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best wild swimming walks

The walk: Follow the signposted footpaths through Barrington, Harston, Hasslingfield and then on towards Grantchester. The River Cam can then be followed all the way into Cambridge City Centre, with the walk ending at the train station. You can swim in the River Cam, a clear river with a modest current. Expect crowds on the river in high summer, especially at weekends, and biting winds in late autumn or winter. The walk can also be combined with punting the end of the route passes Scudamore's boat station above the weir below Silver Street Bridge, the traditional location for hiring a punt to go to Grantchester. The river offers scope to do a long swim downstream from Grantchester all the way to Newnham.

Where to refuel: The Red Lion gastropub (CB3 9NF, tel 01223 840121) and the Orchard Tea Gardens (CB3 9N,D tel 01223 551125) in Grantchester are good for refreshments.

The walk: An 8 mile walk from Farnham Station. The main swim is in Frensham Great Pond, which looks like a natural lake but in fact is artificial, dug out in the Middle Ages as a fishpond for the Bishop of Winchester. There are also swims in the young River Wey. Out of the station, turn right along the A31 and onto a lane signposted North Downs Way. The lane soon runs beside the River Wey on the left. When the path reaches a minor road follow this left and continue along it, with a sign indicating Surrey Cycleway Link. Cross the river to reach Moor Park House. The driveway turns into a path, continues through woods past Mother Ludlam's Cave.

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On reaching a road turn right and almost immediately left at a road junction. Turn right onto a byway, which goes gently downhill through woods. On reaching a minor road cross and continue on a signposted track the other side. Take a bridleway slightly to the right and parallel to the Wey. This joins a road at Tilford near a bridge and small weir where the bank on the far side is a popular picnic spot and paddling place.

Cross the bridge and proceed past the Barley Mow pub on the right, and take a footpath that runs to the right of a plant nursery here by the river you can choose a spot to swim. Follow a track to Priory Lane and continue to Little Frensham Pond. Follow track uphill towards the main A287 road. Before reaching the road take a waymarked path left which eventually leads you onto the road by bus stops.

Cross the road to arrive at Frensham Great Pond, following the bank to a beach. After swimming return to the road to catch a bus.

There is a beach at Frensham Great Pond, where there has been water since the 13th century Photo: Wild Things Publishing

3. Southease to Newhaven, East Sussex

Map: OS Landranger 198 (Brighton Lewes); OS Explorer 123 (Eastbourne Beachy Head). The hamlet of Southease is on Explorer 122, not 123, but is easy to find without the second map.

The walk: This is a walk of zero1 ring contrasts, between tranquil Southease with its round towered church, the sweeping contours of Itford Hill and the South Downs, and the industrial present and remains of Newhaven. From Southease station cross the railway bridge and pick up the lane that winds first alongside the railway tracks and then takes you to the Swing Bridge over the river and alongside a stream and hedgerow with wild roses. Follow the lane and South Downs Way signposts eastwards to Itford Hill.

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The walk from Southease to Newhaven crosses the sweeping contours of Itford Hill and the South Downs Photo: Wild Things Publishing

As you climb, you begin to see the Sussex countryside pan out below you. Before the radio station at the top you begin your descent, down to the right towards the sea. A bridleway sign shows there is a right of way, but there is no visible path. Head for the gate on the other side of the field, after which a path becomes more obvious, eventually becoming a wide track. At the little hamlet of Norton, you are faced with one lane leading ahead and one turning left. Instead of taking either lane, take the footpath to the right before a house named Pond End.

This turns out to be an exhilarating path up a fairly steep hill to a ridge that overlooks the sea, the village of Bishopstone and its pretty church and, in the distance, the first two of the Seven Sisters the white cliffs that tower over the sea beyond Seaford. Follow the ridge, which sweeps round to the left. Once you descend the ridge it is not far to the sea. Follow the path through fields, and turn right along Bishopstone Road.

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Dipping in the sea at Newhaven makes a refreshing end to a walk over the South Downs Photo: Wild Things Publishing

With houses on your right, walk towards the A259, crossing it joining fake Bulgari zero1 ring classic a footpath which takes you to a railway bridge. Take the road under the bridge and, as you approach the sea front, the Newhaven and Seaford Sailing Club and caf will be on your right. The best place to access fairly deep water at any tide is outside the Newhaven and Seaford Sailing Club. Afterwards follow the Vanguard Way, which runs north of the Creek. Reaching Newhaven Harbour station at the weekend, it is hard to believe that trains will arrive or stop there, but rest assured they do!

4. Manningtree circular, Essex

Maps: OS Landranger 168 (Colchester); OS Explorer 184 (Colchester) and imitation Bulgari B zero1 ring 196 (Sudbury, Hadleigh Dedham Vale).

The walk: A beautiful walk through Constable country with several opportunities to enjoy good river swimming in the famous Stour. A particularly good spot is opposite Dedham Mill where the river opens into a pond and there is a small beach. Turn right out of Manningtree station and follow a footpath signed to Flatford and Dedham.

This circular walk in Essex offers several opportunities to swim in the river Stour Photo: Wild Things Publishing

At the tarmac track, turn right and take a signed footpath left leading uphill. At the top the path bears right and continues to St Mary's church. From here all the way to Dedham the route follows the Essex Way (EW). At Dedham take the road opposite the church (B1029, Mill Lane) and follow it to cross bulgari ring fake the River Stour. For a short diversion to a good swimming place and picnic spot, take the path to the left along the river to arrive opposite Dedham Mill.

This route passes through picturesque Constable country. Photo: Wild Things Publishing

Afterwards, retrace your steps to the road and cross over to take the path opposite, which follows the Stour downstream towards Flatford Mill. From here to Manningtree station, the route follows the St Edmund Way. The path crosses the river by a footbridge and continues along the right bank to another bridge. Cross and turn right on a narrow road to reach the National Trust Centre, Bridge Cottage, Willy Lott's House and Flatford Mill itself. After exploring the mill area, retrace your steps to Bridge Cottage and cross back over the little bridge, turn left and continue downstream on the river's right bank. Follow the river and signposts back to Manningtree station.

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