Swimming is a great form of exercise – it’s not only a low impact way to keep your heart rate up and use all your muscles, but it also boosts your mood. In fact, the only way to improve on a good swim is to take the plunge in the great outdoors, in a natural setting where you can also enjoy the adventure of exploring rivers and lakes, and the wildlife that lives there. Berkshire – home of Kenneth Grahame who wrote The Wind In the Willows – with its many waterways, is a great place to get back to nature.
There are several local swim clubs and lake venues in Berkshire which offer instruction, advice and events for open water swimmers, so it is also a good way to make new friends.
No, we haven’t got lost! This venue is just over the county border in Surrey, just off of the M25, but is too good to leave off of our Berkshire collection of swimming spots. Heron Lake, run by the National Open Water Coaching Association (NOWCA), welcomes open water swimmers of all levels to enjoy the superb water quality, great facilities and friendly atmosphere. It’s a safe environment to make a splash in and each swim costs just £6.00 – or you can sign up for the season for £15. There are scheduled “newbie” group sessions and plenty of other slots you can book for a swim on the 500m and 1000m courses. Book in advance on the website.
Offering water sports of all sorts, an aqua park, and some challenging open water swimming, Caversham Lakes in the heart of the Thames Valley is a fantastic place to spend a day out with the family. You could call it an aquatic playground for all ages, with a large freshwater lagoon offering more than 80 acres of water to have fun in and on. As far as swimming goes the lake has three courses marked out so you can choose between 400m, 750m and 1500m. Book online in advance, and you’ll need to sign a waiver.
If you’re a confident open water swimmer you will no doubt enjoy striking out along the stretch of river at Colne Brook, between Wraysbury Station and Hythe End, just across the Thames close to the M25. Park near the footpath at Hythe End and head north for around half a mile to find the river, which is hidden, or you can walk from Wraysbury Station. The water is clear, a bit reedy and the base gravel.
The River Thames forms the border between Berkshire and Surrey just beside the lovely Shepperton swimming lake. Dedicated purely to swimming, Shepperton caters for all swimming levels, offers coaching sessions and various competitions and events. It’s also ideal for those just wanting to enjoy a relaxing swim with no pressure. There’s a minimum age limit of 16, and new swimmers are very welcome. Swim sessions cost £6 and there are swim hats and wetsuits for hire. For further information, opening times and advance booking (which is necessary) visit the Shepperton Open Water Swim website.
From beginners to professional triathletes, Bray Lake, in the north-east of the county, caters for everyone who likes to get wet. There are events, training courses and informal fun swim sessions all year round, with marked courses ranging from 250m to 1km. There’s a clubhouse and café and plenty of watersports to try if you want a change from swimming. All swims need to be pre-booked online after registering as a Friend of Bray Lake.
This popular lake resort at Datchet offers a few open water swimming sessions a week for enthusiasts, with two courses of 200m and 750m respectively, patrolled by a lifeguard. The site does have a sandy beach, but no swimming is allowed from the beach and there are strict rules pertaining to water access. There is also a large pay and play aqua park and many watersports available, along with facilities like showers, a club house and shop. Advance booking is required. For more information visit the Liquid Leisure website.
If you fancy a pleasant hike, rewarded with a truly wild swim, take the train to Pangbourne station. Alight in the village and follow the river upstream for a few miles and you’ll come across a secluded stretch of river with clear water and chalky banks. Enjoy a dip and return the way you came, or keep going and you’ll reach the pretty river port of Goring-on-Thames, where you can catch the train home. Another option is to head downstream from Pangbourne through the meadows, enjoying a swim on the way – it’s a six-mile swim to Reading.
This is another of those busy aqua sport venues that abound in Berkshire. Horseshoe Lake offers a range of activities, not least of which is open water swimming, with beginners courses for children and adults. Apart from swimming you can do everything here in, on or beside the water, from water yoga and camping to hiring all sorts of crafts. To make enquiries about open water swimming email firstname.lastname@example.org. There’s more information on the Horseshoe Lake Activity Centre Website.