Open Natural Pool day - 16th June

We are holding our Open Natural Pool day on 16th June 1-5pm, at our award winning, family show pool, here at Ellicar Gardens, Carr Rd, Gringley on the Hill, Doncaster, DN10 4SN

This is great opportunity for anyone interested in finding out more about Natural Pools to come along and meet the Ensata team, discuss your own project, explore the pool and 5 acre gardens, enjoy a swim, or spend a relaxing afternoon beside the water with a cup of tea and slice of cake.

There will be pool maintenance demonstrations throughout the afternoon with refreshments and teas available in the gardens.

You can pre-register for the event by clicking here

In the morning from 10am-1pm we will be running a dedicated CPD on Natural Pools for Architects, Landscape Architects and Garden Designers, covering all aspects of Natural Pools for the UK Domestic and Commercial market.

For more information and to book click here 

Enjoy your natural pool in winter

It is easy to see why natural pools are often known as ‘Sky Mirrors’.

In winter, with the reeds and marginals cut back, the huge reflective surface appears twice the size and mirrors the sky.

Our Ellicar natural pool sits in the centre of our garden- with coloured willows and bright red cornus stems fringing the water’s edge, and the beautiful grasses and seedheads left standing in the naturalistic borders for winter, the reflections in the pool are superb.

With an early morning frost to highlight these delicate stems, lit up by the low winter sun, the effect is just magical.

Natural pools really are as beautiful in the depths of winter as the height of summer.

Winter Birds and Wildlife

There was not much to like about our home when we first viewed the property 9 years ago.

An empty, institutional care home sat in a huge, neglected field, on a gloomy December afternoon, with mist drawing in.

It was the glimpse of a ghostly barn owl flying silently across the would- be garden with pheasants roosting noisily in monster leylandii hedges, that sold it to us.

From this blank canvas, building our Natural Pool 5 years ago, and creating the 5 acre gardens around it, we’ve been astonished by the increase and diversity in wildlife the place now supports.

It’s during the winter months the birds are active and easy to see.

With our prairie style garden and relaxed, wildlife friendly planting, the seed heads and grasses not only look beautiful in winter, they provide a great food source for birds.

Goldfinch nesting in Weeping Rose

Charms of goldfinches in huge numbers balance like acrobats from arching verbenas, feast on teasels, and swing from miscanthus seed heads all winter. They fly out of the borders like shoals of fish as you walk around the garden.

We’ve seen sparrow colonies explode in numbers-both tree and house varieties.

These feisty little birds hang out together in noisy gangs, squabbling all day, and are so numerous they have formed splinter groups and moved into the barn eaves. They dive in and out of the rose garden – their favourite food being the Cardoon seed heads towering high in the rose garden.

Our resident starling family is expanding. These speckled, iridescent birds bubble and squeak all day long, and go to bed in the walls of my office where they chatter long after it is dark.

In winter they are often joined by hundreds of ‘wild’ starlings that sweep down en- masse to feed from the lawn, and bathe in our natural pool.

It’s good to know that the sparrows and starlings, both national ‘low numbers’ species, are doing so well here.

Blackbirds are abundant. They strip the orange and red pyracantha berries by the back door, and nest in it in summer. They enjoy crab apples from the trees and a plentiful worm supply on the lawn throughout winter. They love foraging in the bark mulch and make a mess of it on the lawn, which tidy gardeners may not enjoy!

We welcome the Red Wings and Fieldfares in winter- they descend on the orchard from nowhere in astonishing numbers to feast on windfall apples. I never feel bad about leaving apples on the ground anymore.

Our Natural Pool is a magnet for birds, summer and winter, but during the winter months, with the water plants cut back, it is easy to see the birds splashing in the shallows and drinking form the beach.

We see our kingfisher most days now- feeding on newts and diving beetles.

Recently two kingfishers have started appearing together- they spend more time sat beside the water in winter, and have regular altercations with a pied wagtail.

The pool is a convenient watering hole for birds throughout winter – it is interesting to see how different birds have their preferred spot for bathing and drinking. Sparrows and starlings like the beach, gold finches prefer the secluded marginal shelf. Grey wagtails hop on the beach rocks.

In summer we hope to see the reed bunting back nesting amongst the reeds again, and it won’t be long until the swallows are back dipping in the water as we swim.

Not all the garden is open and airy, and the Winter Garden, with its mature shrubs and trees is the perfect place to spot the secretive Blackcap and shy Mistle Thrush.

Likewise adjacent to the house the gravel garden with its free draining surface, sheltered microclimate, plentiful seed supply and protective cover from sparrowhawks, is the perfect habitat for tiny wrens, dunnocks and robins. It’s lovely to watch them go about their busy lives from inside the warm kitchen.

Song Thrushes do well here. Our black soil and plentiful mulches on the borders encourage the not so welcome slugs and snails- thrushes do a great job cracking into these and are welcome here as a natural pest control.

Out in the horse field behind the winter garden, our mixed farm animals have attracted a variety of field birds coming in from the open countryside. We see Starlings, Fieldfares, Redwings, Blackbirds, Pied Wagtails, Pigeons, Mistle and Song Thrush, Crows, Jackdaws, Kestrels, Long Eared Owl, and Buzzards.

The Kestrels nested in our kestrel box for the first time this year and raised 4 chicks.

Regularly seeing birds of prey is a great sign that lower down the food chain things are working well and the ecosystem is well balanced.

Of course any garden with seed heads, berries, fruits and of not too tidy a habit will attract birds throughout winter, but nothing beats a well-stocked bird table with a variety of feeders to bring them all together for enjoyable viewing.

Our feeders are placed close to trees, hedges and shrubs so birds can dive for cover from the Sparrow Hawk.

We enjoy seeing the usual crowd of Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Blue Tits, Great Tits on the feeders along with the more unusual Ringdoves, Long tailed Tits and Woodpeckers.

So great are the numbers now that my birder husband was forced to confess over Christmas that the seed bill for his winter bird feed is astonishingly greater than the feed bill for 6 sheep, 6 goats, 4 horses and one hungry cow.

So we come full circle. Over the last few years I have missed the Barn Owl. I worried that making the garden has somehow robbed it of an open space to hunt. Our resident Tawny Owls have reared chicks in the owl box at the bottom of the garden for the last 5 years and I feared their presence has seen the Barn Owls off.

Barn Owl chicks

Barn Owl chicks

Imagine my delight when we discovered two Barn Owl chicks in the Tawny Owl box late this summer.

If you build it they will come

 

Photography credit: Jeremy Watson

Next NGS Open Gardens, Ellicar Gardens, 26th February 2017

We'll be opening Ellicar Gardens, near Doncaster, to raise money for the National Garden Scheme charities on Sunday 26th February.

This is a great chance to come and explore our natural pool in winter, where it sits like a huge Sky Mirror in the garden, surrounded by naturalistic borders with grasses and seedheads, coloured dogwoods and willows.

Elsewhere in our 5 acre gardens, the Winter Garden will be in flower, with heathers, fragrant shrubs, more striking coloured cornus, specimen trees along with stunning swathes of hellebores and winter bulbs (unless the voles eat them over winter!)

Teas, home baked cakes and hot soup are served in the tea room

Plant Sales and Gardener’s Market in the Plant Courtyard.

All entry money to the NGS charities. For more details click here

Winter Pool Servicing

This time of year the Ensata team are busy carrying out Winter Maintenance and servicing our client’s pools.

A Winter Service includes cutting back and removing the dead reeds and marginal and clearing fallen leaves from the pool, as well as vacuuming the pool swim zone and walls.

The water is tested; filter material is replaced as required and pumps are serviced.

The pool can be left standing throughout winter without the pumps running- still water is great for reflections, or you can simply leave the pumps running as in summer, and enjoy the movement and sound of water throughout winter.

We ensure your pool is sparkling and the water crystal clear for the coming swimming season.

Or perhaps as the water is so enticing some of our clients will take up the growing trend for cold-water swimming?

Trees and Autumn Leaves

This mild, drawn out autumn has seen a glorious display of brilliant colour, highlighting how trees really are a beautiful feature beside water. Vertical and horizontal lines, changing colours, tree silhouettes reflected in the water’s surface… but what about those thousands of falling leaves?

Each leaf is packed with nutrition (as every gardener knows leaf mould is the best slow release fertilizer). They fall in hundred’s of thousands, are blown often considerable distances and if close to your natural pool, will enter the water, quickly sink to the pool floor and if left, decay over winter, releasing nutrients into the pool in time for spring – perfect timing for advantageous algae which will then bloom!

Small pools are easy to fit with a net during leaf fall, which stops leaves entering the water. This is easily planned for at construction stage.

However larger, irregular shaped pools require extra vigilance during autumn. The best thing is to gather up all leaves daily from around the pool- great exercise, and quite satisfying gathering up crunchy fresh leaves in the autumn sunshine- but we recognize it is not always convenient or even possible to be on top of the job daily.

Of course it would be easy to say ‘No trees beside a Natural Pool’- but quite honestly the Ensata team all love trees in gardens, next to water, and we do have a few tricks up our sleeve for leaf management.

Here at Ellicar Gardens, around our show pool, Will and Sarah have planted over 270 specimen trees, and a small wood- but with great caution- most of the leaf drop varieties are on the windward side of the pool; we choose varieties with leaves that ‘drop and stay’ rather than ‘drift and blow’ long distances; we plant buffer strips- stunning borders of grasses and perennials that trap the leaves in Autumn; we use specimen conifers close to the water (think Canadian lakes); we religiously rake up fallen leaves throughout Autumn; any leaves falling into the water are netted out immediately.

For clients considering new gardens and pools- Sarah, our planting specialist, offers advice on selecting and placing non- invasive tree species, to enhance your pool and garden without the headache of hours of leaf clearing every autumn.

Contact us for more information about tree guidance for natural pools.

Light in the Winter Months

Lighting your pool and garden simply means you can enjoy it during the depths of winter - which is really uplifting on a dark winter’s evening.

Lighting is an art form – too much of it and the place soon looks like Blackpool illuminations- to little and it can look gloomy.

Ensata’s pool electrical and lighting specialist, Ian Schofield, works closely with our clients at design stage, creating both simple and effective lighting solutions to state of the art sound and light synchronized systems controlled by touch pads from the house.

It is important that the cabling and trunking is in place during construction to future proof the design.

Here are a few tips to consider when planning your pool and garden lighting:

In-pool lighting:

1 Underwater Lighting

is great for those late night swims on a balmy summer’s evening.

These can be expensive and powerful (even colourful) flange lights which light up the entire swim zone- or a lower cost option is to install spotlights, which can be mounted on the pool wall, under decking.

These softly light up the water, and create beautiful ripple patterns as you swim.

2 Moving Water

We love lighting effects of moving water in the pool- for instance ripples from the inflow jets; up-lighting water fountains in millstones; boulder bubblers; back lighting water cascades; rills even up-lighting the bubbles that rise form the carbonators.

Lighting effects on moving water creates a sensory experience and brings the water alive in the dark.

3 Safety Lighting around the pool

Spotlights set in around the water’s edge, in decking or stone coping. These are a good idea if you enjoy late night gatherings beside the water- they highlight the water’s edge safely for people.

4 Functional Lighting

Consider the activities you wish to enjoy outdoors- if you would like to sit and read beside the water, down lighters would be the answer- these can be mounted on pergolas, trees, garden buildings.

If you need to light the way to your pool, lighting a path, light washing a wall, spots lights set in the borders may work well.

5 Fibre Optics

These tiny pin-pricks of light, 2mm in diameter, sparkle in a star like effect around the pool - think fire flies in summer.

Easiest applied in decking- where the 2mm diameter fibre optic cables are drilled through the surface of the deck and polished smooth. You really do not see these until they are switched on at night- the effect is quite magical.

Our Ensata show pool has tiny fibre optic lights set into the penny deck surrounded by tall reeds. Fibre optics lights can be set on a ‘twinkle wheel’ where they literally sparkle, or a colour change option.

6 Depth of Field

The best lighting effects that allow you to enjoy your pool from further away are not actually in-pool lighting- rather up-lit garden features that are reflected to great effect in the water.

Specimen trees up-lit or laced with fairy lights will magically be reflected in the water. Likewise buildings softly washed with light,  statues up-lit, pergolas down-lit, create depth of field in the garden as well as illuminating your pool.

7 Winter Colour

One of our favourite lighting tricks is up lighting swathes of coloured cornus or red willows in winter in the borders beside the water- with soft white lighting, these literally glow like fireworks- and you get double the effect for your money as the borders are cast magically into the pool.

We've recently been awarded Gold Standard in The UK Pool & Spa Awards 2016 for Residential Outdoor Pool of the Year.

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We were delighted to receive a Gold Standard in this year’s international UK Pool and Spa Awards. Facing tough competition from conventional pools around the world, our first ever Natural Pool project in Newark, clearly caught the judges' eye.

Still one of our favourite projects, this 180m2 Natural Pool is really like a Spa Pool.

Raised above the ground (due to high ground water conditions), this pool has attractive dry stone terraces, which soften the edges, integrating it into our client’s garden beautifully.

The 12m x 4m swim zone is ideal for lengths and family fun.

A gently sloping beach is the perfect place for our client’s young grandchildren to play, and helps to warm the water naturally. Paved steps leading down to a paved shallow end and stone coping on the internal walls also contribute to natural thermal gain.

This pool warms up quickly in spring, without heating, and reaches 22C and 24C in summer.

We were delighted to use our client’s own water lilies, which have been in her family for 100 years. They are simply stunning, flowering non- stop throughout the summer months.

This medium sized pool is quick and easy to look after, and our client is so happy with it she has now installed a cabin behind the sun deck, so she can enjoy the water in winter, which also doubles as an excellent spare bedroom for her guests.