Slow Cotswolds

  • Cotswolds-on-Sea

    When the summer sun shines, the temptation is to gravitate towards the coast - but the Cotswolds doesn't have much, indeed any, coastline! For sure, it's one of the most landlocked areas of England with, at best, a one-hour journey to reach sandy beaches and rolling surf and, from further north of the region, at least a couple of hours.

    But the Cotswolds, with its rolling beauty, deserves more than such desertion when the going gets hot. And with a smattering of outdoor lidos and lifeguarded lakes, there's every opportunity to cool off in the water. It's a 'no' to jellyfish and 'yes' to jelly and ice-cream - and no more sand in your sandwiches. Yeah!

    Sandford Lido, Cheltenham

    Open unti Friday 12th October

    If you have aspirations to become an Olympic swimmer - or you are one and need to top-up on some training as well as a tan - Sandford Parks Lido (page 159) is your location. The size of an Olympic swimming pool (seriously, it's a 10-lane, 50-metre outdoor pool), there are plenty of opportunities to perfect your pull and brush up on your breaststroke turns, or simply pound up and down to keep in trim. There are swimming lessons too, SwimFit, Aqua Aerobics and a land and water-based Lido Fitness Camp held every Tuesday morning. Plus, of course, lots of splash time. A smaller, children's pool sits adjacent and both, with an accompanying cafe, are located in a large, leafy park in the centre of Cheltenham.

    Cirencester Open Air Swimming Pool

    Open until Sunday 9th September

    Within a five-minute walk from Cirencester town centre (page 194) and located on the edge of Cirencester Park, this open-air facility is reputedly Britain's oldest public outdoor swimming pool in continuous use. It was originally built in 1869 but it has had a spruce up since then and the 28-metre pool with slide, children's paddling pool and surrounding sunbathing patio looks pretty inviting on a scorching day. Don't expect grass picnic areas (head into Cirencester Park for those) but, then, that won't be necessary if you visit for one of the popular Night Swims (open 10pm until midnight on 4th August and 24 hours from 1st to 2nd September). There are also Quiet Swims, adults only plus Parent and Baby swims in addition to the essential family splash times.

    Chipping Norton Lido

    Open until Sunday 9th September

    Close to my heart - this is where, as a child, I gained my all-important 25-metre swimming badge! - the lido (page 110) at Chipping Norton is within a five-minute walk of the town centre and is one of the safest environments for families as the pool and picnic area is totally enclosed. It's a very popular place on warm days, not least because of the large grass picnic area beside the pool, sheltered beneath three enormous beech trees. This is a 'green' pool: disguised by its ultra-inviting ultramarine appearance, solar electricity off-sets the lido's usage, a ground-source heat pump assists in the heating of the pool and ultra-violet light is used to improve the water quality. A cafe on site puts funds straight back into the running of the charity-run pool.

    Hinksey Outdoor Pool, Oxford

    Open until September

    One to consider as an escape from the bustle of Oxford city centre, Hinksey lido has sparkling, sprinkling showers mid-pool under which to cool off and plenty of space to have fun in the water. It's a very popular place, though, so it's advisable to purchase a ticket in advance. There's lane swimming in addition to splash areas and lots of grass upon which to pull out a picnic rug.

    Cotswold Country Park and Beach

    Open until Sunday 28th October

    Yes, the Cotswolds does have its very own beach. This really is where the Cotswolds meets the sea. Well, almost. The Cotswold Country Park and Beach swallows up two lakes in the vast Cotswold Water Park (pages 214-6), which is created from a series of former gravel pits that now look as natural as nature intended. This beach is, in fact, the UK's largest inland beach. But there's far more than sand here.

    The lagoon and children's swimming and paddling area is supervised by lifeguards in peak season - this is not about dive-bombing into an unsafe, deserted quarry - and there's open-water training for the more serious aquathlete. The surrounding parkland is perfect for picnics and there are BBQ stations for hire too. Plus, there's an extensive choice of fun and games, including an adventure playground, volleyball court, rowing boats and the ubiquitous pedalo. Not to mention the Wibit Aquaventure, a massive, floating inflatable obstacle course. Order a woodfired pizza from the lakeside Pizzeria or an icecream from the Beach Shack Cafe. I recommend booking tickets in advance to enter the park on a sunny day - there's limited entrance and once full, you won't get in.

    Thermae Bath Spa

    Open all year

    OK, so there's no splash time here - this is R&R for grown-ups (aged 16 years and over) as you gather your rays. The open-air rooftop pool, a part of the New Royal Bath area of the Thermae complex, has the most magnificent views overlooking the impressive Bath Abbey and the surrounding Cotswold hills. The water is naturally heated, mineral-rich and, whether by day or night, offers a truly luxurious Cotswold experience. Air seats, bubbling jets and steam rising (yes, the water is that warm) add to the ambience. The spa's indoor facilities are included as a part of your entrance fee.

    Should you be looking for a really special, more intimate spa experience, The Cross Bath is a small, open-air pool shaded by classical Bath stone walls and is totally separate from the New Royal Bath. Indeed, The Cross Bath is so special, it's recognised as an official sacred site - this is where the Celts paid homage to their Goddess, Sul. You can book an exclusive-use Cross Bath Package with Picnic and Prosecco. Divine!

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