Today, I’ve got a guest post from Melanie Hiblen on natural swimming pools.
For those who wish to balance their swimming pleasure with their 21st-century conscience, a natural swimming pool – or ‘swimming pond’ – is a tempting pool of fresh, chemical-free, summer blue water. Seamlessly blended into the beauty of the natural world eco pools are clear and cool. Deceptively simple filtration means that water is kept crystal clear and free of harmful dirt and bacteria. Imagine swimming in tranquil waters with the gentle buzz of dragonflies and sway of the bulrushes. Converts claim the sensations from natural swimming is unlike anything you will ever find in the usual chemical swimming pool experience and your only regret will be not trying it earlier.
“Eco-ponds make the perfect location for pool parties on balmy summer days”
How Do Eco Pools Work?
The secret is keeping nutrients away from the water, which would otherwise lead to the growth of algae.
This is achieved by pumping the water through a natural filtrate such as shingle, or through a select but always beautiful border of plants. The plants will naturally absorb the nutrients, microorganisms and pathogens (that cause the greening-over of woodland pools).
The resulting pure filtered water is released back into the swimming area, eliminating the need for any chemical disinfectants. Lily Pads and plants work in what is known as the ‘regeneration zone’ purifying and filtering the water.
Connecting to Nature
Swimming a few gentle laps among nature is proven to soothe stress and reduce anxiety levels. It’s well known that through a deep connection to nature, you reduce cortisol levels that result in feelings of stress.
Not only that, you’ll enjoy a visual feast – for natural swimming pools are a haven of biodiversity. A myriad of wildlife is drawn to water including dragonflies, kingfishers, newts, tadpoles, butterflies and frogs.
How are Outdoor Ponds Eco-Friendly?
Anything that emits or uses chemicals is essentially bad for the surrounding environment.
Outdoor ponds are undeniably more sustainable and eco-friendly than traditional indoor pools for several reasons.
Firstly, the low water turnover rate is far more energy-efficient than traditional chemical pools.
The elimination of adding chlorine to the atmosphere is a far more eco-friendly approach.
Heating is rarely often due to the fact that the pool is naturally heated by solar power. There are a few tricks that you can employ to encourage solar power to last for longer, including installing stone coping on the submerged walls helps to warm the water, or opting for a shallow beach.
Swimming Ponds vs Natural Pools
A swimming pond is hard to tell from a naturally occurring pool, as the organic shapes can be tailored to the space available, creating a completely organic look.
If you have access to an existing pond or lake, one possibility is to convert a natural pond into a swimming pond. It’s also possible to convert a conventional swimming pool to a natural one.
There’s no need for a separate pump room with a swimming pond.
The filtration system is a simple pump contained within the overall pool design that remains completely hidden.
The alternative is a preference for oxygenating plants to keep the water clean. This is generally achieved by a planted shelf, known as the regeneration area, which separates the pool from the landscape.
The absolute beauty of this plant-based method is the wonderful options you have in design. The natural aesthetics of your pool are determined by the colours and species you choose, which in turn attracts different wildlife. For anyone that loves nature, this surely is a green dream come true.
Specialist constructors of natural pools are happy to offer advice on the right mix of blooms to achieve clear water, alongside floral heaven. To encourage natural purification it is common to add a shallow plant area around the original or sub-divided section.
Eco Pool Maintenance
Maintenance of a natural swimming pool is unbelievably simple. No need for regular draining and cleaning, or topping up of chemicals.
The most that is needed is an annual check-up of the pump system and the use of a rake or fitted mechanical skimmer to draw aside those beautiful leaves as they fall around you.
The pool will not need to be covered up over the winter months either, although dead plant material in the planted border will have to be trimmed back in autumn to prevent straggling into the water itself.
The surfaces of the pool will need to be brushed from time to time to keep them clean – though it’s possible to get a pool-cleaning robot to take on that job!
Natural Swimming Pool Disadvantages
Sadly you will have to keep pets away.
The trick is to reduce the possibility of nutrients entering the water and endangering this algae-free zone. For the same reason, no ducks or geese will be allowed and the only fish will be the children you can’t keep away from this natural delight!
Woodland invertebrates such as damselflies will, however, be seen skimming the surface, attracted by the diverse planted border, and the fresh mineral water will be a source for local birds and mammals alike.
Eco Swimming Pond Cost
A rough estimate is £110,000 to £130,000 for the initial construction, depending on the site chosen.
In terms of maintenance, this is likely to be far less costly than a chemical pool, due to the lower maintenance needs described earlier.
Often, the pond companies that install the pond can be employed to maintain the pool, and typically entails one visit per month.
Running costs are generally low, because this genuinely is a natural, self-maintaining body of water.
If heated water is required, this will of course add to the energy bill, but for those wishing to show utmost respect for the environment, they could invest in solar PV panels to generate electricity for heat and keep their carbon footprint low.
Manufacturers and users tend to assert, however, that heating is probably not necessary, as in summer the average water temperature will likely remain between 19-26℃ and many prefer to invest in a wet suit rather than a thermostat, which means naturally invigorating year-round dips!
In any case, new pond users are often advised to wait a year after the initial installation – to literally test the water – before deciding whether to go ahead with heating.
How deep is a natural swimming pool?
The typical wild swimming pond can offer up to 150 square metres of deeper swimming area, alongside the approximately two-metre border of planted margin.
A good swimming pond company will assess the chosen site and make recommendations regarding integrating your new wild pool naturally into the surrounding environment.
As with traditional chemical pools, no planning permission is generally needed, unless you live in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. That said, you’ll often find it much easier to obtain approval for a natural rather than a traditional pool.
The only mechanics required are a filtration pump to move the water through the natural cleaning system, and a mechanical skimmer if required.
All that remains after this are the extras according to taste – the right plants to bloom in your space – yellow flag irises, marsh marigolds and water forget-me-nots are favourites – and the possible addition of rocks, waterfalls, stepping stones, bridges….let your imagination flow like the water!
Natural swimming pools specialists in the UK: