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Long Bridges Bathing Place, Oxford

An abandoned river bathing place on the Thames in Oxford.

Long Bridges is the site of a former open air river bathing place on a backwater of the River Thames close to Donnington Bridge, Oxford. At that point there are two small backwaters that leave the main channel and join together at a weir to form the Kennington Stream. The bathing place is on the southern of the two, taking the form of a stretch of water with concrete walled banks and the overgrown site of a set of changing rooms on the island between the two backwaters. This was one of several public river bathing places in Oxford and like the ones at Wolvercote and Tumbling Bay it was closed at the end of the 1980s. It's not as intact as Tumbling Bay but it boasts some interesting survivals.

Access is easy enough from the Thames towpath. The southern bank is part of a nature reserve while the island on the northern bank is heavily overgrown. This was much larger than Oxford's other bathing places with a shallow pool as well as the deper water in the channel. Now it serves as a convenient place for Oxford's canoeists to learn their craft.

This bank has few reminders of its past other than its concrete edge and the sight of a solitary bathing ladder visible in the undergrowth on the opposite side. 

On the other bank however it is a different story. Over there three decades of abandonment has left the entire island covered in dense undergrowth. It's not without interest to the explorer though, as you pick your way through it you find the concrete bases where the changing rooms once stood.

The best is yet to come though. Pushing further through the trees, here are the toilets provided for the swimmers. Roofless and half full of rubbish, but still standing. The only remaining building on any of Oxford's river bathing places.

Long Bridges is not a challenging explore. Beyond dodging a few student boaties more intent on shouting at their mates as they attempt to make Eights week you won't be bothered by anyone. It's not without hazards but the river's pretty safe in the summer and if you're put off by brambles then you shouldn't be exploring in the first place. The interest in places like Long Bridges lies instead in the window they give us into a lost world where people brought their families here on summer weekends and bathing in the river was seen as a healthy exercise rather than a risky one.

Long Bridges has survived the last two decades untouched but the structures may not last much longer. The council own the island and are considering selling it. It is likely that the buyers would be one of the several local conservation charities so  it would become a nature reserve, however the chances of the buildings remaining are probably not high.

Here's the Flash Earth link: 


And finally, an urban exploring cliché, the abandoned toilet shot.