Oxford is surrounded by waterways, including rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and the canal. These waterways benefit our communities and environment.

The Canal and River Trust and the Environment Agency regulate these waterways. The Council, as the landowner of the riverbanks, also has responsibilities.

Wild swimming in Oxford's waterways is popular but risky. If you choose to swim, remember it's at your own risk, and be aware of the wild water code.

For a safer swimming option, visit Hinksey Outdoor Pool.

Wild swimming risks

Know the risks before you dive into wild swimming.

Water quality

Wild waters may contain pollution like sewage, chemicals, toxic algae, and Weil’s disease. These can cause illnesses ranging from stomach upsets to serious kidney and liver problems.

We're committed to improving water quality in Oxford for a future safe bathing site. Until then, water quality remains a concern.

We're part of the Thames 21 project, working with partners to enhance water quality for all river users.

Submerged objects

Hidden dangers lurk beneath the surface, including bikes, trolleys, and industrial remnants. Several injuries and deaths have occurred due to jumping from bridges into water.

Strong currents and deep water

The current's strength varies with water levels and rainfall upstream. Deep water remains cold, posing a risk of cold shock even for strong swimmers.

Wild Water Code

If you choose to wild swim, please follow the Wild Water Code:

  • wild water - Swimming in natural waters is different from pools. Be wary of strong currents and cold temperatures
  • look before you leap - Check for safe exit points before entering. Steep and slippery banks can pose exit difficulties
  • hidden dangers - Underwater hazards include rocks, glass, and pollution
  • rock bottom - Avoid jumping from heights, especially bridges. The water below can be shallow with hidden dangers
  • don’t drink and drown - Avoid alcohol or drugs while swimming. They impair your abilities and judgment
  • avoid floodwaters - Never swim during floods
  • raise the alarm - If someone is in trouble, call 999. Never attempt a rescue yourself

Rate this page