The ultimate guide to outdoor swimming in Sussex: Pools, activities, groups and more
PUBLISHED: 10:03 31 July 2018 | UPDATED: 10:03 31 July 2018
Come on in, the water’s fine. In the hope of a baking hot summer, Hazel Sillver presents a guide to outdoor swimming across Sussex
Wetsuit and swimwear shops
The Tri Store - Eastbourne
This triathlon specialist has a good selection of wetsuits for swimming. Tri wetsuits have more movement in the shoulder area, making them better for swimming than surf wetsuits.
Tri It Sports - Chichester
A triathlon-focused retailer with a good range of wetsuits for outdoor swimming. As above, these are more suitable than surf wetsuits.
Fiona Southwell Brighton
Fiona teaches skills for competent sea swimming, such as getting in and out of surf and dealing with rip tides and currents. She teaches adults and children of all levels by the hour. This is free for Brighton Sea Swim Club (brightonsc.co.uk) members, or £25 per hour.
Outdoor swim groups
Brighton Sea Swimming Club
The salty division of Brighton Swimming Club has been swimming in the sea since 1860! The club headquarters is west of the main pier at the King’s Road Arches, where members can change and shower.
Eastbourne Swimming Club
The friendly Eastbourne swimmers hold open water swims all year round. These take place from the beach opposite the Langham Hotel on Saturdays and Sundays (and Mondays in August); the group also swims in moonlight at each full moon. Non-members are welcome and experienced swimmers are on hand to offer advice.
Sussex Wild Swimming
The Outdoor Swimming Society’s East Sussex representative has a Facebook page called Sussex Wild Swimming. Designed to be a forum, where members share information on swimming in rivers, lakes and the sea, it is a wealth of local knowledge.
Best swimming beaches
The following beaches are ‘MCS recommended’, which means the Marine Conservation Society deems the water very clean:
West of Brighton, Hove’s pebbly beach has clean water and some nice seaside cafes. Head for the quieter stretch between the King Alfred Centre and Hove Lagoon. Lifeguards keep watch from June to September, 9.30am-6pm.
Normans Bay near Bexhill
This relatively quiet shingle beach reveals an expanse of sand at low tide. There is no lifeguard service, so let someone know you’re swimming if you’re alone. Avoid Cooden Beach further along, if you’re not a naturist.
West Wittering near Chichester
West Wittering is a joy to swim at and has a Blue Flag Award for clean water and safety. The beach’s sandy expanse is so vast that sunbathers don’t feel like sardines. Lifeguards are on watch from May to September, 9am-6pm.
Littlehampton near Bognor Regis
The main sand and shingle beach at Littlehampton has been awarded Blue Flag status for its clean water and safety. The nearby beaches at Middleton-on-Sea (sand) and Climping (pebbles) are also nice swimming beaches, though neither is lifeguarded.
Brighton and Hove Paddling Pools
There are two great paddling areas for toddlers in the city: one is opposite the old West Pier and offers water spouts, a climbing castle and a sandpit and is surrounded by cafes. The other is further west aside Hove Lagoon and usually less crowded – it has a play area, picnic tables and a cafe alongside it.
Triangle lido - Burgess Hill
During the summer months, the lido at this leisure centre is open for a relaxing swim under the sun.
This fabulous facility beneath Arundel Castle has three heated open air pools – a 25-metre pool, a splash area and a large paddling pool. There is a wheelchair-to pool hoist for disabled access. You can enjoy a picnic in the grounds or buy refreshments from the cafe.
Pells Pool - Lewes
This lovely swim spot is the oldest documented freshwater public pool in the UK. It is fed by springs and open during the summer months from midday to 7pm. You can buy drinks, pizza, ice creams and cakes and enjoy them on the adjacent lawn and terrace. Tuesday is Pells Paddlers day, for under-fives.
Pavilions in the Park - Horsham
This leisure centre has a heated outdoor pool that is open all year round, as well as outdoor rapids.
Rivers for swimming
So-called wild swimming, done in freshwater, carries its risks. Don’t swallow the water and, if you’re going in for longer than a quick dip, experts advise wearing a wetsuit.
People swim from the eastern banks of the river, 200 yards from Cowdray Castle, Midhurst. The current is gentle and the water is about 5ft deep. The Rother is also said to be nice to swim in 0.5km south of Fittleworth, where there are good lengths of deep water.
There is a decent stretch of deep water just upstream from the pretty weirs of Barcombe Mills. You can swim for about a mile and there is only a gentle current. The wide banks are good for a picnic afterwards, or you could saunter upstream to the Anchor Inn for lunch. Lots of people also swim in the Ouse at Piddinghoe.