A couple of years ago as we were contemplating our design of our home and the B&B, we flippantly said wouldn’t a swimming pond look nice in front of the house instead of the old farm yard from our pig days.
Well little did we know how much was involved in creating such a thing…….
Having swum in a natural pool, it was a completely different experience than a conventional pool for us; not only were there no nasty chemicals making our eyes sting and our hair smell, but being in water surrounded by nature and all that goes on in an eco friendly environment while plants do their thing and a natural habitat is gradually created is a glorious thing. Not only that but we didn’t want to be looking out in the winter at a bright blue pit directly outside our kitchen window, nor did we want our B&B guest to have this view either!
So our idea for our driveway conversion started to formulate.
And a rough sketch of what we had in mind became the start of what was to be quite a undertaking.
So having found the right guy for the job, Tim came up from the West Country driving through the night and sleeping in his car, despite the offer of a bed for the night, and set Tony, our long standing builder and his boys to work over the next few months.
His initial words to Tony and us were…”Its like building a garage, but below ground”.
So Tony and our local plant hire company moved in with a giant old digger and a mini one and set about digging into our driveway and subsequently the heavy clay and chalk beneath.
Tonnes of clay and chalk were excavated and graded and then driven away in numerous dumper truck visits to our Corner field, where now resides a small hillock, of which we are unsure what currently to do with as it is too costly to be carted away!
The lower we cut, the wetter it became as we went below the water table.
As you can see quite a depth was cut – the recently completed games room looks over what will be the deep end…
And the front of ‘New Piglets’ is now temporarily only accessed by ladder!
Before concreting can commence, re-enforced bar is lowered into the base for extra support and rods are installed to support the insulation that will form the walls of the pond,
Now the hole was ready for its base and a cement mixer arrived with a huge crane like pipe attachment which allowed it to access the excavation. Taking over 3 loads, the cement was pumped in and then Tony and the boys set about buffing this flat and even.
The arrival of the cement mixer & pumping lorry.
The crane pump can be seen towering above Piglets as is begins the cement pour.
While setting the base is smoothed and buffed.
And all is ready for the insulation to begin…
For the insulation special polystyrene cavity liners we ordered, and arrived much to everyone’s interest and the team set about erecting these around the pond hole and then bracing them ready for being filled with concrete.
The team get there first glimpse of this special insulation which concertinas open.
The panels are brought to site and fit together like giant Lego.
Eventually they are all fitted together and we get our first notion of a swimming pool rather than just a giant hole in the ground!
Special braces are then erected to support the fragile linings before these are filled with concrete.
Detail of the cavity to be filled all the way around the swim zone.
The return of the crane pump saw a precise delivery of cement directly into the wall cavity.
And the braces did their job of holding the considerable weight in place whilst it set.
And hey presto, we had our sloping underground garage as promised!
Following the cementing of the walls, then a further felt insulation was wrapped all around. Each roll meticulously glued into place by Gary and Trevor. We then had a carpeted garage!
Then a massive soakaway had to be cut into our orchard to cope with excess water from the fields and the pond – this was cut through the chalk and clay and Tony and the boys inserted a special cradle 6 metres down into the cavity to prevent collapse.
Attention then was diverted to the regen zone where further insulation was laid before numerous drainage pipes were laid under Tim’s instruction with the help of two of our boys, Josh and Callum.
Four inches of insulation was laid to the base of the re-gen zone, prior to covering with a fleece material.
Josh and Callum start to arrange the pipework under the watchful eye of Tim.
Tim surveys their work before making his final adjustments.
Then the custom made liner arrived – too short in a couple of areas, so extra sheets had to be glued into position. The liner was hugely heavy and needed a team to drape it into position. Railway sleepers and cement bags were used to keep it in position awaiting the WATER!
But before this, Chrissie and I had to scrub it clean!
The liner is pulled into place over the re-gen zone.
And then into the swim-zone and held into place.
Then the cleaning begins…
Arriving by lorry from the West Country were 30 tonnes of the special stone Tim recommended for the job from a particular quarry he has faith in. A conveyor belt machine was hired and took some of the back breaking work out of bringing the stone to the far reaches of the re-gen zone, but a great deal had to be barrowed by hand.
This mammoth job was far from over and work now begun on digging a further hole to create a pump room some 7ft below ground. Once finally built Tim descended and created the network of pumps, filters and pipes which we still to this day are not 100% sure of what does what!
A channel is cut from the re-gen zone to a newly cut hole.
Ben joins, Gary and Trevor setting the drainage lattice in place for all the pipework which will flow into Tim’s pump room.
Gary and Trevor check the depths they need, before then cementing the floor and making block-work walls.
Tim’s work of art and the very heart of the project is finally installed!
After enquiring if our local fire brigade would fill us up and were told they don’t do this anymore, so the laborious task of filling up with a hose pipe began, taking about a week in all and then a plastic silage cover had to be laid over the top of the pond to prevent the water turning in the sunlight – very frustrating as by this point, we really wanted to see water in the hole!
The swim zone begins to fill…
and seeps through the the shallower re-gen zone,
and finally we are full, but can’t take the covers off yet!
We then suffered a number of unfortunate floods in the pump room meaning that pumps had to be sent away to be refurbished, two of which were lost by FedEx and had to be replaced at great expense!
Then we built a shed above to protect the pump room, electrics were connected and Chrissie started planting!
Specialist pants arrived and Chrissie and Derek, our marvellous gardener, set to work (even I planted some). However as the covers came off, our pond looked rather sad and dare we say it, murky!
Tim, said don’t be perturbed, just be patient…let nature do its thing – daily we inspected and no change – have we built a possible cesspit for our guests to bathe in?
Meanwhile a team of local landscapers descended on our muddy surround and started to create larch decking around the pond, taking two months to finish. Followed by us on our knees painting the wood with a special wood preservative three times!
We then trimmed all the sides of the pond in oak to finish it off.
However our potentially lovely pond still looked like a pea soup on daily inspection and we started to badger poor old Tim on a weekly basis as spring was fast approaching with guests who’d want to be able to swim – Tim’s promise of a ‘gin clear’ water experience seemed terribly distant and where was his famous bacteria when you needed it?
Well it literary came over night – the fine natural balance that was going on under our own very eyes without us realising suddenly happened – the bacteria had tipped the balance and our pond turned into sparkling clear water and nature has continued to clean and maintain our lovely pond just as Tim promised and is such a wonderful natural swimming experience for all who take to its water.
Unfortunately no guests we able to enjoy the waters until the summer, due to the March 2020 lock-down but there were far worse places to be for us during this awful time when the pond came into its own on those unseasonably warm spring days.
So far we have recorded over 25 degrees and the plants now stand tall and proud with colourful blooms and after all the hard work and expense we now look out at a beautiful all year round pond and a great asset for our B&B guests to enjoy for many years to come and in addition we have created an eco paradise for all sorts of visiting wild-life.