In the sea, in rivers, in lakes, waterfalls and streams: the pleasures of an outdoor dip are as deep as an ocean and refreshing as a mountain spring. Chances are, you were a little more adventurous before your children came along, but the patter of tiny feet is no reason to give up your intrepid ways.
So, take the plunge and an underwater camera and get snapping. Choose from our list of favourite outdoor swimming spots below and enjoy. Just make sure you follow the safety advice at the end of the list.
Tip: Play some games to warm you up before, during, and after your wild swim. Tag – in or out of the water – is always a good one, or frisbee. Or try pooh sticks, making your own boats from twigs and leaves. Skim stones, build cairns or make up your own synchronized swimming routines.
1.) Golitha Falls, River Fowey, between St Neot and St Cleer
This beautiful stretch of the young River Fowey runs through ancient oak woodland. The first 700m of wide path provides easy access to shallows for paddling. An exciting rough track for the more adventurous continues about 200m down to a shady secret plunge pool. The bottom is mostly golden sand but watch for slippery rocks. The public toilet at the car park is out of action, so be prepared for some wild weeing along with your wild swim!2.) Lusty Glaze Beach, Newquay
This curiously-named hidden cove is a bijou sandy beach with lovely little waves to jump and the odd seal, if you keep your eyes peeled. Then there’s the added bonus of toilets, good food and warming hot drinks from the Lusty Glaze Beach Restaurant. Check out their hot stone menu (fresh meat and seafood cooked on volcanic slabs) while you’re there. By the way, Lusty gets its name from the Cornish, Lostyn Glas, meaning a place to view blue boats.3.) Porthtowan Tidal Pool, St Agnes
This secluded tidal pool nestles among cliffs about 300m to the north east of the main beach. It’s ideal for a wild family sea swim, as it offers sand, rock pools and safe bathing with a RNLI lifeguard service from the 1st May until the 30th September. At low tide you can walk along the sand to Chapel Porth.
4.) Respryn Bridge, River Fowey, Bodmin
This is a magical place on a sunny day. Set in ancient woodland, dapples of light speckle the water as the river hurries on its way. There are wooden, bankside decks (for fishing) and a beach/shingle area by the lower footbridge (also good for Pooh Sticks). It’s up to two metres deep in sections and fun to swim against the current.
5.) Lansallos Cove (aka West Coombe Beach), Fowey
This is an exciting cove for children with an old smugglers’ passage hewn into the rocks, a stream crossing the beach and a waterfall, known locally as Reed Water. The cove is a short stroll past the church down a pretty fern-lined, wooded coombe from the hamlet of Lansallow itself. The cove is half sand and half shingle, an excellent beach for swimming, especially from half tide and above. But be warned: there is no lifeguard service here. There are no toilets or cafes around either, so be prepared for wild weeing and bring your own warm-up drinks.
6.) Goldiggins Quarry, Minions, Bodmin Moor
Goldiggins is a secret, crystal-clear quarry lake fed by a spring that’s hidden in broad sight. It’s out on the open moors, but tucked away in a small grassy amphitheatre studded with wild flowers. This one’s not for the fainthearted. It’s a quarry lake – so very deep – and you have to walk for a mile from the nearest car park to get to it. There are granite boulders at the edge but plenty of easy access points if you look. There are lots of flat rock ledges for jumping from for those that can.
7.) Daymer Bay and St Enodoc, Trebetherick
Daymer is an idyll for little ones. Golden sands, warm tidal waters and safe swimming for all await you here. The wide sandy beach is sheltered and at high tide you can walk out into the sea for quite a way before it comes to your waist. To the right of the bay, you’ll find plenty of rock pools to explore. The half-buried 15th century St Enodoc Church, much-loved by poet laureate John Betjeman, lies in the dunes behind.
Make sure you’ve got a good ratio of adults to children or strong to weak swimmers. This is particularly important at beachy areas, where water depth can vary unpredictably and children can find themselves suddenly out of their depth.
Before you get in, make sure you know where and how you’re going to get out again. It sounds obvious, but if you intend to swim from one side of a river to another, make sure you’re exit isn’t a sheer bank that’s impossible for you all to climb. Ideally, choose a gently sloping beach. Make sure you get in first to check for depth and deeper holes before you let really little ones get in on any paddling action.
Water can be chilly, even in summer, and cold water can seriously impair your own and your child’s swimming ability. So, stay close to the bank or shore. Assume that you and your child will be able to swim about a tenth of the distance in cold water than you can in a heated pool. Build up your own and their wild water stamina slowly.
Warm up with exercise and warm clothes before and after a swim. Shivering is not good and is a sign of mild hypothermia. Consider a wet suit. They keep you warmer and let you stay in longer. There are some great mini wetsuits for kids that add buoyancy too.
Watch out for boats on any navigable river and wear a coloured swim, so that you can help easily be seen.