Ten Reasons to Choose a Natural Pool
feature on natural pools for Landscape Insight magazine
Sitting on the deck beside our Natural Pool, with a backdrop of birdsong and bubbling water, a gentle breeze sending ripples of light across the pool’s surface, already I feel relaxed, recharged and clearheaded after a day cooped in the office.
In the last 5 minutes a starling has flown down to the beach for a drink, a charm of goldfinches splashed beside the jetty, I’ve just seen the first swallows dip and two pied wagtails are bobbing up and down territorially on the giant boulders set amongst newly emerging reeds.
This time of year our Natural Pool is fringed with pale blue water forget-me-nots and bright yellow marsh marigolds, which have seeded gently between arrow shaped irises, aromatic water mint, and linear reeds. Clumps of sunshine coloured Carex elata Aurea contrast with pools of dark blue cammasias flowering in the surrounding borders - even this early in the season it is hard to see where the water stops and the garden begins.
The first water lily leaves are floating on the pool’s surface amid waxy, white flowers of fragrant water hawthorn, cast about like confetti.
It is idyllic, a watery retreat, the place we enjoy spending time together as a family, but I’ll be honest - it is the UK, the middle of May so I’ll admit to sitting here in a coat - we have yet to build our pool cabin.
Drawn to water for some inspiration for this feature here are my top 10 reasons for choosing a natural pool.
1 Chemical Free Water
The crystal clear water is chemical free, filtered by water plants and biological filtration. This pure, living water does not sting your eyes, irritate your skin or dry your hair. Sliding into the silky smooth water at the end of a hard day is a truly sensuous experience.
2 Health Benefits
Like wild swimming in your own garden, swimming in fresh water has proven health benefits and releases endorphins- you emerge feeling uplifted.
Spending time beside the water is relaxing, allows us to wind down and connect with nature - of great value in today’s fast pace of life.
3 Outdoor Living
A Natural Pool is more than just a swimming pool.
The perfect setting for Alfresco Dining, Outdoor Living and entertaining friends and family. Adding a Pool Cabin with a log burner allows clients to enjoy the water throughout winter.
4 No Heating costs:
With their shallow filtration areas, Natural Pools warm up quickly with natural solar gain, meaning no heating requirements and a long swimming season.
Our own Natural Pool in Yorkshire was 17C at the end of March (= North Sea in summer) It is consistently 21C throughout a typical mediocre summer and during the course of one sunny day rises easily to 23C by mid afternoon. (= Mediterranean Sea in summer)
We swim comfortably from April to October. Some of our clients install hot tubs and saunas as incentive to winter swimming.
Clients wishing for a consistently warmer pool can boost the temperature with an air source heat system and solar/thermal covers work well with Living Pools and Hybrid Pools.
5 Low maintenance
Natural pools require regular, low level maintenance during the swimming season and can be left alone while you are on holiday.
The balanced, living system requires management and we provide a professional pool service in winter.
Key to success is a well-designed, accessible pool that is easy and quick to maintain with a pool robot.
6 Part of the Garden
Gone are the days of blue rectangles!
A Natural Pool is an extension of the house and garden - formal, contemporary or naturalistic in style, plunge pool or lake size - even adjacent to the house. Think glass walls, reflective sheet of water, patios stepping down to the pool…
Pool Design embraces form and function with diving platforms, sun decks, cascades, waterfalls, jetties, floating stepping stones, boulders, fountains and rills all playing part in the hydraulics and enhancing our client’s enjoyment of the pool.
We use a variety of hard materials to finish the pool, or simply run soft landscaping up to the water’s edge.
Planting in and around the water is a plant designer’s dream- we merge the boundaries between pool and garden- surrounding the water with wild flower meadows, linear grasses, bog gardens, gravel gardens - repeating plants in the pool and garden to unify the scheme.
A Natural Pool is a magnet for wildlife. We swim with swallows dipping, iridescent dragonflies darting across the water’s surface.Children spend hours with a mask and snorkel exploring the remarkable world of pond life that remains in the regeneration zones- leaving the swim zone free for swimming.
Looking into the crystal clear water is like looking into a giant aquarium- we observe newts like miniature dragons, and tiny bats patrol the water in the evenings.
Frogs and toads have built up in numbers in the surrounding garden and our resident garden birds now include 23 species from the Red and Amber Birds of Conservation Concern list. We love seeing the kingfisher perched on a deck chair.
In short the benefits for wildlife are immense.
8 Changes with the seasons
Like a garden, a Natural Pool changes with the seasons, with fresh spring marginals, summer water lilies and magical autumnal mists rising from the water.
In winter the pool becomes a huge Sky Mirror, reflecting light and tree silhouettes.
9 To Plant or not to Plant?
Natural pools are filtered and purified by beautiful water plants known as regeneration zones.
Living pools are plant free, just like a conventional pool, with biological filters that purify and filter the water leaving you to enjoy chemical free water which can be heated to 30C and even installed indoors
In addition to no heating requirements, our Natural Pools have low energy requirements meaning low running costs. In winter the pumps are switched off.
The ecological benefits of a natural pool are of positive value with planning applications- we have constructed natural pools for Grade 1 listed properties in conservation areas where a conventional pool was refused planning permission.
Natural pools were first developed by Austrian company Biotop 30 years ago.
Now widespread around the world, they are commonplace in mainland Europe in both the domestic and commercial sector.
Here you will find public natural swimming pools, as well as natural pools in hotel spas and at glamping sites.
Our industry standard for water quality and hygiene is the German FLL.
This sets the parameters for water quality, hygiene and safety for both domestic and public natural pools.
Sarah Murch is a natural pool designer and director of Ellicar Pools (formerly Ensata), a specialist natural pool design and installation company, and accredited Biotop partner.
Ellicar Pools' acclaimed show pool, set in 5 acres of award winning Ellicar Gardens is open to the public throughout summer.
Ellicar Gardens, Carr Road, Gringley on theHill, Doncaster, DN10 4SN