Swimming. Swimming outdoors. Swimming outdoors in anything other than a swimming pool. This is now widely referred to as "wild" swimming. It’s officially a "thing". There are books about it, articles in newspapers, social media feeds and websites dedicated to it. But who needs a sandy Cornish beach, warm Oxfordshire river or pristine Scottish loch when you too can experience this "thing" in and around your favourite northern post-industrial city? There are plenty of opportunities for wild swimming in Sheffield's waters. Hell, you could even throw yourself in a canal and call it wild swimming if you wanted to. Although we obviously wouldn’t recommend that. Instead, try our top 3 wild swimming spots in and around Sheffield. And be sure to read up on swimming outdoors first – see Wild Swimming and the Outdoor Swimming Society for useful guidelines and safety precautions.
River Rivelin, Rivelin Valley
The Rivelin Valley is one of my favourite parts of Sheffield. It’s a quieter and wilder version of Endcliffe Park and Porter Valley. It provides a great running route and green path out to the Peak District and is also home to one of the smaller, but just as rewarding, swimming spots in the Sheffield area. You certainly won’t manage to do much front crawl here, but in mid-summer it has all the beauty and invigoration of any other wild swimming spot. Located a few hundred yards downstream from the packhorse bridge that crosses the River Rivelin just before Rails Road, this specific spot can be found where the river flows over a stone slab and drops a few feet into a wider pool of water below the lower valley path. The pool provides a perfect location to cool down should you be running through the valley in the summer, and usually has parts where it reaches 8-10 feet in depth, with the surrounding rock ledges providing good points from which you can take a plunge. If you want a less wild experience, head to the recently renovated Rivelin Valley Water Play in Rivelin Valley Park, across from the Rivelin Park Cafe. If you’re big fan of the Rivelin then consider helping the Rivelin Valley Conservation Group and their work to help maintain the valley.
To get here, take the no. 81 bus out towards Rivelin, or park up near Rivelin Valley Park.
Slippery Stones, Upper Derwent Valley
If you’ve ever been to the Peak District dams of Ladybower, Derwent and Howden, you’ll know that not only is the area full of beautiful and epic scenery, but also staggering examples of early 20th-century engineering, British history and plenty of recreational opportunities. If you venture to the Upper Derwent Valley, past the reservoirs, you eventually come to a small packhorse bridge, which was rebuilt here following the construction of Ladybower Reservoir. Follow the path up the valley a few more hundred yards and then off to the left, back towards the stream, and you’ll reach a dark pool with a small waterfall flowing into it. Slippery Stones is what midweek summer evenings are made for: fresh Peak water, a cooling pool, a refreshing dip, and a spot to escape the daily grind and forget your troubles. Alternatively, it's a good stop-off point on the Derwent and Howden run from our Runners’ Tour of Sheffield. The natural pool is big enough for either a casual swim or a relaxing float, and deep enough for a splash from the rocky platforms around the edge (warning: look before you leap!). A steady flow of tea-coloured water fills the pool straight from the surrounding peaty moorland, and grassy banks provide the perfect spot to lay out your towels, dry off and have a picnic.
River Derwent, Chatsworth House
Further downstream from Slippery Stones, the River Derwent meanders and stretches down through the Chatsworth Estate. 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. Here it is wide enough and deep enough to break out all the old classics: backstroke, breaststroke, front crawl, butterfly, even doggy paddle – should you feel the need to. Grass banks and sandy floors make entrance into the Derwent here easy, and there are a few spots where it’s deep enough to dive. There's a weir on this stretch of the river, but this acts to hold back the water – creating a pool – and is only ever a hazard during periods of heavier rain and increased flow. Framed within open parkland and rolling valleys, against a backdrop of Chatsworth House itself, this swimming spot doesn’t feel so wild, but it certainly feels special. Drop by on a sunny and warm day, take the frisbee, a picnic and some chilled drinks, and you’ve got you’re a quintessential British country summertime day out.
Follow the map on the Wild Swimming site.