The 8 dreamiest wild swimming spots in and around London to visit this summer
There’s nothing quite like taking a dip in the great outdoors, and it’s no surprise that the nation’s appetite for wild swimming has soared in recent years, thanks to the proven mental health benefits that come with connecting to nature. But while you may conjure up secluded spots in far-flung locations when you think about open water swimming, the fact is many of the country’s finest wild swimming spots can be found in around London. Whether you’re looking for a tranquil hidden gem or a spot for an evening cool-down accompanied by city views, here’s where to escape the heatwave in the capital this summer.
Beckenham Place Park, Lewisham
This lesser-known park in Lewisham is one of the capital’s hidden gems, boasting 237 acres of wide-open green spaces, secluded woodlands and a walled garden, all centred around a beautiful Georgian mansion. Having been converted from a golf course in 2019, it’s also home to a crescent-shaped lake, which has swiftly become one of London’s finest wild swimming spots. Measuring 283 metres long and 45 metres wide, the water comes from pre-existing streams and a new borehole, with reeds and aquatic plants absorbing unwanted nutrients and oxygen pumps keeping the water clean. With a beach area at one end that gently slopes into shallow waters, it’s ideal for kids to play in, too.
Beckenham Hill Rd, Beckenham, BR3 5BS
West Reservoir Centre, Hackney
This east London reservoir offers the best of both worlds, with a tranquil nature spot filled with wildlife combined with stellar urban views. Tucked away in a hidden part of the Borough of Hackney (plenty of locals don’t even know it’s there) on 23 acres of water, there are two open-water courses – a 400m loop and a 100m warm-up lane. There’s plenty here for water sports enthusiasts, too, with kayaking, sailing and paddle boarding on offer, making for a truly active day out on the water.
Green Lanes, Woodberry Down, Hackney London N4 2HA
The Serpentine, Kensington
Glide past the resident ducks and geese at the Serpentine’s 100-metre-long swimming area, which has to be one of the most charming places in central London to take a dip. Surrounded by Hyde Park, it’s the perfect spot to get away from it all right in the heart of the city. Open until early September (apart from a few hardy souls who brace the icy waters for the annual Christmas Day swim), it’s home to the Serpentine Swimming Club, the oldest swimming club in Britain. Head over to the Lido Café and Bar after your swim for an al fresco coffee or glass of wine.
Hyde Park, Kensington, London W2 2UH
Hampstead Bathing Ponds, Hampstead
These three ponds in Hampstead Heath are some of the dreamiest places to try open water swimming in the capital, surrounded by weeping willows and bulrushes and home to resident ducks and moorhens. Open year-round, the Men’s and Ladies’ Ponds are tucked away on the Highgate side of the heath, while the Mixed Pond is closer to Belsize Park. All are lovely but the Ladies’ Pond is the most special, veiled by oak trees to offer ultimate privacy for a bit of topless swimming and sunbathing, should you fancy it.
Hampstead Heath, Hampstead, London, NW3
London Royal Docks, Docklands
If you like your wild swimming with a side serving of soaring skyscrapers, this is the spot for you. There’s a real ‘city’ approach to open water swimming here, where instead of being surrounded by trees and birdsong you’ll be splashing around amongst the east London docks. Spaces here are allocated for both casual and competitive swimming, making it the ideal place for those training for a race or event, as well as those simply looking to cool off. Just make sure you turn up ready to go, as there’s nowhere to change other than by the water.
Dock Road, Royal Docks, London E16 1AH
Divers Cove, Surrey
This natural swimming spot in the village of Godstone is famed for its sparkling turquoise waters that wouldn’t look out of place in the Mediterranean – but at under an hour’s drive from south London, it makes an ideal day trip. Set in a 7.3-acre nature reserve, this is a delightfully peaceful spot, and the on-site saunas and hot tubs only serve to heighten the relaxed vibe. Be warned that this is a spot tailored to more confident swimmers, with all visitors expected to be able to complete a minimum of 450m without stopping.
Surrey Crest, Bletchingley, Godstone RH9 8ND
Denham Lake, Uxbridge
On the western fringes of London you’ll find Denham Lake, a bucolic slice of nature that’s become a true wild swimming haven. Nestled within Denham Country Park and surrounded by soaring trees, the vast stretch of water is an idyllic spot for a cooling dip. There are plenty of charming pubs and picnic spots nearby, and water lovers should note that swimming is not the only activity on offer here – you can also book individual or group waterskiing and wakeboarding sessions with the Denham Waterski Club.
Denham Country Park, Denham Court Drive, Uxbridge UB9 5PG
Frensham Great Pond, Surrey
The Pond at Frensham is often touted as one of the UK’s most family-friendly wild swimming spots, thanks to the fact that the depths never exceed 1.4 metres, as well as the large bucket-and-spade-ready sandy beach that surrounds it. Located a short zip along the A3 from London, there are two different ponds to choose from, and while the Great Pond may be the more popular, the Little Pond still has plenty going for it, including a selection of charming picnic spots. There’s a café and an ice cream van on site, making it the ideal place to spend a hot summer’s day – just be sure you nab your spot early, before the crowds descend.
Bacon Lane, Churt, Surrey GU10 2QB