Bringing Nature Home – Water Water – Matt Hoad explains his water-based system helping Bringing Nature Home

11 Jan 2022

‘Water, water every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water every where,
Nor any drop to drink.’

Extract from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem, ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ (1834)


This text refers to the salty water of the sea that could not be drunk and many also look at rainwater and think the same. However this fresh water is vital for life and far better than our chemically treated mains supply for land-based animals and plants.

Our homes tend to shed this precious resource like its is a problem that has to be hidden and removed like water off a ducks’ back. Lifeless roofs of clay tile and bituminous felt shed the rain quickly but as long as we plan how to capture, store and irrigate all those droplets of rain really add up to something special!

I wanted to build a water-based ecosystem for frogs, newts, and anything else that needs an aquatic habitat. I also wanted to demonstrate that a small mid-terrace suburban house could provide all the rainwater needed to feed a standard water butt and an eye-catching garden feature.

I did not want a hidden pond at the bottom of the garden, so I built a reflecting pool as a shallow water store right along the back of the house that also formed an aquatic garden. A bridge of oak sleepers cantilevers towards the back door as a point of transition over water so you have to move through this space into the garden rather than just looking at it. To my daughter’s amusement she could hear the frogs croaking loudly in early spring and a frog or two was found hoping around the kitchen if the door was left open!

The solution to harvesting rainwater was provided by firstly collecting water from the roof downpipe into a water butt. When this is full water cascades further down to a second collection point where it is led away to the middle of the pool. Excess water can then flow into the surface water drain where it is joined by the pool overflow.

Picking up a frog is now normal for my daughter who knows many of the aquatic plants including Yellow Flag Iris and various types of pond weed. As the pool has settled, life has blossomed and continuously changes with dragon and damsel flies, small freshwater molluscs and a plethora of exotic water bugs all right outside the low window sill of the sunspace – ideal relaxation with your feet up and a cup of coffee.

There is plenty of water stored for the summer with a solar powered fountain that circulates the pool water with a background of rhythmical splashes and small colourful lights that appear at night. I sometimes wonder how amazing it would be if everyone in the terrace did their bit to harness this free resource that falls from the sky!