I’ve recently been back to the Village Garden (see Portfolio, VILLAGE) to see how it’s looking now we’re a few years on from completion.
The garden features a natural swimming pond, a concept that is used extensively on the continent but is relatively new in the UK. The idea is that rather than using chemicals (and a lot of electricity) to maintain clean and clear water, the necessary filtration and cleaning is achieved through natural means.
Swimming ponds contain no chlorine, chemicals or salts. The water is kept clean and clear through a combination of natural filters that require only 20% of the surface area of the pond for a regeneration zone (or wetland), this being a shallow area containing a permeable substrate where friendly micro-organisms (beneficial bacteria), reeds and nutrient hungry aquatic plants filter the water as it percolates through the bed.
While the popular image of a swimming pond is of a natural-looking pond complete with waterlilies, shallow margins and frogs, it’s equally possible to create very formal swimming ponds, the style of which fit more comfortably into the design of most gardens, as you can see from these photos.
In my design for this pond, the regeneration zone can be seen beyond the stepping stones that act as both bridge and diving board, leaving the bulk of the pond for swimming.
I designed the pool with sawn Yorkstone edgings and a long hardwood deck backed by planting; the stepping stones across the pool continue as stepping stones through the lawn, leading to a small deck enclosed with a meadow-style planting.
Swimming without chemicals has obvious health benefits, but a natural swimming pond is also much more efficient to run, using only about a quarter of the electricity required to maintain a conventional swimming pool. But more than this, a natural swimming pond is much more aesthetically pleasing than a conventional pond. The ubiquitous turquoise swimming pool may look good when the sun is shining, but a swimming pond is much more in keeping with our more normally grey skies.
Without the need to cover through the winter, a swimming pond looks good all year round, and moreover, the dark lining creates fantastic reflections. To exploit these qualities, I’ve planted large grasses and flowers behind the deck; at their peak in late summer, by which time they’ll be 6′ high and a pale straw colour, these grasses will look wonderful reflected in the dark water.
If you need any more convincing, do ask me for further details, or look on the website of Clearwater Revival who built this pond for my clients.
You might be interested to know that this garden won the Judges Award in the Society of Garden Designers 2013 awards, in addition to winning Medium Residential garden; it also won Best Garden, £60,000-£100,000 in the 2010 Association of Professional Landscapers Awards