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Parson's Pleasure and Dame's Delight bathing places, Oxford

A notorious former nude bathing place and its neighbour on the river Cherwell in Oxford.

Parson's Pleasure and Dame's Delight were bathing places next to a weir on opposite sides of the River Cherwell in Oxford used by members of Oxford University. Dame's Delight was for the use of women and children and was closed in 1970 following flood damage while Parson's Pleasure was for men only and was closed in the early 1990s. Parson's Pleasure in particular was notorious because it was one of the few public places in the UK that allowed nude bathing. The memory of punting past the site on a sunny 1980s day as a teenager and seeing wrinkly academics sunning themselves leaving nothing to the imagination is not one I will forget in a hurry.

Today, both sites are simply open stretches of river bank. Parson's Pleasure forms part of the University Park while Dame's Delight forms part of the incredibly diverse Cherwell wetland meadow wildlife habitat. Because of its notoriety all traces of the bathing place at Parson's Pleasure have been expunged, however on the opposite bank the foundations of the Dame's Delight changing rooms survive in the undergrowth as well as the remains of a diving pier on the bank itself.

Entry to both sites is straightforward, from the footpath that connects New Marston to the Science area. The people who enjoy the sun today at Parson's Pleasure have few clues as to what used to be on the site, the concrete edge of the riverbank is all that remains from the bathing place. The changing rooms and the high wooden fence that served to protect the sensibilities of ladies walking along the path once stood to the right of the photo below.

In the background of the picture above the river swings round to the right towards some punt rollers and a weir, on the far bank of that corner is the site of Dame's Delight. An overview comes from the footbridge taking the path over the river. The river bank has not been concreted here, instead it has wooden piling that has stood up remarkably well to nearly 40 years of abandonment.

Nature has fully reclaimed this site into the wetland meadow, as I was exploring it I disturbed a swan and encountered an Oxford University naturalist with a net conducting an insect survey. In the undergrowth are the concrete bases where the changing rooms once stood.

The only other structure of note at Dame's Delight is this metalwork attached to the piling. Could it be the remains of a diving pier?

OK, I'd agree that these sites are tame by urban exploring standards. They're both public access and beyond the slight risk of falling in the river they're hazard free. But having taken an interest in Oxford's bathing places with my visits to the more complete Tumbling Bay and Long Bridges as well as the more obscure sites they fill an important hole in my curiosity about the subject. There's also some satisfaction in uncovering the history of a site that hides in plain view, especially one with such a notorious past as the nudie bathing area at Parson's Pleasure. And with names from a more innocent age they had to deserve a report of their own!

The Google Maps view below shows both bathing places. The weir is in the centre, to its left the green space was Parson's Pleasure while to the right on the opposite bank was Dame's Delight.

Here is the Flash Earth link to the site.