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The best water parks and lidos

Feeling the heat? Dive in to one of these pools and watery oases this summer. No heavy petting or dive bombing, mind, and don't forget the sunscreen!

Herts and Beds couldn’t be much further from the seaside if it tried, but hey ho, there are still plenty of places for you and the kids to splash about in the water about this summer without having to sweat it out in the car for hours. Here’s our pick of the best…

Game for a bit of aquatic adrenaline seeking? At Lee Valley Regional Park, (a 26-mile long, 10,000 acre recreational space, which follows the River Lee and spans London, Essex and Herts), there’s no shortage of water-based fun to be found. Take on the rapids with some white water rafting, canoeing, hydrospeeding (like a turbo powered surf board!), or tubing at the White Water Centre. Or if you prefer taking life at a more leisurely pace try your hand at kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, (SUP is all the rage, don’t you know?), sailing or hire a rowboat or pedalo and mess about on the water.

At Ride Leisure, Wyboston Lakes in Beds,  you can add wakeboarding, jetskiing and powerboating into the mix. Plus something called JetLev, where you basically get attached to a water canon and fired into the air (my husband, a bona fide adrendaline junkie is a fan!) There’s an awesome aqua park here too, with trampolines, slides, balance beams and climbing walls, too – get an hour of boundless fun for under twenty quid.

Got a wannabe Ninja Warrior in the family? Head to Box End Aqua Park in Bedford, which has the world’s first Lake Ninja course. There’s also an epic water slide, overhead cable tows for wakeboarding (see the pros in action at the National Championship this weekend, 12-13 July!), and open water swimming sessions. There’s even a beach zone where you can pull up a deckchair on the sandy lake side and reeeeelax.

In Herts, there’s the Rickmansworth Aquadrome – a nature reserve with two man-made lakes for watersports, and it’s got a fab café too – no soggy sarnies in sight! – as well as Stanborough Park Watersports Centre, which is well set-up for those wanting to try out the more sedate aqua activities, like sailing, rafting and kayaking.

Over in Milton Keynes, Willen Lake would make for a great day trip and you can try every kind of water sport going, or just drift around on a pedalo. It also has one of the UK’s largest splash parks, Splash’n’Play, which opened in 2017, with 60 water features suitable for children up to 13 years old.

Prefer to just laze about on a sunlounger? Luckily, we’re pretty well off for lidos in our neck of the woods. For starters, in Herts there’s the Hemel Hempstead outdoor pool which has a heated 25-metre pool as well as a kids’ paddling pool with fountains – so no need to fend off splashes from energetic little ones when you’re taking your morning dip.

Then there’s Hitchin’s glorious 50-metre pool, complete with sunbathing terrace (can we sneak a Piña Colada in?), and if you’re feeling a bit more active, you can sign up to one of the AquaFit classes or take kiddies to the Adult and Toddler sessions. Also ‘one of the best outdoor pools in Hertfordshire’ is Letchworth Pool, where you can kick back on the grass with an ice cream and a good book.

Check out Priory Lido in Ware, too, which dates back to 1934 – don’t worry, it’s been spruced up since then and had a major refurb just three years ago. Finally, in the village of Kimpton is the last remaining family-run lido in the country.

Over in Bedfordshire, there’s the charity-run Eversholt Swimming Pool, in the heart of the pretty village of the same name. You can pay as you go or, if you’re a local resident, membership for the season is just £50. And if you like the idea of a lido with a local community feel, Woburn’s outdoor pool is just on the edge of the Woburn Abbey Estate (why not make it part of a day trip?), ticks all the boxes.

Have I missed any? Let me know by commenting in the box below!

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