Natural Swimming Pools
An interview with landscape architect Michael Littlewood, who has a passion for Natural Swimming Pools and has been a leading designer of them since 1999.
What inspired you to introduce natural swimming pools to the UK in 1999?
As an organic gardener/designer for over 50 years I felt that using water that was full of chemicals was counter productive. So when I found a client who wanted a natural style swimming pond with only chemical free water I started my journey.
Can you explain what a natural swimming pool is?
A natural swimming pool is a combination of a swimming pool and a natural pond. It comprises a swimming zone and a regeneration zone separated by a barrier made of stone, timber, concrete blocks or metal sheeting. The regeneration zone contains aquatic plants which keep the water clean through biological self cleaning processes, making chemicals unnecessary. This shallow zone warms up more quickly than the swimming zone and helps to increase the overall water temperature.
The swimming zone is covered with a top liner over a special underliner both of which are carried over into the regeneration zone. The wall barrier prevents debris entering the swimming zone which can be vacuumed.
How do they work and what keeps them clean. Is there any health and safety issues?
There are no health and safety issues except having a shower before and after using the pool. The shallow zone helps to keep children away from the deep end of the swimming zone.
If someone has a conventional swimming pool what would they need to do to convert the pool so it is natural?
The conversion of an existing pool can easily be undertaken provided that there is room for the regeneration zone and for access both materials and machinery. No major upheavals need occur as the main structure has already been built. the excavation,removal of surplus soil and debris, drainage, groundworks, plumbing and electrical works have already been undertaken and paid for. Existing materials such as paving slabs, copings and edgings can be re-used. The main work after removal of all items would be the laying of the liners, building the regeneration zone, installing the services such as pump, skimmers and other elements, followed by the planting. `
For full details read my book Conventional Pool Conversion Guide and "A Guide for Building Natural Swimming Pools". They have been used by many self builders with considerable success.
What natural swimming pool, that you have designed, is your favourite and why?
I think that the very first one in Gloucestershire which was like the launching of a ship starting out on a long and unknown journey. But this 75 sq.m. pool started the trend for swimming naturally and it has grown from one to over several hundreds over 16 years.
There is a large natural swimming pool that opened recently at Kings Cross, London, are there any other public ones in the UK that you could recommend to readers?
There is one at a residential development in the Cotswolds. There are one or two at private hotels. In spite of promoting them to councils, private developers, etc I have not been able to convince any one to build one. The ones in Europe are just wonderful and beautiful but then there attitude for natural swimming is much more relaxed and positive.
Do you have a favourite aquatic plant, and if so what is it and what's the appeal?
There are so many beautiful aquatic plants but the grasses have a special place as some are suitable for wildlife such as the reeds, rushes and sedges. they also help clean the water. The other plant is the water lily which sits on the water surface comes in so many wonderful colours. They make quite an imposing feature especially in a large body of water. They provide shade for the underwater plants. and prefer deep water. they dislike being disturbed by swimmers so some protection is required or a separate lily pond provided.
Is there a minimum size for natural swimming pools, or is it possible to create similar natural plunge pools in smaller gardens?
The minimum size is 50 sq.m.and 50% of this must be allowed for the plants
If someone was inspired to create their own natural swimming pool in their garden, say 15 metres long x 5 metres wide. What would be the approximate total cost for plants, materials and tools?
Self build costs could be £10-15K for a new natural swimming pool. Conversions depend on so many issues.
What differentiates a natural swimming pool from a large garden pond?
One has to have clear and clean water but the pond is usually for wild life and non non swimming. A pond can still be used for swimming if the odd piece of algae is accepted! NSP require more maintenance.
For more information visit Michael Littlewood's website;