Jumping the Thames

10 wild swimming spots near London by boat or train

John Weller & Lola Culsán, choose their favourite swims accessible from London by train or boat. They are authors of the new guide Outdoor Swimming London – 140 best wild swims and lidos within easy reach of the capital (available as a book, or PDF for instant download).



Petersham Meadows, Thames
(train to Richmond)

Enjoy a cycle ride along the Thames Path to Petersham Meadows, the central feature of the view from Richmond Hill, a view that was protected by an act of parliament in 1902. In summer cattle graze the field as they have done for 400 years. Cow parsley and bitter dock are abundant on this part of the Thames, giving a countryside feel to our surroundings. At one corner of the meadow lies a shingle slipway leading down to the river




Directions: Richmond Station + 1.2-mile walk (25 mins). From station, head to Richmond Bridge (it’s a nice walk through Richmond Green) and then follow the Thames Path south (upstream) for 0.8 miles. The slipway is on your R at the end of Petersham Meadows Regular sailings between Westminster and Richmond Landing Stage (1 hour 30 mins) OPetersham Park Car Park, Richmond, TW10 5HX (fees apply) + 1-mile walk (20 mins).

GPS: 51.4486, -0.3059



Pangbourne Meadows (Paddington to Pangbourne)

An exquisite stretch of the Thames Path, flanked by purple loosestrife and towering bulrushes. You’ll find
a number of river beaches and places to access the Thames between Pangbourne and Purley-on-Thames,
as well as grassy banks to rest and picnic. Always check your exit point before committing yourself and look
out for boats, swans and geese. We have enjoyed many pleasurable swims here on dreamy sunny afternoons
and, like Mole of Wind in the Willows, ‘entered into the joy of running water’. Author Kenneth Grahame lived in
Pangbourne and it is said that the band Led Zeppelin was conceived here after Jimmy Page bought a boathouse on
the river.


Directions: Paddington to Pangbourne Station (35 mins) + 1-mile walk downstream along Thames Path (20 mins) OPangbourne River Meadow Car Park, RG8 7DA Pangbourne Cream Tea Cruise, an afternoon round-trip cruise to Pangbourne (thamesrivercruise.co.uk).
GPS: 51.4905, -1.0666PS: 51.4486, -0.3059


Chesham Moor Open-Air Pool

(Metropolitan Line to Chesham)

The delightful Chesham Moor Open-Air Pool lies far, far away at the suburban end of the Metropolitan Line. Cheerfully adorned with bunting, the 25m heated pool is open all year round, except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. The first swimming pool was built on the site in 1912, and in 1964 the pool and surrounding buildings were reconstructed. Modern-day facilities and classes include family swims, inflatable sessions and toddler swims; a gym; spinning classes; and tennis courts. Swimmers with disabilities benefit from a poolside hoist plus accessible toilets and changing rooms. In nearby Great Missenden, visit the Roald Dahl Museum, which celebrates the life and work of one of our favourite children’s authors.

Directions: Metropolitan Line to Chesham (50 mins) + 0.7-mile walk (15 mins). Exit station, double back into alleyway on L and walk 300m; continue onto Punch Bowl Lane. L onto Red Lion Street and walk 300m. At roundabout, slight R onto Amersham Road for 300m. At next roundabout, first exit onto Moor Road and continue 450m cBikes permitted on Metropolitan Line Monday to Friday before 7:30, between 9:30 and 16:00 and after 19:00; anytime on weekends and bank holidays OPark next to Moor Road Play Area, Shantung Place, Moor Road, Chesham, HP5 1SF
GPS: 51.6973, -0.6068 Price: £
Website: cheshammoorfitness.org.uk/swim
Address: Chesham Moor Gym and Swim, Moor Road, Chesham, Bucks, HP5 1SE


Thames Lido
(train – 22 mins Paddington to Reading)

Thames Lido is an Edwardian water palace a length or two from the river. The pool has an interesting history. Opening in 1902 as the Ladies’ Swimming Bath, it was built to provide Edwardian women a place to bathe in privacy. The lido was originally fed from the Thames, converting to a mains water supply in the 1950s. The pool was closed to the public in 1974 and lay derelict for many years. Following a public campaign, the outdoor pool and surrounding buildings were given Grade II-listed status. A careful restoration project took place, and in October 2017 the pool reopened.

Directions: Thames Lido, Napier Road, Reading, RG1 8FR. bPaddington to Reading
(25 mins) + 10 mins walk. Head E on Blagrave Street for 60m; then Forbury Road for 150m;
at roundabout take first exit onto Vastern Road. After 150m, at the roundabout,
cross pedestrian crossing onto King’s Meadow Road; after 30m cross over and turn L signposted ‘Thames Lido’ OKing’s Meadow Car Park, RG1 8BN (fees, height restriction).
GPS: 51.4600, -0.9655 Price: ££
Address: Thames Lido, Napier Road, Reading, RG1 8FR


Hever Castle (train + rural walk to the castle)

The 38-acre man-made lake was commissioned in 1904 by Lord Astor, the Jeff Bezos of his day. Dug out by 800 ‘navvies’ working day and night for two years, the lake was part of Lord Astor’s vision to create an Italian Garden. The castle was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. Swimmers are required to complete an induction and wear a bright swim hat. Wetsuits are not required, although they were in evidence when we swam in August, despite the 20-degree water temperature. It was possible to stand up in most places in the lake, and the floor was soft mud. However, the beautiful views of white colonnades of the loggia, piazza and Nymph’s Fountain more than compensated as we swam round the lake. Swimming is seasonal and dependent on volunteers, so check the website.

Directions: London Bridge to Hever (45 mins) + 1-mile rural walk to the castle
(20 mins). As you leave the platform you will see a map on your L. This will guide you to Hever Castle, follow the red and white waymarkers on wooden posts to the entrance of the castle. Swimming takes place at the farthest end of the lake from the loggia OXOn-site parking is free and accessible parking is available.
GPS: 51.1864, 0.1238 Price: £
Address: Hever Lake, Hever Castle, Hever Road, Hever, Kent, TN8 7NG
Website: hevercastleswimming.co.uk


Royal Docks (cable car from Greenwich)

The poster child for London urban swimming, the Royal Docks do not disappoint. Dive into what was the largest enclosed docks system in the world and you have the unique pleasure of swimming surrounded by the disused cranes and warehouses of London’s industrial past alongside sleek modern buildings, while, overhead, planes take off at ridiculously steep angles from the next-door London City Airport. With 400m, 750m and (sometimes) 1,500m routes marked out, it’s a good place to put in some distance, plus there’s plenty of room to swim unfettered by fellow splashers. The water quality is good, and it’s checked every two weeks. Facilities may be minimal but the venue is run on a safe (lifeguards in canoes) but relaxed and friendly basis.



Directions: Royal Victoria Station + 300m walk (5 mins). Follow Seagull Lane for 200m. You will see Emirates Air Line station on your L. The swim is 100m further round the dock cCycle Superhighway 3 or Thames Path from Central London, or take your bike on the DLR, Thames Clipper or Emirates Air Line cable car ZNorth Greenwich Station + Emirates Air Line cable car (15 mins). Thames Clipper to Royal Wharf Pier + 1-mile walk (20 mins).
GPS: 51.5067, 0.0170
Address: London Royal Docks open-water swimming, Dock Road, London, E16 1AH
Website: loveopenwater.co.uk/swimming-london-royal-docks


Orleans Gardens (Hammerton’s Ferry)

Orleans Gardens is a tranquil woodland park on the north side of the Thames. In front of the gardens there’s a small slipway from which you can take a dip. Access to the river is down 20 slippery concrete steps, but don’t worry, there’s a handrail to help. The gardens are home to the Orleans House Gallery, named after the Duc d’Orléans, who lived here from 1815 to 1817. Since 1901, nearby Hammerton’s Ferry has carried pedestrians and cyclists across the Thames between Marble Hill House in Twickenham and Ham House in Ham. It is one of only four remaining ferry routes in London. The nearby Coach House Café in Marble Hill Park serves an excellent range of teas, coffees and light refreshments.


Directions: Twickenham Station + 1-mile walk (20 mins). From Hammerton’s Ferry (west bank), walk 90m W. You’ll see the steps leading down to the river ZRichmond Station + 1.5-mile walk (30 mins). From station, head to Richmond Bridge and then follow Thames Path south (upstream) for 1 mile Regular sailings between Westminster and Richmond Landing Stage (1 hour 30 mins) + 1-mile walk (20 mins) OArragon Car Park, Sandringham Court, 26 Arragon Road, Twickenham, TW1 3ND (fees apply).
GPS: 51.4467, -0.3157


Albany Reach Park
(boat -Westminster to Hampton Ct.)

Quiet riverside beach with a gentle slope into the water. Please be careful as the current can be strong here. Also keep an eye out for passing boats and surf hydrofoils. The meadow overlooks Hampton Court Palace across the river and is a fine place to spend a family afternoon: the kids will love splashing about in the shallows. Walk a bit further along Albany Reach to discover Palace Beach, which is also great for swimming. Please keep the local residents happy and dispose of your rubbish responsibly. Paddle Up lists Albany Reach as one of the top-10 places on the Thames to launch your paddle-board (paddleup.co.uk). If you arrive by boat at Hampton Court Landing Stage, you’ll see another narrow beach where you can swim from. Hampton Court Palace, home of Henry Tudor, overlooks the Thames here. Come and pay homage to the gout-ridden lunatic who murdered two of his six wives.


Directions: Waterloo to Thames Ditton (35 mins) + 0.5-mile walk (10 mins). From station, take Speer Road, on E side of railway bridge; after 800m, at the roundabout, take second exit onto Aragon Avenue; after 300m, at the end of the road, walk through metal gate onto Albany Reach. Regular boat services between Westminster and Hampton Court Landing Stage (3.5 hours) + 1-mile walk (20 mins) Park where you legally can on surrounding streets (fees may apply).
GPS: 51.3985, -0.3365


About the book – 134 more places


200 photos, 7 maps, 256 pp, 210x170cm

Discover the best lidos, river beaches, wooded lakes and hotel pools – all about an hour from central London on public transport. Perfect for anyone who loves to swim outdoors under a big open sky.

Combining lavish photos, enticing travel writing and all the practical information you’ll need to choose and plan your next adventure, including local eateries, river walks, places of interest and accessibility information. Encompassing more than 140 beautiful and varied venues where you can swim wild, paddle board, picnic or take the family for an unforgettable day out. It also includes information on winter swimming, local swimming groups and events.

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