Getting into the swim (Sep07)

Last year I didn’t have a proper holiday – a couple of days camping in the rain in Cornwall. In fact I can’t remember when I last had a holiday in the sun. So this year’s family trip to stay with friends in the South of France was really exciting – the first week in the Luberon and the second just West of Avignon.

Beautiful sunny days with lots of swimming. In the sea – it was surprisingly cold. In rivers – my absolute favourite. And in swimming pools. I think it’s pretty well impossible to have an eco-pool.

Perhaps diverting a stream and plunging into its icy depths would be pretty good. Otherwise, pools are big water users. They generally need topping up pretty regularly, particularly when my children and friends have been playing noisy, splashing games of ‘it’.

Pools also use lots of chemicals – almost whatever treatments are applied. And, of course, most of them nowadays have some sort of heating system. I’m quite often asked about whether it’s worth installing solar heating for pools. In theory this should be the answer. In practice it appears that solar heating is rarely sufficient for what people want – and it’s expensive.

Another alternative to oil heating is ground source heat pumps. This entails quite a lot of digging. So, if you go for it, the best approach is to do it at the same time as installing the pool, or carrying out some other excavation work. Then it would make financial sense too. Heat pumps run on electricity – but you get about 4 units of power out to every 1 you put in (some people think that’s optimistic).

But, if you’ve got a pool in the South of France, I think you should do without a heating system at all. Perhaps when it gets colder, after the long hot summer, you should either be brave or do something else!

Perhaps I’m a bit hardy though because I actually quite enjoy the tingly feeling you get when you’ve been in cold water. As I swam West towards the setting sun on the Dorset coast, a few days ago, the velvety feeling of the water gave me a warm feeling that couldn’t be surpassed by any pool.

And now I’m back at work – and finding it very difficult to get into the swing – or swim…..

Posted originally on Telegraph Blogs by Julia Hailes

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