Splash! 8 of the best wild swimming spots
It's getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes! Now dive into our guide to the best open water swimming locations in Northants and beyond. Just kindly refrain from bombing, running or petting please.
It’s been a tough few months for keen swimmers with pools still closed until further notice so, with temperatures now soaring, never has open water looked so inviting. We have some idyllic lakes and stretches of river in our area but remember that this is wild swimming, so stay safe (don’t swim alone) and do your due diligence before you rock up. All of these outdoor swimming spots are currently open but they may have safety restrictions in place. Don’t just head down with your cozzie, as you may need to book a slot.
Cotterstock, Tansor and Fotheringhay
This is a lovely spot with a posh gastro pub (The Falcon Inn, Fotheringhay) at the finish line so you can warm your cockles – just put on some clothes before you get to the bar. It’s a sometimes challenging two and a half miles along the river, especially after heavy rains, but on a bright sunny day you’ll be in heaven. Hop in via the public footpath at the road bridge in Cotterstock and make the most of this wide stretch of the Nene. You will need to get out and walk around the river lock just before Perio Mill and be a good plan to have someone ready with your towel at the end. How about joining The Wadenhoe And Tansor Swimmers? (We’ll let you work out the acronym for that). If you’re feeling less energetic, a splash around the bridge at Fotheringhay Castle is an idyllic alternative to the long slog.
Harpers Brooke, Aldwincle
This is a lovely swimmable stretch of calm river in pretty surroundings. The water is deep but the banks are shallow and sloping. Get in the water at Thorpe Road bridge and it’s possible to join the River Nene and swim up to Wadenhoe with gorgeous church views.
You can get into the water quite easily at the Oundle Rowing Cub pontoon, where the River Nene is wide and open, surrounded by greenery on either side. Swim in either direction from here, enjoy the peaceful surroundings and make friends with the resident moorhens and swans. Just watch out for the occasional narrow boat chugging past. It’s also a great spot for kayaking and paddle boarding.
Park at Willy Watt Marina, get some at fuel at the Water Mill Tea Rooms and slip in to the calm waters of the River Nene in this popular but peaceful spot. You’ll share the river with boaters, paddle boarders and kayakers here, but there is gorgeous little secret swimming spot just beyond Blackthorn Lake Marina. Skinny dip, anyone?
River Nene and nearby lakes, Wollaston
Gravel pits doesn’t sound all that idyllic tbh, but don’t be deceived, the lakes and ponds surrounding the Nene between Wollaston and Great Doddington are a well groomed, picture perfect haven. The water is clear and the banks of the lakes slope gently into reed beds, with smaller outlying ponds beyond. Please be sure that you do not swim in the designated Nature Reserve, as it is solely for the water birds and wildlife to enjoy in peace.
As it can occasionally become crowded, especially on warm summer days, the beach at Rutland Water is closed to bathers at the time of writing. However, do check their website as Government guidelines may change. If you can get up to Rutland’s north shore when it’s open to the public you can enjoy a sandy shoreline and a vast swimming and paddling area with a lifeguard presence in bucolic surroundings.
Willen Lake, Milton Keynes, Bucks
This one offers so many activities (it’s practically a mini Centerparcs) that you might not have known open water swimming was even an option. Note, you’ll need to book a 1-hour slot at present.
Olney, Milton Keynes, Bucks
A popular wild swimming spot on the River Great Ouse, partly due to nice clear water and partly because the shallower spots make it perfect for those with little swimmers. Access the water via steps at the nearby playing fields, or further along by the church.
PS – The best open water swimming spots are often word -of-mouth affairs, so do pop a note in the comment box below if we’ve missed anywhere good near you.