Building a pond.

The idea of a pool or pond in the garden, is to create the soothing sound of running water, to grow aquatic plants such as lilies and irises or to encourage wildlife into the garden. There are various ways to build your pond or water feature. Whilst there are any number of shapes and sizes that a pond can have they fall into one of two distinct types:

  • Informal

    This is the most common and popular type of pond. Informal ponds don't have any defined edges or straight sides, planting is often varied, and they are generally less effort to maintain, perhaps cutting back or removing any boisterous pond plants, a couple of times a year, and covering in autumn to reduce the amount of leaves falling in the pond. They look fairly natural and echo the shape of lakes and pools found in the countryside. They are fairly quick to build and are fairly inexpensive.

  • Formal

    Formal pools tend to be more regular and in shape, the planting is usually limited and restricted to one or two plant types, often water lilies and irises. They do require quite a bit of work to build and maintain, but they look great and are a necessity in a formal garden.


Ornamental water features are great for putting on, or near a patio, where you can hear the movement of water, whilst relaxing or entertaining. They are often sold in kits in garden centres, so are quick to install, and fairly easy to maintain. They can be formal, such as water bubbling out of a drilled boulder/millstone or water overflowing from a toppled urn, or more informal, like a small half-barrel with a dwarf water lily.

The drilled stone balls are a safer water feature option if you have children, as the water reservoir is covered with a grill

Building your water feature


Decide on the shape and position of your pool or pond and dig. Once the desired depth has been reached you will need to protect the waterproof liner (butyl liner) by laying down soft sand or an old carpet to prevent stones in the soil puncturing the liner. Remember to include the sides of the pool or pond when calculating the area of the liner. Lay the liner over the protective layer, pleating and folding the sides as the pool is filled with water.

The last job is to hold the liner edges in place. This can be done by laying a concrete base under the liner edge and laying paving, brick or rocks around the perimeter.


Formal ponds are often dug into the ground, with retaining side walls built to create seating around the water's edge or a deeper pond. They can be built level with the ground, but this often means more soil excavation to create the same effect and they seem to lose some of that formality.

Either way, the building is similar to the creation of the informal pool. Because the formal pond is regular, the shape is marked out with pegs and sting lines, and then dug to the required depth. Marine plywood will give straight, vertical sides to your pool rather than relying too much on digging skills. If your pool is to be above ground then retaining walls will have to be built in either brick or stone. You will still have to line your pool to protect the liner from being punctured and hold the liner in place by laying a final layer of brick or stone on the edges.


The water is pumped up from a rigid fiberglass reservoir either sunk into the ground or sitting on the patio. Check that the reservoir is level as you are installing it, to reduce water loss. A plinth or an pier of bricks should be placed inside the container to support the centre of the grill and the stone, fountain or statue placed on top. Cobbles and or small stones are then arranged to cover and hide the grill.

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