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Wild Swimming in the Peak District

We moved to the Peak District in 2017, leaving behind suburban Nottingham to have even more outdoor adventures. One of the things we’re beginning to explore, now the kids are older and strong swimmers, is safe places to wild swim. 

Here are some places to try a wild swim in the Peak District:

Dovedale

Lots of children enjoy paddling and splashing at the Dovedale stepping stones, and I have even seen the odd dinghy there. It’s not deep and breathtakingly beautiful, this valley that leads into the Peak District from the south.

I spend most of my time staring in disbelief at just how pretty it is here. It was here we found the magic money tree, and played in the caves. I read an account of swimming from Milldale to the Izzac Walton hotel along the river, which sounded like fun, although it’s very shallow in places. The kids have been wearing crocs to go in, some kind of footwear is definitely advisable. 

Three Shires Head

‘A series of water falls and plunge pools, known as Panniers Pool, a reference to the pack-horses that once used the bridges where the counties of Derbyshire, Cheshire and Staffordshire all meet at the ‘Y’ shaped junction of two converging rivers’ Wild Swim.

I remember going here as a child and I love the idea that you can swim where three counties meet and perhaps have a limb in each county. From what I can see it wouldn’t be the most peaceful swim, it is a popular spot that often features on calendars, but it looks like fun and a great place to stop off on a walk – it is at least 3/4 mile walk to get to the water from the road. At it’s deepest some swimmers reckon 5-7ft, but there are also shallower pools suitable for children.

Chatsworth

‘If you take a discreet wander downstream from the main bridge leading to Chatsworth House, away from the throngs of tourists, there are a number of locations where the River Derwent provides opportunities for a swim.’  Sheffield Culture Guide

This sounds like a rather glorious one to do, with grass banks and sand and a back ground of Chatsworth House and thoughts of Mr Darcy, although that famous emerge from the lake scene in the BBC version was filmed at Lyme Park, not Chatsworth. Chatsworth was used in the 2005 film with Keira Knightley. There are rope swings according to some accounts, and it’s a great spot for a picnic, lazing by the river.

One I won’t be swimming in anytime soon…

Black Mere, or Mermaid’s Pool

Mermaid’s Pool is a tiny moor-top pool in the Staffordshire Peak District, steeped in legend with views of The Roaches, a gritstone ridge with the most amazing rock formations, a spot popular with climbers, instagram photo hunters and families. 

Legend says that a mermaid lives in the pool. There are two stories about her, one account explains her origins as the lover of her sailor who brought her home with him, another claims she is a local women who rejected the advances of a man.

Unable to cope with this rejection, he convinced the town she was a witch and they drowned her in the pool.  With her dying breath she cursed him so that 3 days later he was found dead by the pool.

A diver successfully tested the pool in 2013, and it is apparently only 2 metres deep, although apparently livestock mysteriously avoid the pool… I think I might do too. 

Some people think Mermaid’s Pool is linked by subterrainian passages to Doxey’s Pool, on top of The Roaches.

Wetton Mill

Wetton Mill, with its riverside cafe, is a lovely place to splash about/soak your parents for making you walk up to Thor’s Cave*, on a summer day.

*It is totally worth it, they’ll love it. You can access it by walk, by road or by bike along the Manifold Trail. Hire bikes at Brown End Farm in Waterhouses. 

Thors-Cave walk and Wetton Mill-Peak-District

Hathersage Swimming Pool

For those who fancy wild swimming without the fear of what lies beneath, or the cold, this could be a gorgeous compromise. With views of surrounding hills, Stanage Edge and Hathersage Church, Hathersage swimming pool is wild but warm, the large open air pool is heated to 28 degrees during the summer. It’s open in Winter too, but unheated.

Other places for Wild Swimming in the Peak District (or paddling)

I will update this as we try them, but in the Southern White Peak friends also suggested Mapleton, Ilam, Dimmingsdale near Alton, Padley Gorge near Grindleford, Tissington Ford, Wetton Mill on the Manifold Trail, the Henmore if you follow it upstream from the playing fields in Ashbourne.

Further North from us into the Dark Peak – Tideswell, Padley Gorge, Slippery Stones at Ladybower.

Accommodation while wild swimming in the Peak District

peak district usual accommodation
Mayfield Hideway Caravan, both places are pond side with views out to Dovedale

If you need a place to stay, check out Mayfield Hideaway, our character beamed barn and lovingly upcycled Scandi inspired caravan near Ashbourne, just a short drive 10 minute drive to Dovedale, 10 to hire bridges to Wetton Mill, 20 to The Roaches and 30 to Chatsworth.

Both sleep two to four people, welcome children and dogs, and have stunning views out to Dovedale. The caravan is super cosy and the barn has a log burner, perfect for a post swim warm up.

Safety first

We live close to the site of an annual Mapleton New Year bridge jump for charity – it’s always checked out by divers ahead of time, with lots of staff on hand on the day to keep people safe.

But you should never jump off bridges or into disused quarries – cold water shock can kill, as can unseen underwater rocks or debris. Derbyshire Fire and Rescue service shared this video about the dangers of quarries, share with your children and keep them aware of dangers. 

Have you been wild swimming? 

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I have been looking around to find the best places to go wild swimming in the Peak District, grab your swimming costume let's go!
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3 Comments

  1. 13/09/2017 / 10:45 am

    Glad you’re enjoying the watery fun on offer in the Peaks.

    Wild and outdoor swimming Facebook groups are the perfect way to meet like minded people, discover swim spots and share safety advice. In Sheffield we’ve got SOUP Sheffield OUtdoor Plungers – feel free to join. Thanks to this group I really have overcome my fear of deep and dark water!
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/181406392266654/

    • Penny Alexander
      Author
      13/09/2017 / 10:51 am

      Thanks Owen, that’s a brilliant idea, the info ‘above the surface’ on the internet seems patchy!

      • Owen Hayman
        22/09/2017 / 4:12 pm

        Yeah it’s tricky to find info, mainly because people are hesitant to share info about where they swim, due to fear of water authorities, councils etc. clamping down on swimmers. There’s almost nowhere that people are actually permitted to swim, but in reality swimmers are rarely challenged and when they are it’s typically very civil from my experience. Even at Chatsworth swimming is technically not allowed according to their website… but they don’t seem to mind. A dutch lady I know is staggered at the though of all these places to swim and no one swimming there… she says in the Netherlands on a warm day there would be families splashing around the edge of the water.

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