Where can I SUP in the Cotswold Water Park?
The Cotswold Water Park is an area of 40 square miles, with more than 150 lakes, set across the countryside of Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and West Oxfordshire. It’s one of Europe’s largest lake systems, and is a haven for wildlife and watersports.
Therefore any sane person might think it would be easy to find somewhere to paddleboard in the lake system.
It’s not quite that simple though.
All of the lakes are in private ownership, therefore knowing where you can paddle isn’t straightforward (1).
So where can you paddle?
This is a stunning lake (Lake 86) next to the Cotswold Water Park Visitor Centre, Cotswold Outdoors and just off the dual carriageway the A419. You have two options for SUP at this lake . Firstly you can hire a SUP by the hour (they use some awful SUPs from a company called McConks here, but you can still have lots of fun despite this ;-). Alternatively, you can get annual membership and launch your own SUP here (2). The lake also has a very popular swim lane for open water swimming and you can also hire rowing boats, canoes and kayaks. All in all, a lovely, friendly, laid back location for a paddle. CWPhire is open daily through the summer through to 5pm,and open until 19:00pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can also try out SUP yoga (often fully booked, but if not, walk in sessions available) on a Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
Make a day of it by bringing a BBQ or picnic, or by popping to the nearby cafes and pubs for a bite of lunch!
You can also book private tuition from qualified SUP instructor and yoga teacher Kathy Marston
Waterland Outdoor Pursuits
Waterland is next to the Cotswold Water Park Beach and Country Park at lake 32. You can pay to hire and to launch your own kit, and you can also be a member of the Thameswey Canoe club (with over 200 members!) With a cafe and showers, Waterland is a friendly place to spend a few hours. Like all quality SUP rental, the gear is top quality, with only Red Paddle Co or McConks SUP gear being used.
South Cerney Outdoors
SCO used to be a Gloucesterhire County Council (GCC) run outdoor ed facility, and even though it has changed hands a few times since GCC sold it, the ethos is much the same – aimed at providing water activity training and qualifications for school aged kids. Although, since being in private hands, the provision for kids of all ages (adults) has increased.
The only time you can really SUP here as an individual is when they run their Wednesday SUP club nights through the longer evenings.
SCO use Red Paddle SUP for all their lessons and sessions.
Cotswold Water Park and Beach
There are two lakes at Cotswold water park and beach. You will pay for parking/entry at £20 for an MPV or £16 a car, and then pay £10 for every 30 minutes of paddleboard hire. The SUP boards used are Fanatic Air, and you’re only allowed to paddle on the Northern of the two lakes, sharing the lake with the WiBit aquaventure inflatable park.
Find out more
Find out more details about opening times and directions from this map
(1) the positive news is that many of the lakes are managed by a Charity, the Cotswold Water Park Trust, on behalf of the public, who have a responsibility to to provide for the benefit of the public, and in particular for the inhabitants of Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, facilities in the interests of social welfare for education, conservation, recreation and leisure time occupation at the Cotswold Water Park (“the Park”) and one of their specific named responsibilities is to ‘assist in achieving the provision of appropriate public access for all to sites and facilities in the Park for recreation purposes’. Despite this, there are only a small number of lakes that actually participate in watersport, and the vast majority of these are for private members only.
There are also a very large number of lakes that have been sold or leased to property management companies looking to make a large profit from holiday homes and second homes.
If you’re after a potted history of the dubious politics of the Cotswold Water Park, a dip into the Archives of Rotten Burroughs in Private Eye is a very interesting read. Put simply, Cotswold District Council and Watermark Ltd (a private developer) haven’t exactly showered themselves with glory, and Gloucs County Council and the Trust also could arguably have done better to protect the public interest. But we’re in different times now, and hopefully the brown paper bags and dodgy handshakes (allegedly) are all in the past.
(2) CWPhire used to allow day launches for a small fee, but as always, a small group of idiots who couldn’t follow instructions, spoiled it for everyone else. And whilst the rules might not seem important to everyone, if they aren’t followed, the business’s insurance might not pay out in the event of a public liability claim. And whilst they have excellent safety cover, and are experts in water safety (sister company Rapid Skills is based at the same location), an idiot, not following rules, can bankrupt the best of operators is there’s an accident!