Make a splash
When you feel the heat this summer hols you'll need our pick of the best pools and river spots to cool down in.
Remember that day when we put on sun tan cream and lay in the sun? It’s a distant memory now but keep the faith the sun will come out again. Ideally, we’d like someone to move Cambridgeshire a bit closer to the seaside right now but, failing that, here’s the Muddy-approved lowdown on all the best local spots for al fresco water fun. If you think I’ve missed any gems out then please do add them in the comments section at the end – knowledge is power and all that. In the menatime arm bands on I’m coming in…
Looking for a lido?
We’re blessed with a few lidos in the area so let’s start off with Jesus Green swimming pool in Cambridge. It’s situated on the edge of the River Cam, and is one of Europe’s largest outdoor swimming pools and unusually, the pool is significantly longer than it is wide — this was a design idea to mimic swimming in the nearby river. Opened in 1923, it is one of the few remaining examples of the lidos built across the country in the 1920s and it still retains the original architecture – so don’t expect shining brand spanking new. The pool has paved and grassy areas with picnic tables for those that want to soak up the sun and last entry is 7pm.
Peterborough Lido art deco outdoor swimming complex remains surprising unknown considering what’s on offer. If you’re looking to cool down this summer it offers three heated outdoor pools; a 50m heated main pool, a teaching pool for children and a paddling pool for toddlers. There are three large sun-bathing terraces, a large grass lawn and play area for the kids and an onsite cafe serving hot and cold food as well as ice-creams.
You don’t find many outdoor pools like Eversholt but this beautiful heated open air pool is found in a lovely village setting jsut over the border in Bedfordshire. The swimming pool is close to a children’s playground and playing fields, with changing rooms and snack bar. There are kids swimming classes in the morning and open swimming from 1pm – 7pm but it’s worth ringing ahead to make sure there aren’t any specific sessions planned. If you fancy some aquafit there’s a mother and daugther sesson on a Sat morning throughout August at 10.30pm.
The Lammas Land Pool (aka Newnham Paddling Pool) is a large and shallow paddler, ideal for pelting in and out of on hot summer days. There’s also a pleasingly large playground with swings, slides, several climbing frames and loads of other traditional play fare. There’s a kiosk nearby in the park selling drinks and snacks, so it’s comfortably placed for a longish stop especially given that it’s all free.
The Sheeps Green Learner Pool is close by but significantly deeper and has lifeguards so good for older kids. There are no charges for this pool either, so you can happily spend a day here with a variety of age ranges, switching parks and pools as you fancy with only a minor stroll in between them. And it’s all close to the Fen Causeway where one can hire a punt and explore the area.
A recent addition to the outdoor water scene in Cambridgeshire Ride Leisure at Wybston Lakes opened the doors to this gigantic inflatable water atraction in May this year. .The 50m² Total Wipe Out style park is home to floating slides, climbing frames, trampolines, balance beam and blast bags. It can be used in all weathers (even the rain) but obviously it’s an excellent way to cool down when the temperatures are high. I’ve had a few friends that have been already and it comes highly recommended – I’m rather annoyed that the mini mudders have winter birthdays as it would be a great birthday activity. There are life guards on the park but if your nippers are between 6-9 years old (min age is 6) then you’re going to have be in your wetsuit with them – just warning you! There are banana and doughnut rides also if you’ve got some thrill seekers on your hands.
This is hardly a water park but if you’ve got littl’uns then the Garden of Surprises at Burghley House just over the border in Lincolnshire is a great way to cool down on a hot day. There’s water, water everywhere in the Elizabethan styled garden which is full of hidden features that take you by surprise. The moss house, the swivelling Caesar busts, basins of water, jets and the mirrored maze have been designed for the young, or those young at heart, who enjoy a paddle on a warm day. The garden exudes a real sense of fun – I’d recommend taking a picnic and making a day of it and the kids will need water shoes or crocs on their feet. There’s a small shop on site if you forget (like me, another black mark in my parenting book) and The Gruesomely Grubby Sculpture Gardens is also worth an explore and a great way for kids to dry off.
Messing around on the river
Punting is the obvious one that comes to mind as it has developed into the pastime most synonymous with Cambridge. Scudamore’s and Granta Mooring’s offer punts, and the latter rent canoes also, from the touristy Mill Pond which has a plethora of places to eat and drink. If you’re looking to escape the crowds then Millside Canoe Hire at Brampton offers a perfect spot to explore the Great River Ouse from St Neots through to Huntingdon. Houghton Boats is a small family run business that hire punts, rowing boats and canoes from Houghton Lock – they offer the perfect way to explore the river – pack up a picnic and head off on an adventure. They are a small business so it’s worth getting in contact in advance to book one to avoid disappointment.
I always feel more comfortable with a Hoff lifeguard on duty so if you’re looking at this option for gawds sake take care. The Mill Pond by the Houghton Mill NT is an idyllic stretch of river flowing through traditional water meadows though I wouldn’t recommend going in if the water mill is working (not all that often). It’s a great spot for launching a kayak or canoe and there’s a car park nearby.
There is heaps to do at Ferry Meadows, part of Nene Park Trust, you’ll be guaranteed to come back with knackered children. It’s hardly surprising that it won the Muddy Award 17 for Best Family Attraction. On the water there’s kayaks, canoes, row boats and pedaloes, paddle boards, group activities such as raft building, land games and orienteering and structured courses in sailing, windsurfing and kayaking. They are all available to book but if you’re acting a little more spontaneously then activities like the row boats and pedaloes are available on the day if you don’t mind a wait if it’s busy. There are places to picnic, BBQ areas or various cafes if you just can’t be bothered.