There are lots of places to go wild swimming in London and southwest England. Unearth the capital’s secret ponds, explore the enchanting rivers of the countryside and plunge into the azure coastal coves of the Southwest. This guide offers a comprehensive insight into the best open water swimming spots to escape the city bustle, reconnect with nature, and rekindle your love for the outdoors.
Some of these locations only allow swimming during certain hours and you may need to enroll in a club and sign a waiver. Most of them require you to wear a brightly coloured swimming hat for safety reasons but a wetsuit is usually optional but advisable.
We have detailed guides to other areas of the UK:
Map of Wild Swimming in London and South East England
To give you an idea of where to find the best open water swimming locations we have created this map. Hopefully there will be somewhere near you where you can enjoy this fantastic hobby.
London offers a surprising variety of places to go cold water swimming. There are lidos, lakes, bathing ponds, and, of course, the River Thames! Enjoy the unique experience of swimming outdoors in England’s capital city.
Beckenham Place Park, Greater London, BR3 5BS
This beautiful lake which opened for swimming in 2019. The lake is around 200 meters long and has been thoughtfully designed for both swimming and wildlife, with a shallow end for younger or less confident swimmers, and deeper sections for more experienced ones. It’s surrounded by a diverse natural habitat, making it an ideal spot to enjoy the benefits of wild swimming, including that refreshing connection with nature.
The park provides facilities including changing rooms and lifeguards, which are available during the park’s opening hours. You’ll need to book and pay for your swim session in advance, so planning is crucial.
The Royal Dock, London, E16 1AH
Located in East London, the Royal Docks are not just a bustling business district, but also a vibrant water sports centre. The swimming area in the docks is cordoned off and supervised to ensure safety. Open water swimming sessions are typically available from May to September, but it’s always good to check their schedule for the most accurate information.
The water quality is regularly tested and the dock depth varies, providing opportunities for both newer and more experienced swimmers. Facilities at the Royal Docks include changing rooms and lockers, and you usually need to book your swim slot in advance. It’s recommended to wear a wetsuit, though it’s not mandatory.
Parliament Hill Fields Lido, Greater London, NW5 1LT
Parliament Hill Lido, is a stunning outdoor swimming facility located on the edge of Hampstead Heath in London. Although it’s not ‘wild’ in the sense of swimming in a lake or river, it offers a fantastic unheated, open-air swimming experience that’s close to nature.
The Lido is a massive 60 meters in length, one of the longest in the country, and is lined with stainless steel, giving the water a distinctive shimmer. This beautiful effect, combined with the Lido’s art deco design, creates a unique and inviting swimming environment. It’s open all year round, even in winter, for those brave enough to take the plunge in colder months!
The pool has a dedicated area for serious swimmers, while also being family-friendly. It provides facilities such as changing rooms and on-site cafe, and there are lifeguards on duty for added safety. The Lido is run by the City of London Corporation and a small entrance fee is charged. During peak times and particularly warm days, it can get quite busy, so plan ahead.
West Reservoir Water Sports Centre, Hackney, N4 2HA
Located in the heart of Stoke Newington, London, the West Reservoir Water Sports Centre is a popular spot for water sports enthusiasts, and it’s particularly known for its open water swimming opportunities.
The Centre features a large freshwater reservoir that provides a safe and controlled environment for wild swimming. The open water swimming sessions here are great for both newcomers and experienced swimmers. The reservoir is large enough for a decent swim, and being a man-made facility, it avoids some of the hazards associated with truly wild water bodies, like currents or tides.
The Centre offers regular open water swimming sessions, and you’ll need to book in advance. These sessions are monitored by staff for peace of mind. The Centre also provides changing facilities, and it’s advised to wear a wetsuit, especially in the cooler months. They also encourage the use of brightly coloured swim caps for visibility.
Hampstead Heath Bathing Ponds, Camden, NW3 1BP
Hampstead Heath, one of London’s most loved open spaces, is home to three swimming ponds that offer a tranquil escape from city life. These include the Men’s Pond, the Ladies’ Pond, and the Mixed Pond.
- Men’s Pond: Open all year round, it offers a unique cold water swimming experience, even during the winter months. It’s located in a more secluded area of the Heath, surrounded by greenery which adds to the sense of wildness.
- Ladies’ Pond: Also open throughout the year, the Ladies’ Pond enjoys a beautiful setting in Kenwood. It’s popular with swimmers and sunbathers alike. The Ladies’ Pond has a loyal following of women who appreciate the tranquillity and community found here.
- Mixed Pond: Open from May until September, the Mixed Pond is a great spot for families and friends. It’s the smallest of the three, but no less charming.
All ponds have spring-fed water and are surrounded by lush woodland, providing a sense of being in the countryside despite being in the heart of London. They’re staffed by lifeguards during opening hours, and there are basic facilities available such as changing areas and toilets.
Swimming in the Hampstead Heath Bathing Ponds is a unique experience, combining the invigoration of open water swimming with the natural beauty of the Heath. However, it’s important to note that the water can be quite chilly, even in the summer, and safety rules should always be adhered to.
Merchant Taylor’s Lake, Hertfordshire, HA6 2HT
Merchant Taylors’ Lake is located within the grounds of the Merchant Taylors’ School in Middlesex, UK. This private lake is a popular spot for open water swimming, known for its clean and peaceful setting.
The lake typically offers regular open water swimming sessions throughout the warmer months, but as it’s a private site, it’s important to check the current schedule and book in advance before planning your visit.
During organised swim sessions, there are usually safety boats and lifeguards on duty. Swimmers are required to wear brightly coloured swim caps for visibility. Due to the water temperatures, which can be cooler than expected, wetsuits are generally recommended.
The site provides changing facilities and ample parking space. While there aren’t any shops or cafes directly onsite, you’ll find plenty of options nearby in the local town.
Shepperton Lake Open Water Swim, Middlesex, TW17 9LH
Located in Middlesex, Shepperton Open Water Swim provides a fantastic setting for open water swimming within the tranquil waters of a beautiful lake. This spot has become popular among both novice and experienced swimmers due to its friendly atmosphere and the quality of its facilities.
Shepperton usually offers regular open water swimming sessions throughout the warmer months, typically from April to September. The lake features clearly marked swimming routes of different lengths to suit a range of abilities. You must prebook your swimming session.
During swimming sessions, there are usually safety kayakers patrolling the lake. Swimmers are required to wear brightly coloured swim caps for visibility, and wetsuits are generally recommended but not mandatory.
The site boasts excellent facilities including changing rooms, showers, and lockers. There’s also a café on site, perfect for a post-swim refuel. Ample car parking is available, making it a breeze to get started on your swimming adventure.
South East England
The South East of England includes the counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Kent, Oxfordshire, Surrey, Sussex. Known for it’s good weather and beautiful countryside, the South East offers plenty of opportunities for wild swimming.
Caversham Lakes, Reading, RG4 9RA
Located near Reading, Berkshire, these lakes, covering 80 acres, provide plenty of space for open water swimming. Surrounded by nature, it’s a perfect location for those looking to escape the city and dive into a more peaceful environment.
The lakes are open for swimming during specified sessions throughout the week, typically from April to September, but it’s always good to check their current schedule. Swimmers of all abilities are welcome, but due to the nature of open water swimming, some basic swimming proficiency is recommended.
All swimmers are required to wear a brightly coloured swim cap to ensure visibility. The swimming area is marked out, keeping swimmers safe from other water activities in the lake. There are also safety boats on the water and lifeguards on duty during open water swimming sessions.
In terms of facilities, the site has changing rooms and showers, and a lovely cafe where you can grab a refreshment after your swim. Parking is also available. Remember to be mindful of water temperatures, as these can be cooler than what you might be used to in indoor pools. Wetsuits are not compulsory but are recommended, especially early in the season when the water can be quite chilly.
Liquid Leisure Windsor, Berkshire, SL3 9HY
Liquid Leisure Windsor is well-known for being one of the largest water sports facilities in Europe. Located on a beautiful private freshwater lake between Windsor and Slough, it offers fantastic opportunities for open water swimming.
Open water swim sessions are typically available from April through to October, and you’ll need to book your spot in advance. The swimming area is clearly marked and separate from the other water activities for safety. Both beginners and more experienced swimmers can enjoy swimming in the expansive lake, though a basic level of swimming proficiency is recommended.
Lifeguards are on duty during the open water swim sessions, and swimmers are required to wear a brightly coloured swim cap to enhance visibility. The use of wetsuits is generally recommended, especially in the cooler months, but it’s not mandatory.
The site offers changing rooms, lockers, and shower facilities. Plus, there’s a lovely lakeside cafe where you can relax and refuel after your swim. Parking is also available onsite.
Horseshoe Lake Activity Centre, Berkshire, GU47 8JW
Horseshoe Lake Activity Centre, located in Sandhurst, Berkshire, is a wonderful spot for open water swimming. The Centre is named after the horseshoe-shaped lake which provides a serene and natural setting for various water activities, including swimming.
Open water swimming sessions are typically available from spring to autumn, although it’s always good to check their current schedule. The lake is split into different zones to cater to varying levels of swimmer proficiency, from beginners to more experienced open water swimmers.
During swimming sessions, there are safety boats on the water and lifeguards on duty. Swimmers are required to wear a brightly coloured swim cap for visibility. If you’re new to open water swimming, it’s recommended to start in the beginners’ area and gradually progress as you gain confidence and skill.
The Centre offers changing rooms and showers, and there’s also a small shop on site where you can buy refreshments or any swimming equipment you might need. Car parking is available too.
Andark Lake, Southampton, Hampshire, SO31 7EG
Located in Southampton, this is a purpose-built open water swimming and diving lake. The lake is known for its clear, clean water, providing an excellent and safe environment for open water swimming. It offers a unique setting for wild swimming, blending the natural environment with some carefully managed facilities.
Open water swimming sessions are usually available from April through to October, but it’s always good to check their current schedule. The lake has a marked swim route which is suitable for a range of abilities, from novices to seasoned swimmers.
The lake is regularly monitored, and swimmers are required to wear a brightly colored swim cap to increase visibility. During the swimming sessions, there are usually safety boats or kayaks on the water, providing an added layer of security.
Andark Lake provides changing rooms, showers, and toilet facilities, enhancing your overall swimming experience. Wetsuits are generally recommended, particularly in the cooler months, although they’re not compulsory. There’s also a shop on-site where you can buy swimming and diving gear.
Ellingham Open Water Swim, Hampshire, BH24 3PJ
This beautiful freshwater lake in Ringwood, Hampshire provides a safe and friendly environment for open water swimming, offering a wonderful experience to swimmers of all abilities. The swimming season runs from April to September, but check their current schedule. During this time, the lake hosts regular open water swimming sessions, providing marked courses for a range of swimming distances.
Swimmers are required to wear brightly coloured swim caps for visibility, and during the swim sessions, there are safety personnel on duty and safety boats on the water. This ensures a safe environment for all participants. Wetsuits are generally recommended, particularly during the cooler months, but they are not compulsory. The site also provides changing facilities and there is ample parking available.
Queenford Lakes, Oxfordshire, OX10 7PQ
Located near Oxford, this is a popular spot for open water swimming. This former gravel pit has been turned into a beautiful freshwater lake offering outdoor swimmers a clean, safe, and natural environment in which to enjoy their swim.
The lake is usually open for swimming from spring through autumn, offering several open water swimming sessions throughout the week. The lake is divided into different zones to cater to varying levels of swimmer proficiency, from beginners to more experienced open water swimmers.
All swimming sessions are supervised, with safety boats on the water and lifeguards on duty. Swimmers are required to wear a brightly coloured swim cap for visibility. If you’re new to open water swimming, it’s recommended to start in the beginners’ area and gradually progress as you gain confidence and skill.
The site offers changing rooms, showers, and lockers, enhancing your overall swimming experience. A wetsuit is usually recommended, particularly in cooler weather, but it’s not compulsory. There’s also a small cafe where you can grab a refreshment after your swim, and ample parking is available.
Hawley Lake, Hampshire, GU17 9UD
This man-made lake, surrounded by verdant woodland, offers a tranquil and natural environment that’s perfect for a wild swimming experience.
Swimming at Hawley Lake is typically available from spring through to autumn during designated open water swimming sessions, but it’s always advisable to check their current schedule. The lake caters to various levels of swimmer proficiency, from beginners to seasoned open water swimmers.
During open water swimming sessions, safety boats are often on the water, and lifeguards are on duty. All swimmers are required to wear a brightly colored swim cap to enhance visibility. Wetsuits are generally recommended, particularly in the cooler months, although they’re not compulsory.
Hawley Lake provides changing facilities and showers. There’s also parking available on site.
Heron Lake, Berkshire, TW19 6HW
Just off the M25 near Staines, this is a popular spot for open water swimming. It offers a beautiful, natural setting for swimmers to enjoy, with clear waters surrounded by verdant woodland.
Swim Heron is typically open for swimming from April through to September, with several swim sessions available throughout the week. The lake caters to a range of swimmer proficiencies, from beginners to seasoned open water swimmers.
Swimmers are required to wear brightly coloured swim caps for visibility, and during swim sessions, there are safety personnel and lifeguards on duty. The lake has clearly marked routes to follow, suitable for both novice and experienced swimmers.
Wetsuits are usually recommended, especially during the cooler months, but they are not compulsory. The site provides changing facilities, and there’s also a shop on site where you can grab a snack or drink after your swim.
Hedgecourt Lake, Surrey, RH19 2QG
This beautiful freshwater lake is located in East Grinstead, Sussex. Surrounded by lush woodland and wildlife, it provides a tranquil setting for a wild swimming experience. The lake is also part of a local nature reserve, adding an extra element of natural beauty to the experience.
Swimming is scheduled Sundays before 9.00am, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays before 9.30am and Thursdays after 5.30pm. Swimmers are required to be over 18 years old and must be accompanied in the water by another competent swimmer.
Outdoor swimmers do not have to wear a wetsuit but must wear appropriate footwear and a high visibility hat. To reduce the risk of bio-contamination use the drench shower located close to the right hand jetty before and after swimming. A ladder at the end of the right hand jetty provides access to the water and the swimming area is clockwise round the yellow buoys.
East of England
The East of England contains the counties of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. This region is home to extensive nature reserves, stylish towns, vibrant cities and a rich history, making it a haven for open water swimming.
Herts Young Mariners Base, Hertfordshire, EN8 9AJ
Located in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, the Herts Young Mariners Base (HYMB) is a renowned outdoor education centre with a wide range of water-based activities. Among these activities, open water swimming is a popular choice for local residents and visitors alike.
Open water swimming sessions are typically held during the warmer months, and the availability can vary, so it’s always best to check their schedule and to prebook. The reservoir at HYMB offers a controlled environment for wild swimming, making it suitable for all abilities, from beginners to seasoned swimmers.
During swimming sessions, there are usually safety boats and qualified personnel on hand. Swimmers are required to wear brightly coloured swim caps for visibility, and wetsuits are generally recommended.
The base provides excellent facilities, including changing rooms, showers, and lockers. Parking is also available on site. While there isn’t a café on site, the centre is located within a short distance of local amenities.
Redricks Lanes, East Hertfordshire, CM21 1RL
Located near Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, Redricks Lakes offers a fantastic setting for open water swimming. Set within a picturesque and tranquil environment, it attracts swimmers of various abilities looking to enjoy the fresh, open water.
Redricks Lakes typically offers regular open water swimming sessions throughout the warmer months, and it’s always a good idea to check the current schedule before planning your visit. The lakes provide a marked swim route, which aids in maintaining structure and safety for swimmers.
During the swimming sessions, safety kayakers or lifeguards are usually present. Swimmers are required to wear brightly coloured swim caps for visibility. Due to the often cooler water temperatures, wetsuits are generally recommended, though they are not mandatory.
The site provides useful facilities, including changing rooms and showers. There’s also a small café on site, serving a range of refreshments. Ample parking is available for an easy start to your swimming adventure.
Fritton Lake, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, NR31 9HA
Fritton Lake, located in Norfolk, is part of the Somerleyton Estate and is a beautiful setting for outdoor enthusiasts. It’s known for its crystal clear waters, making it an attractive spot for open water swimming.
Regular open water swimming sessions are usually held at the lake, especially during the warmer months. Before planning your visit, it’s always a good idea to check their current schedule and any COVID-related regulations that might be in place.
Swimmers are required to wear brightly coloured swim caps for visibility, and due to the potentially cooler water temperatures, wetsuits are generally recommended.
The lake offers facilities such as changing rooms and toilets, and there’s a café on site where you can grab a bite to eat after your swim. There’s also accommodation available if you wish to extend your visit.
Fritton Lake is not only popular with swimmers but also with triathletes, as it hosts triathlon events throughout the summer. As always, remember to respect the natural environment, follow safety guidelines, and swim within your capabilities.
As you can see, there are many fantastic locations to enjoy freshwater swimming in London and the South East of England. Remember to always put safety first and make sure you have warm, dry clothes and a hot drink for when you finish.
What parks can you swim in London?
In London, you can swim in various parks such as Hampstead Heath, which has three swimming ponds, and the Serpentine in Hyde Park.
Where can I swim today in London?
Depending on the season, you can swim in outdoor pools like the London Fields Lido or public baths like the Oasis Sports Centre. Always check their current operating hours.
Where can you swim in a river in London?
Swimming in London’s rivers isn’t typically recommended due to safety and pollution concerns. However, the Tidal Thames near Richmond and Putney is a popular, safer spot.
Can you wild swim anywhere in the UK?
The UK offers numerous wild swimming spots, but always ensure you’re not trespassing private land, respect environmental restrictions, and heed safety guidelines.
Can anyone swim in Hampstead Ponds?
Yes, anyone can swim in Hampstead Ponds. They have separate ponds for men, women, and a mixed pond. Please check their current opening times.
Where can I swim in London in the winter?
For winter swimming in London, heated outdoor pools like Charlton Lido or indoor pools such as at the Aquatics Centre in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park are great options.
Are you allowed to swim in the Thames in London?
While it’s legal, swimming in the Thames in Central London is not advised due to busy boat traffic and water quality concerns. There are safer sections further out of the city.
Is it safe to swim at Barcombe Mills?
Generally, Barcombe Mills in East Sussex is safe for swimming. However, always assess conditions, watch for potential hazards, and avoid swimming alone.
Is the River Chelmer safe to swim?
As with any wild swimming location, the safety of the River Chelmer depends on current conditions and individual judgment. Always follow safety guidelines and check water quality.
Can you swim in the reservoir at Carding Mill Valley?
Carding Mill Valley Reservoir is a popular spot for swimming but be aware that it is deep and cold and there are no lifeguards or rescue boats.