Imagine a swimming pool, and what do you see? A slab of sterile blue water, surrounded by tiles? It doesn’t have to be like that: imagine instead a pool of fresh, clear water, fringed by native plants and visited by dragonﬂies. The upsurge of interest in natural swimming pools, which I introduced to this country in 2000, has convinced many owners of conventional pools to aspire to a natural one. The good news is that converting a conventional pool is usually possible – and much easier and cheaper than starting from scratch. When the clients bought a house in an attractive North Wiltshire village, they inherited a conventional swimming pool. They used it infrequently as it required regular and expensive maintenance. “We had three options,” says the client. “We could fill it in, turn it into a tennis court or convert it to a natural swimming pool.” I arranged for them to visit a pool conversion that had been carried out two years previously and that made their minds up. Natural swimming pools are beautiful garden features all year round – unlike conventional pools, which can be an eyesore, especially in winter. They stay clean without any chemical treatment, so they are better for you, better for the environment, and cost less to maintain. Instead, the water is cleaned by being fi ltered through a planted ‘regeneration zone’. The swimming area is separated from the plants, but you are surrounded by them as you swim – and this seamless blending of environments makes the experience very special.
The garden consists of a series of outdoor ‘rooms’, with the pool situated in the north-west garden, approximately 50m from the house. It is enclosed by a natural stone wall on two sides, with an evergreen hedge on the third and a difference in levels making up the fourth. The space is a real sun trap and well protected from prevailing winds. Furthermore, the mature trees, shrubs and plants and the highly maintained lawn provide a sense of tranquillity and a strong feeling of being in a very secluded place. Several design concepts were produced, and after much discussion we agreed on a design, which would see the pool reduced in size from 12m by 6m to 10m by 6m. A curved outer retaining wall to cope with the change of level encloses the pool at the southern end. In front a lower wall creates a raised bed, broken in the centre by a small waterfall. This bed contains the reeds and rushes which are the main cleaning plants for the system. The waterfall acts as the main focal point when viewed from the terrace. Opposite the existing stone steps, a small timber deck is positioned. Stepping stones of natural materials provide access through the pool at the far end and to the diving rock.