The mercury is topping 30 and we need some cooling off – my Pimms has turned to tea and the paddling pool just isn’t cutting it. If like me, you can’t face the traffic jam to the coast, have no fear – here’s the Muddy-approved lowdown on all the best local spots for cooling off whether you’re a toddler, intrepid teen or a grown-up water baby (if we’ve missed anywhere good, please let us know in the comment box below). Just make sure those bikini straps are firmly secured before you cannonball in…
The Riverside Swimming Pool at Wallingford is heated and right alongside the River Thames – so you can feel like an outdoor swimmer but without the cold and duck poo… It’s got a splash park next door – all fully refurbished over the last year, and the gorgeous water meadows just the other side of the pretty bridge going into Wallingford – perfect for a riverside picnic. Book ahead to get your preferred slot.
Hinksey in central Oxford is open for the season and is welcoming kids 16 and under for free this summer (for those who live in OX1-OX4 for specified sessions). It’s open from 7am for early birds who want to miss the crowds and is a great lo-fi way to entertain the kids (check out my review here, it’s an oldie but still useful). Book ahead to get the session you want.
More of a power swimmer? The Banbury Lido (formally known as Woodgreen Leisure Centre) boasts a whopping 50m Olympic standard pool with lane swimming as well as space for fun sessions (flumes still sadly out of action).
Adult lane swims are popular at Woburn Lido where the temperature is kept at a constant 26 degrees all season (they turn off the heating in the winter for the real masochists to have a go). And like most lidos these days, you’ve got to book ahead. Grab a post-swim ice cream at the little kiosk on site.
Then there’s the excellent Wycombe Rye which underwent a 200k refurb back in 2016 to include a 30m heated outdoor pool, heated outdoor children’s pool, plus grass and terraced sunbathing area – and there’s a gym for grown ups. Again, book ahead to nab your slot. Also try the lovely lido in Chipping Norton, which now offers online booking. Woodstock also has a 25m open-air pool, as does Chesham though sessions must be booked in advance – there’s aqua fit, inflatable fun and fitness swim sessions.
Speaking of inflatables, a whopping inflatable park opened earlier this year at Cotswold Country Park & Beach. At Aquaventure there’s slides, towers, trampolines and more – infact there’s 33 obstacles to challenge and amuse yourself, friends and family (age 6-10 accompanied by an adult – you have been warned). It’s available for one-off bookings, parties, and – shock horror – team building days (get me a team building cocktail sesh any day…). Also on site you can hire pedalos, rowing boats, kayaks, SUPs, mini electric boats, pedal karts and book mini golf.
Oxford’s biggest aqua park, Oxford Wet N Wild, in Berinsfield is always a winner, with its inflatable obstacle course, suitable for competent swimmers age 6 and upwards. Check out the Anvil – a death-defying leap that’s new to the park this year. Also on site is the Oxford Wakeboard & Ski Club, which offers water-skiing, wakeboarding and wild swimming for hardcore swimmers and triathletes-in-training.
Willen Lake in Milton Keynes makes for a great day trip and you can try every kind of water sport going, or just drift around on a pedalo. Also at Willen Lake is one of the UK’s largest splash parks, Splash’n’Play, which opened in 2017, with 60 water features suitable for children up to 13 years old. Or there’s the equally fab and under-the-radar Marlow riverside Longridge Activity Centre for kayaking, SUP, dragon boating and more.