Don’t worry. Before you start getting anxious about that vacation where you ended up on the wrong beach (come on, you remember) or the image of jiggling body parts, while nudists awkwardly play ping-pong in the drizzle of a dreary northern European holiday resort, we’re talking about natural swimming pools and not naturist swimming pools. While there’s nothing wrong per se with the notion of naturism or a quick skinny dip, despite all the enduring clichés, the concept of natural swimming probably has wider appeal…
If you’ve ever left a swimming pool with sore eyes or irritated skin or even just felt uncomfortable with the idea of swimming in what is effectively just a large bath of chemicals, you’re going to be curious to learn more about the potential advantages of natural swimming pools (NSPs).
Many would simply describe a typical NSP as being a kind of swimming pond. In a way they’d be correct, but the distinction between swimming in a naturally formed pond and an NSP is that the NSP has been specifically designed and built to recreate the natural advantages of ponds, while also ensuring a perfectly balanced environment and clean, filtered water for swimmers – effectively giving Mother Nature a helping hand. After all, while swimming in a pond might be ‘natural’, the prospect of swimming through algae and thick weeds might not always be so enticing.
Natural Swimming Pools typically feature a central swimming area and then a surrounding shallower area with the same volume of water, but loaded with plants that purify the water. A pump or filtration system then circulates the water throughout the pool to ensure bathers are swimming in clean, filtered water. The concept is an appealing one, since it not only allows swimmers to enjoy their dip without the potential negative effects of chemically purified pools, but it also dramatically increases biodiversity with insects and amphibians equally excited to take a look.
The current trend has been propelled by filmmaker David Pagan Butler, whose website and YouTube channel have reached millions of eco-conscious swimmers looking for a way to swim in harmony with nature. It would be no exaggeration to say that Butler’s example has inspired people right across the planet to experiment with their own DIY adaptations of his NSP designs, tailoring the pools to suit their local environment and conditions.
A quick search on YouTube reveals thousands of examples, some extraordinarily elaborate and complex, but in terms of simple aesthetic charm and a perfect sense of place, it is hard to beat Butler’s original design at his home in Norfolk, England.
Hmm, swimmers can be a finicky bunch with some preferring conventional pools and other preferring the trend for natural pools. What is your swimming pool horror?