Wild swimming is all the rage. Even in York. A number of friends had raved about Pool Bridge Farm’s three wild swimming lakes, so I had to check it out for myself.
Pool Bridge Farm is a family-run wild swimming spot in Wheldrake, a 10-minute drive from York city centre. It’s the Fulford end of town, near York Designer Outlet. Hidden in a wooded area, it features three idyllic lakes, a rustic sauna, café and campsite. A mini haven away from the toils of everyday life.
In this article, I’ll share my firsthand experience of open water swimming in Pool Bridge Farm lakes, what to pack, and how to make the most out of your visit.
Pool Bridge Farm’s 3 swimming lakes – Monet, Horseshoe & ‘M’
Some good news: all three lakes are absolutely breathtaking, each offering a totally unique experience. Something for everyone.
It’s likely you’ll encounter Horseshoe Lake first. It’s far bigger and deeper than I envisaged, presenting a picturesque but moderately challenging swim. With its 300m circuit, lots of swimmers are using this lake for exercise, although we shared it with only a few others on the day I visited. All three of Pool Bridge Farm’s lakes are extremely calm, even when raining, making it a much safer and more peaceful alternative to wild swimming in the River Ouse.
The Monet Lake is so named after the Water Lilies series of paintings by French Impressionist Claude Monet. It’s adult only, with a sign proudly proclaiming ‘no children’, ‘no music’, ‘no alcohol’ and ‘no jumping in’. The lake is relatively shallow (I’m 6ft and could stand up) and intended as a tranquil spot to unwind, making it my favourite of the three lakes.
Swimming here feels like stepping into one of Monet’s masterpieces. The teal water of Monet Lake is punctuated with beautiful lilies, which act as an orderly one way system and figure-of-eight obstacle course. It was raining when I visited, which only added to the cinematic appeal, as the photos attest. Expect to share the lake with wildlife – moorhens, heron, dragon flies, even the occasional kingfisher – and fellow swimmers posing for a photo against the stunning backdrop.
It’s true what they say about cold water swimming: it’s SO reinvigorating! A couple of laps later and I was left on a high that lasted all weekend.
Finally, there’s the family-friend ‘M’ Lake. The lake, shaped like the letter ‘M’ can be found just through the signing in hut. It is around 500m around the perimeter of this lake, and there’s a number of steps dotted around, plus muddy banks for entry or exit, so you should easily be able to swim it on your own terms. Inflatables are even welcome here for extra fun!
Remember: open water swimming is more thrilling and physically demanding than pool swimming. And that’s another benefit of Pool Bridge Farm’s three lakes: you can build you distance and confidence up gradually with every visit.
The entire complex is easily walk-able compact, making it easy to switch lakes and enjoy all the facilities, which is where we’ll focus our attention next…
Facilities at Pool Bridge Farm – e.g. sauna, changing rooms & café
- The changing room – a single open barn space, rather than individual changing rooms
- Toilets and showers – basic but due to makeover in July 2023
- Sauna – a converted horse trailer, bookable at £15 per hour
- Café – open Thursday to Sunday
- Picnic benches – we enjoyed sandwiches bought earlier at Henshelwoods Deli
- Campsite – no thrills, with no electricity, wi-fi or phone signal… just as nature intended
- Members-only fishing lake – with showing facilities
Who is wild swimming at Pool Bridge Farm aimed at?
In short, anybody looking for outdoor exercise or a fun activity, either solo or with others.
On my visit there were a mixture of couples, families, and groups of friends. All fitness levels are catered for, assuming you’re a competent swimmer.
Dogs are probably best left at home as they’re not allowed lakeside, unless you’re camping.
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How much does wild swimming at Pool Bridge Farm cost?
A day’s swimming and all water-based events are priced at £7 per person. Pay in advance or use the honesty box.
Useful tips for wild swimming at Pool Bridge Farm
- The water temperature varies day-to-day, but you’ll soon climatise to the cold water
- Walking between lakes isn’t comfortable barefoot, so bring flip flops or consider investing in a pair of swim shoes
- The lakes are extremely photogenic so you might want to bring a camera
- The changing room is really an open-plan rustic barn rather than cubicles
- There’s no lifeguards at Pool Bridge Farm, so stay safe
- The car park is very close to the lakes making it easy to get around
- The café bakes a mean cake!
- Pool Bridge Farm is open 365 days a year
Special events at Pool Bridge Farm – night swimming, skinny dipping and more!
- Full Moon Swims – part night swimming, part chill by the firepits (Monday)
- Ladies Skinny Dipping – be at one with nature (Monday)
- Squelchy Plodders – an intro or training for triathlons, without the bike (Wednesday)
- Stand Up Paddleboards and kayaks – enjoy a different side to Horseshoe and M Lake (Thursday)
Rather generously, Pool Bridge Farm only charge standard entry prices for these events, meaning you can mix up your cold water workout at no extra cost. You must buy a dedicated ticket from the Pool Bridge Farm website in advance.
What to pack for wild swims at Pool Bridge Farm
Some essentials and niceties when wild swimming:
- Swimming costume
- Dry robe or towels
- Swim shoes or flip flops
- Waterproof pouch for valuables
- Picnic (if not enjoying the café)
- Water bottle
- Water resistant sun cream
- Warm jumper (for after your swim)
I visited in early June, on an overcast and slightly wet day, when the temperature was 19 degrees. A few individuals wore wet suits but the vast majority did not.
How to get to Pool Bridge Farm, York – bus, car or bike
Getting Pool Bridge Farm by Car
I drove to Pool Bridge Farm on my first visit there. It’s only a 10 minutes’ drive from York City Centre via Fulford. Go straight over the A19 roundabout, past York Designer Outlet. The left turn is shortly after Forest Farm Business Park, and it’s another left into Pool Bridge Farm’s driveway.
There’s countless free parking spaces on the tree-lined grass area. The lakes and café are only a short walk away, so you can easily head back if you forget something or want to store your valuables in the car.
Getting Pool Bridge Farm by Bike
Use the bridleway, rather than the A19, which is a busy road with no cycle lanes. This can be found the other side of the car park with York city centre approximately 5km away.
Getting to Pool Bridge Farm by Bus
Only two buses that pass the driveway – number 18 bus & number 36 bus from York. They only run a few services per day, Monday-Saturday, so make sure you check the timetable. Don’t forget to ring the bell to stop at the farm, walking down the long driveway to the lakes.
In summary: The perfect place to start your new wild swimming obsession
Yes, cold water swimming is good for you. It strengthens your immune system, boosts blood flow, and reduces inflammation, swelling, and sore muscles. What’s more, it’s an instant mood booster and acts as a great form of active recovery exercise after enjoying the benefits of jogging everyday, as an alternative to running on a hangover, or cooling down from running in hot weather.
But, above all else, it’s thrilling!
I’ve lived on and off in York for 15 years, and it’s always a joy discovering fun new things to do. The lakes still off the usual tourist trail, although swimming in open water is becoming more and more popular so expect Pool Bridge Farm to get busier as word gets out. Especially on a hot day in peak season.
£7 per trip is extremely good value and the lakes are best enjoyed at a leisurely pace.
One thing’s for sure, I’ll be back!
Pool Bridge Farm is open from 7:30am until 9:00pm, or dusk (whichever is the earlier), 365 days a year.