There’s a somewhere in York that’s got everyone talking, but it’s not a shiny new tourist attraction, fancy restaurant or quirky shop. Quite the opposite. The place on everyone’s lips is Pool Bridge Farm, a family-run wild swimming spot and campsite in Wheldrake, just a 15-minute drive from the city centre. We headed along to dip our toes in the water and fell under its spell instantly. Here’s what you need to know before you visit.
Getting to Pool Bridge Farm
It couldn’t be much easier to get to Pool Bridge Farm from York city centre by car. It’s an easy drive along the A19, past York Designer Outlet, and it’s well-signed from the main road leading into Wheldrake. There’s plenty of free parking in what must be one of the most picturesque places to park your car in York!
As first-time visitors, we weren’t sure where to go or what to do, as signage is fairly minimal but we quickly worked it out (well, followed someone who looked as though they knew what they were doing). Facilities are basic but do the job: simple loos (which are going to be upgraded in July) and a large rustic barn where you can change if you don’t fancy changing by the side of the water. From Thursday to Sunday there’s a cafe, too.
The swimming lakes
There are three swimming lakes at Pool Bridge Farm, all of which are absolutely stunning. We strolled around them all in the morning sunshine, listening to the birds and breathing in the clear air. First up is the M Lake, so-called because of its unique shape, is the family lake where all are welcome; second is the gorgeous Horseshoe Lake which is popular with the more serious swimmers, and finally there’s the Monet Lake. An adults-only affair, in the morning light it really was like something from a watercolour. Neon blue dragonflies darted about on the surface of the teal water, birds chattered in the trees and the pretty waterlilies were picture-perfect.
So far, it was all going swimmingly. But for the full experience, we had to brave the water. We changed on the grass (we’ve got changing robes, which we’d recommend if you’re going to spend a lot of time at the beach or lake) and then walked down the steps into the water. To our delight – and surprise – it was much warmer than we’d expected, probably because we were at the tail end of a bit of a heatwave. Two or three strokes in and we were relaxed and enjoying ourselves, soaking up the nature around us and feeling really lucky. We did a leisurely lap of the lake, stopping to take in a flying display by two kingfishers! Such a treat.
Wild swimming with kids
Now we’ve checked out – and fallen in love with – Pool Bridge Farm for ourselves, we can’t wait to take our children along. They’re all good swimmers and chuck themselves enthusiastically into the North Sea at any time of year, so we’re not worried that they’ll moan about the temperature or struggle in the water. It won’t be for all families though – it’s a pared-down, off-grid, lifeguard-free experience. While there’s no need to worry about river currents, there’s no doubt that stronger swimmers will enjoy it most (and it’ll be more fun for the parents too). You’re the best judge of what’s right and safe for your children, but you’ll find our pick of the best swimming schools in York here, and our pick of the best places to swim, paddle and splash about near York here. Non-swimming tickets are available, so non-swimmers can still enjoy the magical surroundings of Pool Bridge.
What to take
We visited one morning at the end of June, when the outside temperature was around 16 degrees, so we just wore our usual swimming gear. We took changing robes, towels and a warm jumper for afterwards.
For the full hot/cold experience (grown-ups only!), it’s worth mentioning that Pool Bridge Farm has a lovely lakeside sauna that seats up to seven people. You’ll need to pre-book it in advance if you’d like to use it, and the booking includes access to the swimming lakes.
It was lovely to be able to warm up with a nice coffee and a hot breakfast after our swim. There’s a small but tasty menu of homecooked food and cakes, which you can enjoy indoors or out. Check the opening times if you want to refuel afterwards.
Good to know
- – The swimming lakes are open 365 days a year, from 7.30am to 9pm or dusk, whichever is earliest.
- – Book your tickets in advance through the Pool Bridge Farm website
- – If you’re new to wild swimming, pick a sunny day!
- – Check the cafe opening times in advance if you want to warm up with a hot drink afterwards
- – If you have your own kayak or SUP, you can use it on the M Lake or Horseshoe Lake at certain times of day/year. Pre-book online.
- – Fancy making a weekend of it? You can camp at Pool Bridge Farm too!