The pool’s now open for adults (call up any morning from 9am and check if there are spaces and pay £10 for a 40 minute session) but not children, for now. The bar and restaurant are open to all.
The Art Deco Portishead Open Air Lido and and Greenbank pool in Street might be closed this year but other lidos and open air swimming pools in Somerset and Dorset are open (or are about to), including Shepton Mallet, Wiveliscombe and Shaftesbury Oasis.
Clevedon Marine Lake is a sea water tidal pool on Clevedon seafront, dating back to 1929 and re-opened after restoration a couple of years ago. The lake’s around 250m x 100m, shallow around the edges and about 3m deep by the sea wall, with a splash pool for younger children. Run by volunteers, it’s free to use: swim or take your kayak, canoe, paddle board or dinghy, or rent a little rowing boat.
Swineham Open Water Swimming, a lake on Swineham Farm near Wareham is only suitable for competent swimmers, with marked courses of 400 and 1400m.
The 36 acres of open water in former quarry Vobster Quay, near Frome and Radstock, is open but for existing members only.
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.
Also 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.
Friends recommended a dip in the pretty and peaceful stretch of the river Brue between an old bridge and a weir in West Lydford, near Glastonbury. Slip into the river via St Peter’s churchyard.
You can swim in the river Stour at several places, including at Eye Bridge in Wimborne Minster (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).
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.
SPLASHALICIOUS WATER PARKS
The excellent Dorset Waterpark is closed for 2020 * sad face* but there are plenty of other places to get your watery thrills.
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.
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.