TAKE THE PLUNGE
Forget tiled swimming pools, the new des res is a home with natural lakes and ponds
NO ONE can pretend that this winter has been a happy one. But some activities have thrived — not least one that sends a particular shiver down the spine. Wild swimming has never had it so good. ‘You get a fantastic feeling of relief and pride when you take a dip at this time of year,’ says Roger spicer, 50, an insurance broker who lives near canterbury. ‘sure, it hurts a little at first, but you learn to control your breathing and initial trepidation soon gives way to this gloriously refreshing sensation.’
Roger is far from being alone in his appreciation of natural lakes. Michael Wheat, who excavates these garden features, has seen his business quadruple in recent years. And celebrities such as David and Victoria Beckham, plus Ed sheeran, have had their own lakes built.
Visits to wildswim.com, which is run by The Outdoor swimming society (Oss) and offers advice on open-water swimming, recently hit a record 151,000, which is three times more than usual.
‘We are having a summer house and a waterfall added and it will all blend nicely into the landscape,’ says Roger, who had a 20 m swimming pond, with beach and jetty, built last year. ‘We’re looking forward to our kids, who are 15 and 21, having their friends around for parties in the summer.’
Roger knows all too well the dangers of wild swimming. He prescribes dips of only one minute for every degree the water hits on the thermometer and he warms up gradually, with layers of clothing, on leaving the lake. An immediate hot shower can put the body into a state of shock.
There is more to creating a lake or pond than just hiring a digger. The average swimming lake will set you back £80,000 and some cost up to £ 350,000. However, Wheat also offers a far more reasonable advisory service for those determined to do it themselves. it sounds like a steep learning curve.
‘You must know about construction and how to build a retaining wall,’ he says. ‘With no chlorine added, you need to know about filtration systems to control biological waste. You also need electric pumps.’ To add the finishing touch, Wheat says bullrushes, carex and caltha work best as plantings, with lilies to guard against algae.
Not everyone wants to bathe in their lakes. They are equally popular among those who favour the wild natural look in their gardens over manicured perfection.
carol Peett, a house search agent in Pembrokeshire, has noticed, since covid, a growing demand for country homes with lakes. ‘Parents who have been trapped, home-schooling their children in London during lockdown yearn for the outdoors,’ she says. ‘They imagine the children rowing boats or catching tadpoles in jam jars; it’s their idea of freedom.’
THE 93-acre estate Waundrgi in Llanddewi Velfrey, near Narberth, Pembrokeshire, matches Peett’s idyllic fantasy. Fronted by a wooded valley with both a lily pond and a larger expanse of water, there is seating as well as a firepit. The grade ii-listed house is on the market with country Living Group for £1.75 million ( countrylivinggroup.co.uk). Developers are also now tuned in to the attraction of a lakeland setting. in north Oxford, alongside the A49, Hill Residential is building Mosaics, a mixture of homes, retail outlets and schools with lakes serving as a focal point, all within cycling range of the city centre. ‘We thought it vital to landscape the development, which was rough ground before even starting the build,’ says Teresa Borsuk, senior adviser on the project. ‘Apart from being a recreational space, the lakes enhance the ecology of the area. They create a sense of space and being at one with nature.’ The homes will cost from £285,000 for an apartment to £569,950 for a two-bedroom house ( mosaicsoxford.co.uk, savills.com).