One morning in June 2018 we woke up after a party the night before where we had a little too much to drink. Mr C, my hubby turned to me over his morning tea and said: “did we buy a pool last night?”
Sure enough we had and it turned to be one of the best drunken decisions we’ve ever made! It was a hot summer and I think we might have got one of the last above ground pools available in the U.K!
It was from Bestway and is called a Hydrium Pool. It’s 12 foot wide by 4 feet deep and has a solid steel wall with steel pillars for support. The liner is latex and it came with a ladder and a pump and cost around £650. We bought it from a company called Splash and Relax, but I can’t see our model on their website anymore. I do know a friend of mine bought one from Amazon.
The pool is constructed by attaching one meter long curved plastic poles together to form a ring for the base. The roll of steel wall is then unwound and gradually slotted into a groove in the ring base and then fastened together. The latex liner is then carefully positioned inside the steel wall and a similar ring is then constructed to attach to the top of the steel wall to hold the liner in place and keep the pool rigid. Steel columns are added and then finally a steel shelf that runs the perimeter of the top of the pool. There are great YouTube videos to help you out on this and I thoroughly recommend watching them before you start!
That year we just wanted to get it built as quickly as possible and the only area large enough in our garden that was already completely flat was on the first terrace near our house. We have a terraced garden with a large field and views at the top. It took about 3 hours and two of us to build it. It then needed almost a day to fill with water. The pool doesn’t come with a heater, so we also bought an air-source heat pump, which would be more economical. In reality, the heater worked well when the weather was great, but if it was below 20 degrees outside, then it just didn’t have enough power. However, it did us well for the first season. That heater was about £350 and a costly mistake. The pump that comes with the pool is adequate for your first year, but it didn’t really pump enough water fast enough to help the heater either. Luckily we have learned all this for you, so you won’t have to make the same mistakes. We still had a blast that summer though and didn’t regret buying the pool for one second.
At the end of the season we dismantled the pool and stored it in our summerhouse ready for work to begin the following spring on its final position at the top of the garden facing the view and the sunset.
Our top terrace has a large deck and then there is a gradual slope of about five feet up to our field. We were originally going to place the pool on a flat raised area, you can see it in the distance in the photo above. However, our builder suggested that we dig a sunken area here as he thought the pool would have dominated the area and he would have been right.
Our trusty builders came on site around April 2019 and started to dig a large semi circular sunken courtyard that would start at the same level as our deck. It would mean that we could walk up to the pool once in place, but that the far side of it would be in line with the ground level of the field, effectively hiding it from view if you were standing in the field looking back at the house.
Reclaimed African hardwood railway sleepers were used vertically to create a curved wall for the courtyard. They were strapped together at the back using metal straps and then secured into the ground with concrete. Once in place, a chainsaw was used to cut the sleepers so that they followed the line of the ground level in a gentle downward slope.
Builders sand was added to the base of the courtyard and levelled off. The base ring of the pool was then reconstructed and put in place on the sand. We then built decking joists around the ring, using it as our guide. We filled in between each joist with small stones for extra drainage and then began adding the decking. Once that was complete we could begin to rebuild the pool.
This time we bought a much improved (and vastly more expensive to run) pump filter by Bestway which used sand as the filter medium. The sand has to be changed every two years. We also invested in a better 3kw heater by Vulcan. Mr C also added an outdoor shower for that little bit of luxury. The last purchase was a 200 micron solar pool cover, which is effectively expensive bubble wrap. That summer the pool was kept at a balmy 28 degrees Celsius.
The pool was losing heat though as the only insulation was the solar pool cover. In the spring of 2020, we set about starting to insulate the base and sides of the pool with foil insulation from Wickes. This, of course, would make it very ugly and silver, so gentle but steady persuasion from me coerced Mr C into forging a way to clad the pool.
The pool is round, but due to the pillars and the top shelf it effectively becomes an octagon, with curved edges between each pillar – tricky to clad! Mr C, however, is a master when it comes to a plan and he won’t rest until he’s cracked it! There may be easier ways to clad it, but the way he chose looks fantastic, even if it took the patience of a saint!
He screwed 48 inch long by 1inch wide strips of wood to two metal straps, one at the top and one at the bottom, effectively creating a wall of vertical wooden cladding that was malleable enough to be fixed around the curves of the pool and then screwed into each metal pillar. He then created wooden fascias to go over the pillars to hide the screws and straps. I’m the resident painter in our household, so it was then my job to paint every last inch of it. I used Bedec Barn paint in semi-gloss. It’s amazing stuff and you’ll never look back.
You’d think that would be us done wouldn’t you, but Oh no! Mr C hated the ladder that came with the pool. It did the job perfectly, but it did make the pool look a little juvenile and not quite up to our usual chic on a budget standard! So again he set about designing permanently fixed steps up to the pool with a balustrade. He attached a metal telescopic ladder, which is on a hinge to the top deck of the steps. This could then be lowered into the pool and would extend by itself using gravity – genius idea. Sometimes, I’m so proud of him!
Last, but note least, I painted the new steps and then we added new planting, an improved 400 micron solar cover and wonderful festoon lights from Cox and Cox. The look was complete. During lockdown in the U.K the weather, for once, has been on our side. The pool has proved invaluable at a time when all of us have been stuck at home. As I said before, it’s the best drunken decision we ever made!