Have I mentioned my dream of moving to France? We are not just about to do this, but we plan to in a few years times. When we do, we are going to rent for a year. We are under strict instructions from friends who have moved to France NOT to buy straight away. Property is temptingly cheap and gorgeous, but the reason for this is that you cannot sell it. Our big dilemma is whether or not to have a pool – first world problems I know, but it can get very hot in France and I don’t want to get in a terrible tizzy!
A wonderful option I have always thought would be a natural pool – no chlorine or chemicals. I have always been interested and was intrigued to come across Caroline and Jon who are NOT waiting to move to France – they have built one in their garden in Cheltenham. I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview them and find out more.
AG: How do you start an outdoor pool?
C&J: We decided on the shape we wanted and the design and hired a digger and took the plunge. We did it all ourselves and it cost around £16k. Jon likes to tackle issues head on and find his own solutions. The only help he needed was on the day when he installed the pond liner – he gathered a party of about 10 family and friends.
AG: How deep does it need to be?
C&J: The swimming area, in the middle, should be at least 2 to 2.5 metres deep so that when you swim you don’t stir up too much sediment, and it also helps with the temperature gradient which is better for water quality. Surrounding the deep zone you need to create the regeneration zone which is where the natural biological processes take place. The combination of oxygen and plants promote beneficial bacteria and enzyme growth which mimic nature’s natural processes for cleansing water.
AG: Do you need to line it?
C&J: Yes we chose to used a pond liner. It is the most cost effective solution. But you can use natural clay if you prefer or you could use traditional swimming pool techniques with tiling.
AG: Tell me about the plants?
C&J: The more bio diversity that you create the better the eco system becomes.We have over 100 different species of plants ranging from water lilies, reeds, irises to water mint and many other varieties.
AG: How do you fill it with water?
C&J: Very simply – you leave it to fill with rain! Rain water contains less nutrients than tap water and this is important in a new pond as too much can cause algae until the pond finds its own natural balance The pond is working with nature as opposed to a conventional pool which is full of chemicals and toxic to aquatic life. So, do NOT be tempted to fill or top up with a hose. It took about 7 months for the rain to fill and in the early stages can look very like a mud bath.
AG: How much maintenance is required?
C&J: Very little: it is a lot easier than a normal pool as the water doesn’t have to be drained and there’s no need to add chemicals. There is the regular clearing of leaves and debris, plus, making sure the dead plants are cut back each year. We are wondering about putting in a mechanical skimmer, to automatically remove the fallen debris but actually the process of fishing out the leaves is part of the joy. I love my daily aquatic pottering. I much prefer it to ‘normal gardening’, neither of us miss mowing the lawn.
AG: Can you leave it and go on holiday?
C&J: Yes, of course, but we miss it so much when we are away!
I am not surprised – why would you want to go away on holiday and have to share a pool, laden with chemicals, with hundreds of other guests?
Alongside their pool Caroline and Jon have installed an outdoor kitchen and they cook and eat outside all year round. ‘We even had Xmas lunch outside’ Caroline explains, ‘we hardly use our house at all’ they share.They quite like the idea of a water fall cascading down the garden as their next project, but realise this might be a step too far.
I suggest you watch this space though…
Find out more by following Jon & Caroline on Instagram @jonsnaturalswimmingpooljourney Caroline is an actress and choir leader and Jon is a retailer, one time owner of 26 of the fabulous, Danish Flying Tiger stores in the UK.
They will keep you very entertained!