Property: A stroke of suburban genius

Fancy a dip in your backyard? Properties with pools are more affordable than you might think - and you can always build your own.

In The Swimmer, Burt Lancaster effortlessly crawls his way home through the suburban pools of America. His motive? Why, to see if he could. The film might have ended differently had the setting been London, where city swimming pools are few and far between.

Carl Fronda, of Tara swimming pools, an installation and maintenance company, disagrees: "Get in a helicopter and fly over London; you'll be surprised. There are more swimming pools here than California which is six times the size."

Tara is based in Lewisham and Carl regularly serves customers from suburban areas, alongside clients from places where it is hard to imagine private pools, including Blackheath, Lee, and even Catford.

So who is your average swimming pool owner? "It can be anyone, even in what you might call working class areas. They've got money, they don't want to move, so they add an extension and build a pool."

But how much money do you need? Around pounds 24,000 buys a concrete mosaic- tiled pool which is 16ft wide and 32ft long with a depth of up to 6.6ft. A pool with liner is around half that, but will eventually need replacing. Carl begins by explaining boiler sizes: "A 125,000 BTU heats a pool in three days but a 400,000 one takes two hours. Then there's your pump. I could talk about pools all day." Clearly a pool is not just about swimming. Installation requires precision planning if you wish to avoid hours of slow hoovering because of an inadequate pump.

Pools are de rigeur for those urbanites who can choose from the proliferation of London's latest developments. An apartment from pounds 295,000 or townhouse from pounds 530,000 buys access to a 68ft pool at Berkeley Homes' Harrods Village in Barnes. Islington's Angel on the Green development features a three- bedroom penthouse with a pool, for a cool pounds 1,000,000.

But there are established London buildings where residents have always enjoyed private swimming facilities. Dolphin Square's serviced apartments in SW1 were built with a pool in 1937, but are only available for rental on a three-year lease. Annually, around eight per cent of the flats, which are administered by a trust, become vacant .

If you are of more slender means (and proportions) you could pick up a property for around pounds 20,000 in Brixton's Tudor Close, where 100 studio flats nestle around an open-air pool. Suzy Clark has worked at the Woolwich's Brixton branch for two years, but has yet to sell a studio: "The flats are snapped up by developers. They're ideal for letting but are extremely small."

Blackheath is a greener, village-like enclave where pools seem less unusual. But William Hale, negotiator for Comber & Co, sees more pools than clients who want them. On his books, Mr Hale currently has two properties with pools, including one in Blackheath Park, on at pounds 1.2 million, which has an indoor and outdoor pool: "They are quite rare but we don't have clients waiting for houses with pools."

Mr Hale doesn't believe a pool detracts from a house's value and has never heard of anyone filling one in: "A pool is a luxury. A client may buy and say they'll put up with it but I bet they enjoy it when they're there. I certainly would."

A few miles from Blackheath lies Catford, known for its dog track - not for its plethora of pools. Yet walk down the Victorian terraced streets and you may hear splashes on a sunny day. Anne Eastwood has lived there for more than 20 years and, with husband George, installed a pool in the Seventies which their children and grandchildren still use.

Anne and her friends like lounging around by the pool but she would not dream of getting involved in its regular maintenance: "I leave that to George. It's like therapy; he loves it. He's always hoovering and pouring things in. If I think my friends will be round at the weekend I tell George to get hoovering and switch the boiler on. It gives him something to do."

Most Londoners, tired of toiling in grimy offices, head for the many open air communal pools dotted around the capital. On a grey day you could find yourself practising your synchronised swimming alone. But when the sun shines your relaxing swim can be marred by hordes of sweaty souls with the same idea. The Serpentine is stuffed, Highgate is heaving and a brimful of Brixtonites battle for towel space in London's coolest pool, The Lido.

Astute Londoners don't bother competing for swimming lanes. Behind their Thirties' semi in Forest Hill, Sara and Ray Dennis have a 200ft garden and, more unusually, a 20ft long swimming pool. They were attracted to the house for its garden not its "white elephant", which wasn't a big selling point. But their four children love telling schoolfriends: "We've got a pool."

The adults are less enthusiastic. Ray is "occasionally cajoled" into swimming by the kids, but Sara never uses it, despite its thick bubble wrap which conserves heat: "It's freezing. I'd fill it in tomorrow if I could. It's a waste of space. The kids use it a lot, but when their friends come to play you've got to keep a constant eye out. I'd rather have peace of mind."

The Dennis's pool has been used just once this year, but traditionally they enjoy hosting summer lunch parties where their friends can enjoy the pool. Does Sara's popularity soar in the summer? "I'm popular anyway!" Winter tends to be a time for the Dennises to visit friends with larger homes, and in summer Sara reciprocates.

Keith Moon-style excess is not found in Forest Hill. No cars have ever landed in the pool, although someone once rode their bike in, and the sole casualty so far has been a drowned baby fox discovered on return from holiday.

And maintenance? "We're terrible. We let it go green, but I worry about putting lots of chemicals in." The pool is 20 years old and they replaced the liner last year which cost around pounds 1,000.

A pool boosts popularity in (hot) summers, particularly with location agencies who pay daily rates of pounds 500. Penny Johnson of Location Works is always looking for pools within the M25 area, as most film crews are London-based: "The nicer and nearer the better." Penny views many pools around the Docklands and other London developments which are glamorous but often unavailable. Would she use a pool in Catford for fashion shoots? "Models in swimsuits need heated pools so if yours takes five days to heat up, you've got to plan in advance." Switch the boiler on, George.

Comber & Co, 0181 318 9666; Harrods Village, 0181 741 7401; Angel on the Green, 0171 359 5259; Tara Swimming Pools, 0181 244 4040; Location Works, 0171 494 0888

Suggested Topics
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
i100
Sport
Robin van Persie scores the third for Manchester United with a perfectly-guided header
footballLive! Chelsea vs West Ham kicked off 10 Boxing Day matches, with Arsenal vs QPR closing the action
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

    Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

    £70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all