Of course, care is needed. These places I recommend are not made for humans! They are natural, they do not adhere to health and safety regulations. If parking is full or difficult, find another spot to visit (not all spots have vehicular access). Please be safe, respect the environment and stick to the footpaths.
With the summer coming, the lifting of covid restrictions and the still tight restrictions on travel, Dorset is experiencing a massive boom in ‘staycations’. The beaches are packed but there are plenty of other places available to escape the high temperatures.
The River Stour is Dorset’s main river, almost splitting the county into two. Starting at Stourhead in Wiltshire, it travels though villages and hamlets of Thomas Hardy’s literary landscape, known in reality as the Blackmore Vale. Passing the small towns of Sturminster Newton and Blandford Forum and then larger conurbations of Wimborne, Poole and Bournemouth, it eventually reaches the sea at Christchurch.
Scattered along it’s banks are many fishing spots and there are a few locations where access is possible and the river is shallow. It makes these little havens perfect for a refreshing escape.
Access is limited to footpaths and small country roads. However, the increasingly popular North Dorset Trailway follows the majority of the meandering route of the Stour.
Here is a small list of possible wild swimming locations:
Fiddleford* As of May 2021 the farmer has introduced restrictions. Please adhere to the notices.
Sturminster Marshall – White Mill
If visiting White Mill, be sure to look out for the missing Knowlton bells! Many years ago Knowlton was known for it’s beautifully sounding bells. But the church fell into disrepair (now in the ownerships of English Heritage and free to visit today). The residents of Sturminster Marshall just so happened to require some bells for their own church and decided, in the middle of the night, to steal Knowlton’s.
Traipsing across the southern part of Cranborne Chase they were able to stealthy dismantle them. The Knowlton villagers were woken by the disturbance, but not until the thieves were escaping. They followed in hot pursuit back across the Chase. On reaching White Mill Bridge the thieves threw the bells over the edge to hide them in the flowing river below. When the Knowlton residents arrived, knowledge of any stolen bells was strongly denied, they had no option but to return empty handed.
After a while, and once believed to be safe, the thieves returned to the bridge to collect the bells. However, the silty bottom had sucked them down and every heave was useless, they only sunk deeper.
Today they are still there. Whereabouts exactly, we don’t know. But who knows what other treasures might lie at the bottom of the River Stour!