RHSI Tour to Wales 2023

The recent RHSI coach tour to Wales was a delightful journey through some of it’s most enchanting horticultural wonders. Led by Peter Harrison, the trip was a resounding success. The tour included visits to remarkable gardens such as RHS Bridgewater, a stunning blend of history and world-class horticulture designed by landscape architect Tom Stuart-Smith. Bodnant Garden, with its century-and-a-half-old history and breathtaking backdrop of the Carneddau mountains, provided a sensory delight. Plas Cadnant Hidden Gardens, a historic garden under meticulous restoration, showcased the beauty of Anglesey.  Bluebell Cottage Gardens and Nursery in Cheshire offered a tranquil respite amidst natural beauty and delicious cakes. Thanks to the meticulous planning and organization of Peter Harrison and the events team, this journey was a true celebration of superb gardens



Natural Swimming Pools and Wildlife Ponds in Ireland

Building a Harmonious Haven

Ireland’s captivating landscapes, marked by rolling emerald fields, meandering streams, and verdant woodlands, serve as a canvas for fostering biodiversity and nurturing a symbiotic relationship between nature and humanity. Creating natural swimming pools and wildlife ponds is an endeavour that not only enhances the environment but also elevates human well-being, offering multifaceted benefits to all.

Why Build Natural Swimming Pools and Wildlife Ponds in Ireland?

Ecological Benefits
Ponds, both natural and those transformed into swimming pools, represent powerful tools for enriching wildlife habitats and promoting biodiversity across the Irish countryside. These freshwater ecosystems serve as sanctuaries for a diverse array of species, making them essential components of our natural environment.

Healthy ponds support the growth of various aquatic plants, insects, and wildlife. Dragonflies, damselflies, bees, hoverflies, amphibians, bats, small mammals, and a plethora of bird species rely on ponds for their survival. The vibrancy of these pond ecosystems contributes significantly to Ireland’s overall biodiversity.

Human Benefits
Constructing natural swimming pools and wildlife ponds not only benefits the environment but also enhances the quality of life for local residents. These aquatic oases offer an enchanting escape, providing individuals with the opportunity to immerse themselves in the beauty of nature. They become serene focal points for relaxation, reflection, and recreation, enriching the aesthetics and overall well-being of the community.

Natural swimming pools serve as sanctuaries of mental respite, offering a refuge from the fast-paced demands of modern life. They provide the perfect setting for gatherings with friends and family or simply unwinding by the water’s edge, fostering a deeper connection with the natural world.

Environmental Benefits
From an environmental perspective, both natural swimming pools and wildlife ponds play a vital role in conserving water resources and safeguarding local ecosystems. By slowing the flow of water across the land, they mitigate soil erosion caused by heavy rainfall. These aquatic features act as reservoirs, releasing water gradually during dry periods, aiding in groundwater recharge and drought mitigation.

Moreover, well-designed ponds, whether transformed into swimming pools or retained as natural habitats, possess the capacity to filter excess nutrients from runoff, improving water quality before it enters nearby watercourses. They function as nature’s sponges, absorbing excess rainwater and averting flooding in low-lying areas.

Planning and Location

The initial step in creating a harmonious haven in Ireland through natural swimming pools and wildlife ponds is to gain a comprehensive understanding of these ecosystems and design principles. Explore available resources to acquire valuable insights into best practices for their construction and management.

Begin the process by surveying your property to identify suitable locations for your aquatic feature. Areas that are naturally wet, contain springs, or can be supplied with clean water are excellent starting points. Consider your long-term plans for the land and implement safety measures to prevent accidents involving children or wildlife.

Designing Your Aquatic Haven
When designing your natural swimming pool or wildlife pond, prioritize sustainability and long-term development. Create a pond with gently sloping edges, as many pond-dwelling species thrive in the shallow waters near the bank.

Rather than a uniform pond, aim for a complex landscape with multiple pools of varying sizes and depths. Incorporate little bays and inlets to enhance habitat diversity around the aquatic feature’s edge. Allow your creativity to flow, considering the potential for multiple uses, from irrigation to aquaculture.

Choosing the Perfect Site
Selecting the right location for your aquatic haven is of paramount importance. It should align with soil type, available water sources, and the type of pond you intend to build. To preserve the integrity of local ecosystems, avoid constructing ponds in areas that could damage existing valuable habitats or rare species.

Whenever possible, build ponds near existing wetlands to improve habitat connectivity while respecting the delicate balance of local ecosystems. Remember that ponds don’t need to hold water year-round; seasonal ponds can be vital habitats for various species.

Planning Your Dig
Prior to excavation, take precautions to avoid disturbing existing habitats or species, especially when using heavy machinery. During the digging process, prevent silt from entering watercourses and keep inlets and outlets small to maintain control over water flow.

It’s often beneficial to allow the pond to naturally evolve after initial excavation. Over time, you can return to modify or extend it, creating new pools and wetland areas or clearing excess vegetation.

Digging Your Aquatic Haven
Several machinery options are available for pond excavation. If you lack experience, consider hiring a licensed operator. Mark essential areas, strip topsoil, and shape the subsoil to achieve your desired pond size and shape.

Practice responsible soil management by sorting excavated soil into topsoil and subsoil to prevent nutrient contamination of the water. Dispose of soil responsibly or reuse it elsewhere on your property.

Managing Your Aquatic Haven
Resist the urge to introduce plants or animals to your pond. Nature will rapidly colonize the space, resulting in a vibrant and thriving ecosystem. Keep an eye out for invasive species, including native ones, and take steps to manage their growth as needed.

Ensure appropriate fencing to prevent livestock and wildlife access and to maintain safety. Keep your pond clean and unpolluted by implementing measures to prevent slurry, fertilizers, sprays, silage effluent, or sediment from entering the water.

A Natural Retreat
Creating natural swimming pools and wildlife ponds in Ireland is a profound endeavour that enriches both the environment and the human spirit. These pristine aquatic ecosystems offer multifaceted benefits, fostering biodiversity, enhancing the quality of life for local residents, and contributing to sustainable water management. Approach this project with care, sensitivity to the environment, and a long-term vision, and you will be rewarded with a harmonious haven that embodies the essence of harmony between humans and nature, serving as a testament to our commitment to preserve Ireland’s rich natural heritage.

Airfield Estate Gardens

Ardan Garden

Ballintubbert Gardens and House

Ballycommane Garden

Ballyedmond Castle Garden

Ballymaloe Cookery School

Ballyrobert Gardens

Bantry House and Garden

Belvedere House Gardens & Park

Benvarden Garden

Birr Castle Demesne

Blarney Castle and Gardens

Burtown House and Gardens

Caher Bridge Garden

Colclough Walled Garden

Collon House

Coolaught Walled Garden

Coolwater Garden

Dawros Gallery & Garden

Dower House

Drimbawn Garden

Dromana House and Gardens

Festina Lente

Fota House – Victorian Working Garden

Gash Gardens

Glenarm Castle Walled Garden

Glenavon Japanese Garden

Hester Forde Garden – ‘Coosheen Garden’

Hillsborough Castle and Gardens

Hunting Brook Gardens

Irish National Stud and Gardens – The Japanese Gardens and St. Fiachra’s Garden

Johnstown Castle, Estate, Museum and Gardens

June Blake’s Garden

Kilfane Glen and Waterfall

Kilgar Gardens

Killruddery House and Gardens

Killyreagh Garden

Kilmokea Country Manor and Gardens

Kilravock Garden

Kylemore Abbey and Victorian Walled Garden

Lodge Park Walled Garden

Loughcrew Gardens


Mount Congreve Gardens

Mount Stewart House and Gardens

Mount Usher Gardens

Oakfield Park

Old Deanery Garden

Patthana Garden

Rothe House Museum and Garden

Rowallane Garden

Salthill Garden

Seaforde Gardens

Seanabea Cottage


Strokestown Park Gardens

Tourin House & Gardens

Tullynally Castle Gardens

Tyrrelstown House Garden

Woodville Walled Garden

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