Somerset: Top 5 Wild Swimming spots….
Who said that wild swimming was just for summer? Though the weather may be a little chillier, it’s time to dust those bathers off, pack a picnic (and a thermos of coffee!), and head out to find the best wild swimming that Somerset has to offer
Over the year we’ll be sharing some of our favourite wild swims as we travel across the South West (keep an eye on our facebook and instagram pages for details). Today I’m starting with my home stomping ground, Somerset. These are all an easy distance if you’re looking for wild swimming near Bristol or Bath. I love each and every one of these places; some are well known and others are a little more secret, some a place for a proper dip, while others are more a paddle and a plunge! Many of these are small village locations so please treat them with respect and take home any litter you have (and maybe pick up any you find as well!), and leave no trace of your visit.
1. Fussell’s Iron Works, Mells (BA11 3PA)
The countryside around Mells is absolutely beautiful and well worth exploring. Fussell’s Iron Works is a wonderful, easy, buggy-friendly, family walk with some fantastic old Iron works that you can explore. As you follow the stream along there are great paddling spots and even a few deeper areas for a (shallow) dip! It’s under the trees so well shaded. Whilst there I would 100% recommend a trip to the Mells Walled Garden Café… it’s absolutely FANTASTIC! This is a truly wonderful Somerset spot for a wild swim or just a beautiful walk.
*We have since wondered further down the river and found a brilliant picnic spot with a rope swing. Keep wondering past the iron works, following the stream for about 1.5km and you’ll find a wooden bridge. Cross the bridge and the rope swing is 20 yards further up on a very large tree!
2. Dundas Aqueduct and Claverton Weir (BA2 7JD)
A well-known favourite. This is a lovely walk along the canal where you can see long boats meandering downstream, watch trains whizz by in the valley below, feed the ducks, and spot kingfishers darting along the water. After about a mile, dip down to Claverton weir and have a swim (and a picnic). You can also hire kayaks on the canal and pop into the lovely Angelfish Café for an ice cream
*Claverton can be very busy on sunny days but you can always find a quieter, lovely picnic spot further down the river
3. River Brue, Lydford on Fosse, (BA7 7PT)
With a picnic and two small children in tow, we found the perfect picnic spot next to the river.
This stretch of the river Brue is absolutely beautiful with plenty of spots to stop for a picnic and a quick dip. We were also allowed to have a go on the sit-on-mower by a lovely local who was cutting the grass. I’ve also heard that both the local pubs, the Cross Keys Inn and the Pilgrim’s Restaurant are fantastic but sadly we ran out of time – a definite for our next visit.
You can access the river bank via the footpath which runs for a full 3.5km stretch along the river – plenty of space to spread out. Please avoid swimming in the little village of West Lydford as sadly the locals have been plagued by litter, over-crowding, and disruptive behaviour which is a real shame. Now more than ever we need to stick to the ‘leave no trace’ countryside code and always respect those around us.
4. Farleigh Hungerford, River Frome (BA2 7RS)
Surely this is the best wild swimming in Somerset? A wonderful stretch of the river and well worth a visit, Farleigh is one of the country’s last river-swimming clubs. As such, there is a fee for swimming here. You can either purchase a day ticket (£2 per adult, £1 extra per child) or buy a season membership (£12 per person or £25 for a family). For this you can enjoy the beautifully kept lawns (perfect for a picnic), and access the water via the steps – look out for the rope swing! Car parking is available in field very close by. Changing huts and portaloo on site.
5. The Rising Sun, Pensford & the River Chew (BS39 4AQ)
As a Chew Valley local, the Rising Sun, Pensford has always been one of my favourite pubs. We’ve spend many a-happy summer hour sitting in the garden enjoying a pint, indeed they’ve just been voted as having ‘Britain’s Best Beer Garden‘ in a recent poll.
Part of the charm is due to the pub’s location, situated under the towering arches of the viaduct. There’s an old arched stone bridge to add to the beauty with a mini waterfall and river running below it. It’s here that you’re able to have a paddle or quick swim before enjoying your lunch or pint in the garden. The river wraps around the pub garden and is great for kids as it has many shallow areas.
It’s here that I completed a course on riverfly monitoring with the Bristol Avon Rivers Trust – a great volunteer scheme if anyone is interested in taking part. But that’s another story….
Walking the Chew
The Chew Valley is fantastic for walking and the pub is perfectly situated to go either West over the stone bridge in the direction of Stanton Drew and ultimately Chew Magna, or East towards Compton Dando passing through Publow and Woollard. You may find a few spots along the way for a cheeky dip on a hot day…. As an all-day adventure, why not not follow the river from Chew Stoke all the way to Compton Dando and stop at the pub for lunch? Just 20 minutes from Bristol and Bath, this is a great family day out.
When wild swimming or spending time on our beautiful river banks, make sure you look out for Giant Hogweed. It looks relatively similar to (though much larger than) common Hogweed and even cow parsley but causes nasty burns. Find more information here
*As with all things there can be some risks associated with wild swimming. Please read up on any risks associated with river/lake swimming and act with caution.