15 OF THE BEST WILD SWIMMING WALKS
The Kenwood Ladies’ Pond Association, the authors of Wild Swimming Walks (Wild Things Publishing, £14.99), share their favourite country walks with us – each one featuring a recommended wild swim:
Goring and Streatley to Cholsey, Berkshire
Maps: OS Landranger 174 (Newbury & Wantage) and Landranger 175 (Reading & Windsor); OS Explorer 171 (Chiltern Hills West) and Explorer 170 (Abingdon, Wantage & Vale of White Horse)
Train from Paddington to Goring and Streatley. Return from Cholsey
A glorious 4 mile walk from Goring and Streatley Station, embracing wide stretches of the Thames, open meadows, woody paths and a beautiful Brunel railway bridge. With three swimming spots, you can take your time in good weather, enjoying a peaceful meander along the Thames Path with views of the Chilterns. When the river is running fast, take care and stay close to the bank. In normal conditions it flows steadily and slowly and the swimming is very enjoyable.
Margate to Broadstairs, Kent
Map: OS Landranger 179 (Canterbury & East Kent); OS Explorer 150 (Canterbury & the Isle of Thanet).
Train from Victoria Station or St Pancras International Station.
A coastal walk including the Turner Contemporary gallery, a glimpse of a historic lido and a swim in the renowned Walpole Bay sea pool. Your first swimming spot is right by Margate station, in the sandy bay next to the boating pool. In Broadstairs you can enjoy a last swim and fish and chips or a pint. If you have not dallied too much, as we did, you may even have time to visit the Dickens Museum, before heading home via the train station.
Map Landranger 176 (West London); OS Explorer 172 (Chiltern Hills East).
Metropolitan line or Chiltern Railways from Marylebone (shorter journey time but less frequent service).
A gentle 6 mile walk easily reached from London yet with a truly rural feel. Enjoy a swim in the River Colne and possibly Bury Lake. Although this walk is within the M25 and close to Rickmansworth underground station, much of it feels like a walk in deep countryside.
Finsbury Park to Hampstead Ponds, London
Maps: OS Landranger 176 (West London); OS Explorer 173 (London North); London A–Z.
Victoria and Piccadilly lines to Finsbury Park Station. From Hampstead South End Green: London Overground. Walk to Belsize Park tube for the Northern line.
This is an easy and surprisingly peaceful walk of 4 miles, incorporating a wood, historic Highgate and the most magical outdoor swimming spaces in the city. The swimming at the Hampstead ponds is exceptional and extremely accessible.
Maps: OS Landranger 179 (Reading & Windsor) or OS Explorer 171 (Chiltern Hills West).
Train from Paddington; change at Twyford for Henley branch line. Free parking at Shiplake station.
A varied 7 mile walk starting along the Thames Path, where there are several places to swim, and returning over farmland with extensive views of the Thames Valley. The area around Shiplake has been cultivated since at least Saxon times, with strips of land rising from the river through meadows to woodland on higher ground.
Port Meadow, Oxford
Maps: OS Landranger 164 (Oxford); OS Explorer 180 (Oxford).
Train from Paddington; Oxford Tube, a fast coach service from Victoria Coach Station.
These are the historic water meadows that inspired Alice in Wonderland, and is a paradise of wild flowers, bird life and history. Wolvercote is home to several good pubs, and a bridge will take you over the Thames to head back into town along the Thames Path, past the site of Godstow Abbey.
Along the river there are lots of wonderful bathing spots, with a gently shelving grassy shore. The Thames here is relatively clean and shallow at the edges.
Arundel to Little Hampton, West Sussex
Maps: Map: OS Landranger 197 (Chichester & the Downs); OS Explorer 121 (Arundel & Pulborough).
Train from London Victoria. Trains destination Littlehampton and Orr divide en route, so sit in correct section.
Starting with views of Arundel castle, this walk takes in ancient woodland, Norman churches, the River Arun and a sea swim at a marine nature reserve. After leaving Arundel the walk heads south towards the sea over fairly flat land with distant views of the Downs. The walk reaches the sea to the west of Littlehampton where the shoreline is open, backed by areas of shingle, marsh and sand dune, which is a nature reserve.
Three Oaks to Hastings, East Sussex
Map: OS Landranger 199 (Eastbourne & Hastings); OS Explorer 124 (Hastings & Bexhill)
Train from Charing Cross or Victoria, or St Pancras International; change at Ashford
International or Hastings onto a local service running between Ashford and Brighton via Hastings.
NB Whichever route you take, you must be in the first carriage to get off at Three Oaks.
This beautiful walk wanders through gentle rolling fields and woodlands to reach one of the very few undeveloped stretches of coastline in the South East. The first swim on Fairlight Glen beach at Covehurst Bay is at the bottom of a steep footpath where regular users have built a series of steps.
Farnham to Frensham Great Pond
Map OS Landranger 186 (Aldershot and Guildford); OS Explorer 145 (Guildford and Farnham); for the
Bentley option only, OS Explorer 144 (Basingstoke).
Train from Waterloo to Farnham. From Frensham Great Pond: bus to Farnham Station from nearby stop on A287 (at time of writing an hourly service on bus 19 is operated by Stagecoach but no service on Sundays, see www. stagecoachbus.com. From Bentley: train via Farnham to Waterloo.
An 8 mile walk from Farnham Station. The main swim is in Frensham Great Pond, and there are also swims in the young River Wey. Follow the North Downs Way along the River Wey, then join the Surrey Cycleway Link before your fist swim in Tilford. You can then follow a track to Frensham Great Pond.
Southease to Newhaven
Map: OS Landranger 198 (Brighton & Lewes); OS Explorer 123 (Eastbourne & Beachy Head). The hamlet of Southease is on Explorer 122, not 123, but is easy to find without the second map.
From London Victoria take the Eastbourne train and change at Lewes or Polegate. The train may be signalled to Ore and Littlehampton, in which case it will divide, usually at Haywards Heath; make sure to travel in the right section. Return from Seaford, usually with a change at Lewes.
This is a walk of contrasts, between tranquil Southease, and the industrial present and remains of Newhaven. Follow the South Downs Way signposts eastwards to Itford Hill. Follow the ridge, and descend to the sea. The best place to access fairly deep water at any tide is outside the Newhaven and Seaford Sailing Club.
Maps: OS Landranger 168 (Colchester); OS Explorer 184 (Colchester) and 196 (Sudbury, Hadleigh & Dedham Vale).
By train from Liverpool Street or Stratford.
A beautiful walk through Constable country with several opportunities to enjoy good river swimming in the famous Stour. A particularly good spot is opposite Dedham Mill where the river opens into a pond and there is a small beach. Follow footpaths to Flatford and Dedham, and once you’ve sawm, follow the river back to Manningtree station.
Shillingford to Didcot
Map: OS Landranger 164 (Oxford) or OS Explorer 170 (Abingdon, Wantage & Vale of White Horse).
By train from Paddington to Reading. Return by train from Didcot.
An easy walk with plenty of opportunities to swim in the River Thames. There are many possible swimming places – the river is quite wide and deep and easy to swim across. Follow the footpath signed for the Thames Path. At Little Wittenham follow the river bank to Day’s Lock and a weir. A cycle track will take you back to Didcot station.
Kirby Cross to Frinton and Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex
Maps: OS Landranger 169 (Ipswich & The Naze); OS Explorer 184 (Colchester, Harwich & Clacton-on-Sea).
Train from Liverpool Street, usually change at Thorpe-le-Soken. The train stops frequently and can be boarded at Stratford or stations further east.
A perfect summer’s walk of 10.5 miles with sea swims from sandy beaches. From Kirby Cross station footpaths lead through open countryside, past the village of Great Holland, all the way to the sea.
All the way along the shore, the swimming is exceptional with sandy beaches.
Folkestone to Dover, Kent
Maps: OS Landranger 179 (Canterbury & E Kent); OS Explorer 138 (Dover, Folkestone & Hythe).
Trains from St Pancras or Charing Cross.
Starting from Folkestone station, the day starts with swims from shingle coves or sandy beaches and continues with a 9 mile walk over towering cliff tops and past mysterious relics of war. The first swimming opportunity is from Mermaid beach, Mill Point. The second swim is on the other side of Folkestone Harbour at Sunny Sands, a lovely sandy beach.
Chilworth to Guildford, Surrey
Map: OS Landranger 186 (Aldershot & Guildford) or OS Explorer 145 (Guildford & Farnham)
Trains from Waterloo; change at Guildford for Chilworth. Several trains an hour to Guildford, but infrequent service to Chilworth.
This 8 mile walk crosses heathland dotted with pretty Surrey villages before dropping down to follow the Wey Navigation, where there are many swimming places. From Chilworth station, the route crosses a mixture of wild and rather forbidding heathland, but soon gives way to gentle pastures, small woods and cosy commuter villages. The swimming is good with sandy beaches.
Wild Swimming Walks: 28 lake, river and seaside days out by train from London by the Kenwood Ladies Pond Association (Wild Things Publishing, £14.99) is available from all good bookshops and www.wildthingspublishing.com
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