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Wild swimming in Dorset

Wild swimming is an activity that has grown in popularity over the last few years. Here in Dorset, we’re lucky enough to have a variety of rivers, lakes and beaches to choose from, many of which are set in stunning, tranquil surroundings that bring you closer to nature.

In this guide, we’ve handpicked five of our favourite wild swimming spots and also listed five great beaches which have been rated as having ‘excellent’ bathing water quality.

1. Dancing Ledge

Located in Purbeck, this natural sea pool in a tranquil setting was originally blasted out of the rock in the early 1900s so local school children would have a place to learn to swim. Depending on the tide, the pool can feel like a jacuzzi with the look of an infinity pool as the ledge and sea become one. While beautiful, this is the point for novice wild swimmers to climb out as the strong waves can prove quite challenging. Please note – Dancing Ledge can be tricky to reach, involving a steep 1.5 mile walk and a section towards the ledge that’s almost vertical – so definitely bring suitable footwear!

Suitable for all wild swimmers (tide out), experienced wild swimmers (tide in)

How to get there: Approx 1.5 miles from the village of Langton Matravers. Accessible via the South West Coast Path. Park at Spyway Car Park (BH19 3HG).

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2. Colber Brigde

If you like swimming along idyllic grassy meadows on a warm summer’s day where wildlife including kingfishers and dragonflies dart among the banks, then Colber Bridge in Sturminster Newton is the place for you. Ideal for long, leisurely swims, this stunning stretch of the Stour river offers the perfect chance to get back to nature. Further swims can be enjoyed upstream at Bather's Island.

Suitable for all wild swimmers

How to get there: Park at the free public car park at the end of Ricketts Lane adjacent to Sturminster recreation ground (DT10 1BY). Walk through the old kissing gate and make your way down the hill to the River Stour. At the bottom of the hill, you arrive at Colber Bridge.

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3. Lake Pier at Poole Harbour

Situated close to the Ham Common nature reserve, Lake Pier is a hidden gem set away from the hustle and bustle of Poole Harbour. While mostly shallow, the water gets steadily deeper as you move further out towards the deep harbour channel. The harbour itself can get pretty busy with boats, but heading a little further out towards Rockley Point can be a great spot for wild swimming!

Suitable for all wild swimmers

How to get there: Follow signs to Poole. There is a pay and display car park (BH15 4LR) just a short walk from the beach.

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4. Chapman’s Pool

This fairly secluded spot near Worth Matravers on the Isle of Purbeck is an ideal wild swimming spot, offering stunning views and a serene atmosphere that make it a perfect retreat for relaxation and reflection??. Reaching Chapman's Pool involves a bit of a trek, but this helps the cove maintain its unspoilt, crowd-free ambience, meaning you can enjoy your swim in relative peace and quiet. The sea is typically calm in this area with clear waters, making it an ideal snorkelling destination too!

Suitable for experienced wild swimmers

How to get there: Park at Renscombe Car Park (BH19 3LL). Follow the path straight across the fields in front of you and take the steps downhill towards the cove. Continue down the track until you reach the south end of the beach.

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5. Cutt Mill

We couldn’t do an article about wild swimming and NOT include Cutt Mill! Close to the village of Hinton St. Mary and documented as far back as the Domesday Book, the mill offers shallow and deep areas, making it a great spot for experienced and first-time wild swimmers. During the summer, you’ll share this idyllic spot with an abundance of wildlife, such as common sandpipers and sedge warblers – as well as quite a few other wild swimmers (it’s a popular spot!). The pool is deepest at the upstream end in front of the mill house. Watch out for nettles!

Suitable for all wild swimmers

How to get there: Passing Turks Garage on your left, continue to the edge of Hinton St. Mary and you will come to Margaret Lane, which is marked as a No Through Road. Drive carefully along the lane for about 1/3 of a mile and you will find Cutt Mill at the bottom of the steep hill (DT10 1NG).

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Best beaches in Dorset for swimming

As we all know, Dorset has some of the best beaches in the whole country. Here are five of our favourites for swimming, all of which have been rated ‘excellent’ for bathing water quality by the Environment Agency.

  • Charmouth West, West Dorset: Great for fossil-hunting, this beach is mainly shingle, although at low tide a good expanse of sand is exposed.
  • Weymouth: Family-friendly and awarded the Blue Flag award on several occasions, the safe shallow waters are ideal for swimming.
  • Durdle Door: With its iconic rock arch, Durdle Door is one of Dorset's most famous landmarks
  • Studland Beach, Purbeck: Recognised as one of the finest beaches in UK. Clean, sandy with a backdrop of sweeping sand dunes. Busy in summer but a haven of tranquility in winter
  • Seatown, near Chideock: Small but attractive shingle beach, approximately 900 metres wide, backed by cliffs.

What equipment do I need / should I consider for wild swimming in Dorset?

  • Tow float: keep you visible and helps prevent potential collisions with other swimmers or boats
  • Dry bag: enabling you to keep personal belongings such as car keys safe.
  • Wetsuit: not essential, but an option if you don’t like the feel of cold water on your skin.
  • Bright colours: swim cap and swim wear to keep you visible.
  • Towel / dryrobe: to keep you warm after your swim.
  • Water / warm drink in a flask: to help keep you hydrated / warm you up.

 

Want to get more active?

Whether you prefer walking, swimming, cycling or something a little more out of the ordinary, being out and about in the great outdoors has multiple health benefits. Not only can it help you get fit and active, it’s also a fantastic way to boost mental wellbeing. For more information, take a look at the Get Active section of our website, featuring some great advice on how to reach your health and fitness goals. You can also register with us today and receive personalised advice from our team of LiveWell coaches.

Further reading

Outdoor swimming pools in Dorset

 

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