On a warm summer’s day, there’s nothing lovelier than taking a dip in a cool natural pool, surrounded by lush greenery and wildlife. The appeal of this experience explains why swimming ponds have become increasingly popular in recent years, as homeowners seek to recreate the joy of wild swimming in their own back gardens. The idea of a natural swimming pool is based on the creation of an integrated environmental system in your home consisting of water, plants and animals. The pool comes with its own fertile garden that purifies the water naturally. These pools will become their own little ecosystem, attracting new wildlife and adding natural goodness to your outdoor space.
First and foremost, controlling or managing a small swimming pool is easy. Simply let nature take its course! Another plus point is that some plumbing companies offer an annual maintenance service with installation, which greatly reduces any small upkeep tasks you might need to perform. In addition, these pools give your garden a magical, lush appearance and bring nature to your home, season by season. They’re also cheaper than a regular garden pool in the long term, as any installation costs will be offset by lower maintenance demands. Happily, there’s also no need for chlorine as the pool will be naturally purified—a real plus for those with sensitive skin or allergies.
One of the main downsides to owning a natural swimming pond is that you’ll need at least some knowledge of agriculture and water quality, as well as the experience and patience to know if the pool is fit to use or not. These pools will also attract an abundance of wildlife, some of which may not be desirable if young children are around. To avoid too many insects or snakes, line the pool with gravel or wood instead of wild plants. It’s also worth noting that the water temperature cannot be set—although there are some types which allow the installation of small swimming pool heaters. In wintertime, when traditional pools will usually be covered as a precautionary safety measure, small natural pools will need to be left exposed and uncovered in order to thrive.
If you have plenty of space in your back garden, a love of the natural world and a healthy budget—what are you waiting for? It’s time to create your own little oasis! But where to start? As mentioned earlier, half the area should be allocated to plants, either as part of the small pool or on its edges. The other half is for swimming. Separation between the two parts of the pool, whether under the surface of the water or above, can be designed according to your taste. The raw materials used to build a small natural pool are gravel and clay (rather than concrete or fibreglass), with wood or stones to finish the pond’s edges. Once you’ve assembled your tools and materials, you can then dig over the space to prepare it. Remember that you’re free to pick the depth you desire for your pool, but that the depth of the plant section must not exceed 45cm. Next up, mould the shape of your pond using pebbles and rocks, before moving on to the concrete foundation. This stage should be undertaken with great care in order to avoid cracks, so make sure the concrete/sand mix is correctly balanced. You’ll then need to make a layer of fibre, newspaper and carpet above the sand to create a flat surface for the concrete, before adding some damp insulation to protect the porous materials. This stage of the installation process is certainly the most challenging, so always enlist the help of a qualified professional to guide you through. After the concrete is cast, cover it with clean gravel—this will form a habitat in which beneficial bacteria can thrive.
One of the most brilliant aspects of these special little pools is that no chemicals or artificial filtration systems are used to purify the water. Instead, natural methods of purification are used—both biological and physical. In fact, these pools are often made up of two distinct sections divided by a discrete wall—one for swimming and another to house the water-cleansing plants. Specific plants in these small ponds are used to combat algae and prevent its formation by removing phosphorus and nitrogen before it spreads throughout the pool. This acts as a natural water purifier that leaves the swimming pool clean and free from any impurities.
In the UK, the cost of building a swimming pond tends to be similar to that of a traditional pool. The real financial benefits come over time—a natural swimming pool will have a long life enhanced, not hindered, by the growth of plants and its own little ecosystem. It will also require considerably less maintenance than its chlorinated counterpart. In terms of overall costs, an eco-friendly pool will set you back around £6,000, although this price will vary depending on the size and labour used.