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The best wild swimming spots in and around Manchester

Outdoor swimming in cold water is wild and has loads of health benefits

Lordy, it’s hot. Sometimes when it’s like this, you just want to take a dip to cool off.

There are plenty of swimming baths in Manchester but, between it being the first week of school summer holidays and the fact that we’re currently experiencing an intoxicating heatwave, they’re likely going to be rammed.

Wild swimming, on the other hand, has numerous charms: offering the chance to be at one with nature, plenty of beautiful scenery to drink in (not literally), and fewer fellow swimmers to share the water with.

Thanks to the decent weather, we’ve been handed a rare chance to cool off outdoors—time to make the most of it.

Please note that swimming in open water carries risks. Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service advise people not to swim in open water where there is no lifeguard. Check out their safety guidelines.

The ‘secret lake’ at Levenshulme

Image: Lauren Rochford

Levy’s ‘secret lake’ is neither secret nor, really, a lake. But it’s beautiful, tucked away behind the industrial estate as it is. A bit of a community project, the locals have dredged it themselves – a task that, allegedly, took 8 years to complete to get it swim-ready. Find it via the Fallowfield loop or Longford Lane.

Lumb Falls near Hebden Bridge

Deep enough to jump into, Lumb Hole waterfall near Hebden Bridge is a beautiful wild spot for a dip. The circular pool, overhung with ferns and ivy, leads down from the surrounding hills with small waterfalls projecting from the mouths of the mossy cliffs. It’ll take you about half an hour on the train, followed by a walk, but boy is it worth it.

Please note: Swimming abilities vary and conditions may change. Always assess risks for yourself before getting in.

Pickmere Lake, Cheshire

Home to one of the early (and only) battlegrounds of the River and Lake Swimming Association, who challenged the local council when they tried to stop swimming here, Pickmere Lake in Cheshire is in a class of its own. It is relatively straightforward to find, with parking nearby close to Mere Lane, and benefits from exceptionally clear water that is not too cold.

Please note: Entry can only be made via land owned by the parish council or a public footpath which runs along the shore (not through private farming land). The slope is moderate, but swimmer should beware of large stones under the surface and debris. Look out for powerboats and water skis which may come close to the shore. Skiing is not allowed before 10 am Monday-Sunday. The skiing season starts on a Good Friday and ends 16th Oct.

Gaddings Dam, Todmorden

Just under an hours drive from Manchester is Gaddings Dam. The highest beach in the UK at 355 metres above sea level, it has been run by a group of local volunteers since they rescued it from closure back in 2001. Find it off Lumbutts Road, via a path opposite the Shepherd’s Rest Inn.

High and exposed, the reservoir is often wild and windy, sometimes tranquil, and occasionally a baking sun trap. But whatever the conditions, it usually manages to reward those who make the hike to the top of the moor – not a long hike but sufficient to ensure the place is never crowded.

Please note: With clean water and no tides or currents, it is relatively safe for swimming, but visitors are advised to stay near the walls and not to dive as there are a lot of rocks under the water near the edges. Visitors are asked not to park in the pub car park, but to use the car park opposite or street park.

Hatchmere lake, Cheshire

This popular family lake in Cheshire started as a sinkhole when glacial ice melted in a depression in the ground. The peat-brown shallow waters are perfect for paddling in, and the temperature is comfortable, topping 20 degrees in the summer. Further out, it deepens to about 3m with plenty of room for a long swim. It’s located next to the main road, but there’s a nice grassy patch to set up camp on.

Delamere Rd, Norley, Frodsham WA6 6LU

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