My eBay 
Haydn Welch Jewellers 
We have now retired 
"This book is a amazing, you will be compelled to put a natural pool into your garden" 
Duncan Goodhew 
Now you can build a Natural Swimming Pool 
to be proud of 
Haydn Welch 
First person in the World to swim the English Channel : Backstroke 
Important Note 
The purpose of this manual is to help you to decide whether or not you might take the steps 
required to build your own organic natural swimming pool. It will detail the processes which 
I followed in building mine, the mistakes I made along the way and some soutions which might  
help you to avoid those mistakes.  
Please be aware, I am not a builder and have limited diy skills. Therefore the processes I have 
used might easily be flawed. If you decide to follow the processes I have outlined in this publication,  
please ensure you are satisfied they are correct before you do so. I am not liable for any costs 
damages or losses you incurr through implementing any of the processes outlined in this manual.  
This manual does not represent to be anything other than something for you to read. 
Haydn Welch 2014 
Ice Swimming 
I am I suppose, quite ordinary but sometimes have extraordinary ideas. It all started when we were on our annual summer holiday at Swanage and standing on Buck Shore, I looked out across the sea, pointing to the Isle of Wight (believing it to be France) I said to my mum, "I am going to swim to France one day". It took a few more years before I realised France was somewhat further away. Then Dad, he would encourage me to jump off the pier , It had decking and diving platforms in those days). He would pay me a tanner for every jump. He didn't seem to understand I would do it for nothing. Then he would swim with me around the pier and when I got tired I would ride on his back. 
One day he told me I could swim around it on my own, and he would give me a shilling. I was four and three quarters. 
So I guess I was destined to be a little different after all. I am asked where I get it from and so the blame has to be fairly placed on my dad, a Parachute Training Instructor in the RAF and accomplished boxer of International repute. During the war years he was commandeered by Colonel Stirling and spent quite some time attending to unusual activities in the desert, an all round nutter and the last of his breed. 
After my birth (having rather foolishly popped out ten weeks early) and release from hospital many months later (mother and I both having barely survived), dad was encouraged to provide exercise for my underdeveloped lungs. Today of course, ten week premature babies are a matter of course. It was a different story in 1957 and the results of such historic medicine are nothing short of miraculous. Dad decided to give me deep baths during which time he would hold me underwater. The stories say, until the back of my neck went blue. After which time, he would lift me clear, allowing me to draw in the biggest lungful of air. I would float happily, long before I could crawl. I was made to laugh and allowed to cry. I suppose it must be difficult for a baby to exercise in any other way, I could hardly go jogging but the water forced my under develped lungs into regular exercise. 
Then, after hearing all dads bedtime stories, it is not surprising I enjoy the freedom of adventure. Yet today, it would be dad who would most actively attempt to discourage such activities. He fails. I expect he is glad. 
I was also being taught to swim at my local swimming club and I can still remember swimming my first width of St James Street Junior pool, unaided. 
Taunton Swimming Club was a great baby sitter. Mum and Dad were always working late, teaching ballroom dancing at their dancing schools in Taunton and Bridgwater. I was sent off, rolled up towel in hand, paid my dues and learned to swim, competitively. Galas were always the best . I loved racing but rarely won. Often I would race against 
bigger boys, learning how to lose. Sometimes mum was there to cheer me on, dad was always working. 
Then the day came. The race was held in Bristol and dad had to take me. I was eleven, and entered into the Somerset Age Group championships. 
I can't remember swimming the heats but I made the final (6th slowest). Four lengths of the 25 yard pool and I was in lane 6. I raced my little heart out but knew it was not to be. Even in lane 6 you still get to know you are not ahead. 
Then, it was the last length. Breathing to my right, (the other swimmers all to my left), I saw my friend Tony Donnan. He was trotting alongside the pool, a couple feet away directly in my line of sight. He was yelling and waving with an urgency I had never seen. The noise was deafening, somehow I knew I had to work harder. 
That day in 1968, it mattered , the day my dad was watching. I won the biggest race of my life. No longer the fastest 11 year old in Taunton, I was the fastest in the County . 
Just an ordinary boy 
My Dad 
Somerset Age Group Champion 
Swanage Pier 
It is 1973, the Somerset Age Group Championships are being held in Taunton and I am entered into the 16 years age group. 
Everybody new Duncan, or at least, everybody recognised him even if they had never spoken. He had the countenance of being untouchable, even then. His bald head (an accident falling from a tree, we were told), and not just his head, at least, that's what they say, and I believe them. 
Duncan was one of the priveleged few, schooled at one of the most expensive schools in England, Millfield. We would often encounter Millfield in league galas, and in those early days Taunton were a good team. I swam for Taunton with great enthusiasm. But Millfield were always the team to beat, and often they were unbeatable 
We swam the heats and I qualified into the final. In earlier races Millfield were winning Gold and Silver, in my race they had three swimmers in the final and were looking for a clean sweep. 
A Somerset Champion at eleven (now aged sixteen), looked down the pool wondering whether it were possible to be Champion ever again. This was my pool, my team mates were watching and it was down to me to stop this clean sweep. Millfield Gold, Silver and Bronze was never going to happen, not in my patch, not at Taunton. 
Racing is tough sometimes, and whilst I can no longer remember the name of the winner, Bruce I believe, nor do I remember the name of the silver place (although they were both Millfield swimmers). I do remember the name of the bronze medal winner, Haydn Welch, and in fourth place Duncan Goodhew. 
It would have been great to win, but I really spoiled their 1,2,3 and Duncan was a great scalp to claim. 
A year later, I had to leave school and get a job. Whilst Duncan could stay on in education and swimming. Gaining the strength of young adulthood and the best coach in the UK. A few years later in Moscow, an Olympic Gold medal. 
Duncan was always going to be a hero, and I had one small claim to fame. Once, just once, I beat Duncan Goodhew. 

Swimming The English Channel 

It happened one Christmas as I sleepily sat in my favoured armchair, looking at the boys with their presents. I remembered being their young age and I remembered the dreams I had of the adventures I would undertake when I grew up. I realised I had done little in the intervening years to make any of them happen. Determined with the resolve that impresses itself around that time of year, to make a difference, I took out a pencil and started to write a list of all the things I ever wanted to do. Many things Mum had often said ‘No’. Things like going to the beach even though it was raining. I never 
understood why I wasn’t allowed to do certain things just because someone else said no. My list grew and it wasn’t difficult to decide to end the list when it reached 100 things. 
Of course, climbing Everest was in the list along with walking to the South Pole. Swimming for England, learning to fly, reading the Bible, delivering a baby. For the sake of building the list to 100, some items were obviously less important, but others seemed to have been recorded in my heart. Swimming the Channel was somewhere around number ten, but was immediately calling to my soul. It was clearly number one. I determined there and then to make it happen, afterall, it was the first dream I remembered having. 
Thank goodness I had no idea how I would commence training to swim the Channel and more importantly how tough the training would be. I simply made the choice on the understanding that because people have swum the Channel, why shouldn’t I be able to do the same. I remembered a newspaper article earlier that summer of a successful Channel swimmer and spent some time going through the old newspapers in our local Gazette office to find the report. There it was, Paul Millett. It didn’t take long to find his phone number and an hour later I was speaking to his coach Tom Watch. These names meant nothing to me at the time, but it turned out I was speaking with giants. Just two phone calls and I was armed with a twelve week pool training schedule and a target date to be ready for open water training by April. 
All competitive pool swimmers have thoughts to ‘swim the Channel one day’. For some, the idea becomes engraved into those special times of comfort that we call childhood dreams. A place where, as a four, five or six year old, we can do anything we like. A place where limits do not exist and permissions are never refused. A place where heroes live. 
Perhaps for most, a place which fades with age and is lost amongst the clutter of life. Only to be found again during fanciful days of fond remembrance during the quiet moments of grown up reflection. To all those who remember their dreams as unreal illusions, I would suggest an experiment. 
Allow your mind to reflect and think back to those days, to feel the desire to have your time all over again and with that time, the moments to make your childhood dreams come true. Your vision will soar, your pulse will race. The reality of opportunities will course through your soul. Your spine will tingle. Can you really make your dreams come true? Yes you can. 
I was never told the hours and hours of training off Weymouth would freeze my body to the core. Nor, when open water training started, my wife would have to put up with my cold damp body acting like an ice box in bed. Leaving the water by 8pm, driving 90 minutes to get home, it still took hours lying in bed before I warmed up sufficiently for a cosy night time cuddle. Its funny, Tom would say that driving home with the heater on would waste efforts expended in conditioning to the cold. There was no point in suffering the torture of cold water training and wasting it during the drive home by using the heater. We were to get used to being cold for hours and still go to bed naked. During the nights, I would suddenly thrash my arms or legs, waking Nicola up. My muscles seemed to forget that I had left the water hours earlier. I would sleep throughout. 
Training was tough. My companions were Paul Millet and Bob Holman. Paul had no thoughts for another Channel swim, but Bob and I aspired. It gave purpose to our efforts. We would travel to Weymouth where our coach Tom would have us swim in the freezing waters off the main beach, in April for thirty minutes. Soon the swims became an hour, then two hours. Always it was freezing and the immersion times were gruelling so early in the season. 
Eventually, Tom and his friend John would prepare Tom's boat Wind Song and we would meet up at Phill Gollops' beach in Castle Cove. Tom had coached Phill to swim and he became the worlds youngest swimmer at the time aged 16. Swims alongside Wind Song would last a few hours. On the 11th June we were up for a six hour swim. Ever since that day, I have never been able to repeat such a swim in UK waters so early in the year. The same again on 24th June. This was memorable swim, after five hours, Paul had got out leaving Bob and I swimming together. Although we were both tired and still not used to swimming for such extended periods, we gradually increased our pace, as we swam side by side. After a few minutes we were racing each other. Each trying to gain a yard on the other. Nothing else mattered, we paid no attention to the effort, the cold or the direction, we simply raced. Neither one of us could gain a single inch of ground and after half a mile or so, we slowed down together. We got told off for not swimming straight. 
4th July. What a day. Time for a ten hour swim. Again a date I have never been able to replicate for such a swim. It was a tough swim. Hailstones included. Wind Song would trail a line catching dinner, mackerel, sea bass it didn't matter. Sometimes Bob would weaken, then Paul and I would suffer, only to regroup and struggle on together. 
Once a week we would do a long swim and once a week we would meet up for a shorter two or three hour evening swim. Often we would swim in The Fleet alongside an Army bridging camp. These sessions were always tough, as the Fleet was very tidal in the narrow waters. We would swim alongside a landing stage at the edge of the current, and try to swim upstream. It was usually straight forward at the edges, but once clear of the stage, we would try to swim nearer to the centre of the tide. There came a point where the current was too strong and ever so slowly (despite the hard effort) you would drift backwards below the landing stage. Then, once more swimming at the edge, you could , inch by inch, move back upstream and repeat the cycle. 
The jelly fish were numerous. They would drift with the tide and attack you exactly like Space Invaders. As a swimmer, you simply had to keep your wits about you and swim in a slightly eyes forward position. If you were lucky you would see the jelly just before it hit you, and you could rotate away from it, and watch it drift past your body, missing you by inches. Some were real monsters with domes the shape of dustbin lids and bodies that would barely fit inside . It's no mean feat to swim the waters of The Fleet. 
On 16th July I decided to cycle the 50 odd miles to Weymouth prior to a four hour swim. I got there an hour late. Suffered with cramp. Never tried that again. Another time Paul suffered with a damaged eye. He must have scratched it with some sand, he complained bitterly and we drove off to A&E. Some time later, I did the same. It really was painful. Far worse than a jelly sting. 
Training turned strangers into friends forever. 
Bob had his Channel swim and suffered in over 18 hours. 
Soon it was my turn and the obligatory wait for the weather. After seven days at Folkestone, it was clear the weather was not happening. We returned home for a better opportunity. 
19th September and its all systems go. 
0500 at Shakespeare Beach, all greased up and raring to go. I suppose the adrenaline of the moment was the cause for a higher than normal stroke rate, and after three hours I had swam into the shipping lanes. It was a great start, but now I was treading water waiting for a tanker to pass in front. At least we could see the ships. At one point I swim into a semi submerged length of timber, it makes me jump. Then paper, plastic , an old carpet and a fish box. 
After six hours, the call on the radio tells us Anna, a swimmer ahead of us had pulled out. Shortly they motor alongside. It is a sad tale, but one we all are familiar with. The Channel takes no prisoners. 
It is exciting swimming The Channel, I get close alongside the rolling boat. Somehow the closeness exhilarates me. I can study the rust patterns and get real close. I am mesmerised. Suddenly my hand thumps the trawl (a huge metal sheet) hung over the side. It hurts. I am far too close to the boat and swim away. 
The hours take their toll. but I continue swimming through the aches and pains. It really is too far, but a couple more hours and gradually the distance melts away. The pain is placed somewhere else and in a semi daze the swim continues. Suddenly as if going downhill, the thought comes to mind that its been hours and soon, the coast must be there, and it is. Only a training swim left to do,two or three hours and with each feed, I look ahead and yes, the cliffs are closer. Then the beach and even people on the beach. 
Then that magical feeling as your fingertips feel sand as they pull through the gentle surf. I curl into a ball, bringing my knees under me and try to stand. I wobble and stumble. I am clear of water. I will never forget the feeling of French sand under my fingertips. 
Children are on the beach cheering, I raise my arms, smiling from ear to ear. If I were a dog, I would have been wagging my tail. 
A childhood dream comes true in 1992. 
The English Channel swam in 13 hours 42 minutes. 

Swimming The English Channel - Worlds First Backstroke 

We were driving home, having swam the English Channel freestyle. My coach, Tom Watch simply asked me if I wanted to do it again. " Maybe a two way next year?" But I knew immediately, I could not face up to the additional training. I remembered one session where I had planned a short 4 hour swim. I arrived at Weymouth and entered the water, only to 'bump into' Kevin Murphy (King of the Channel). He had already been in for hours, training for a two way. As I finished my session and said goodbye to Kevin, he still had hours to do. The look on his face assured me, I just couldn't match up. 
Tom suggested, why not hasn't been done before. It's odd really, but I knew immediately, I wanted to have another go, and backstroke would excite me sufficiently to struggle through another year of training. Just one problem, I hadn't swum a single stroke for nearly twenty years, and even then it was my third stroke. When I swam a medley, the backstroke always let me down. 
However, the secret ingredient had already been tasted. I didn't even need to consider the difficulties and challenges that would come my way. I simply didn't care. I would swim the English Channel again, backstroke, knowing the challenges would come and be overcome. They did not matter and I didn't need to find out what they might be, nor did it cross my mind as to exactly why backstroke hadn't been swam before , (or even attempted). I simply knew from deep down inside and come what may, I would swim in the Channel again, next year, and it would be backstroke. 
The thing with new challenges is this: If you want to jump out of an aeroplane, don't worry about the training, the nerves, the obstacles. Just make the phone call to the Parachute Training School . If you want to swim the Channel, yes its tough, but just make the phone call and meet up with the people. Get on the track and stay on it. It may be long and there may be stops along the way. But one thing about a track is this: it usually will get you to a destination and often the journey will be faster than you think, if you stay on track. 
Returning home, I spent a few weeks relearning to swim backstroke.It felt awkward for the first couple of sessions but very soon became second nature.The one thing that made it easy was simply a matter that I had already spent a year swimming some pretty tough stuff. I was fit, conditioned and ready for a new challenge. I had no need to build up swimming hours, learn patience or gain the additional resolve needed to train. I already had these in sufficient quantities. All I had to do was become comfortable swimming backstroke.It felt odd that I was even contemplating a Channel swim having not swam backstroke for so long. But I never questioned whether or not it was even possible. Training makes it so and impossible is simply just another persons opinion. 
It wasn't easy. Or should I say, it got difficult once I transferred from the pool to open water in April. No matter how I swam, I could not get comfortable with the waves flushing over my face. Every small drop finding its way up my nose or down my throat .It seemed I was drinking the whole ocean simply by the affects of gravity, drop by drop through my nose and teaspoonful by teaspoonful through my mouth. Salt water simply pouring downhill to the back of my throat. 
I tried everything. Nose clips just fell off within minutes. If attached more tightly, they hurt and still fell off. I tried packing my nose with silicon to assist the clip to stay put. It worked after a fashion. Until my body heat warmed up. The silicon then softened and got swallowed up through my nose into my mouth, and needed spitting out. 
Looking back now, I was fortunate to be training alongside Trish Bayliss who was hoping to become the oldest female Channel swimmer. Her freestyle was a touch slower than my backstroke, so often I could at least settle into her pace and try to relax a little. 
Training through the following months was particularly unpleasant, involving many bouts of sea sickness (something I had never experienced in freestyle). The sickness would creep up on me within an hour or so and it affected my resolve and strength. Doubts crept in as I worried how unpleasant the sessions would be if I were sick for hours. I could not concentrate on stroke rate and comfort, nor could I develop any sense of zen and find that special place of comfort for my spirit to dwell in peace whilst my body struggled with the physicality of such an unpleasant effort. 
Gradually, the hours increased from one, to two, to four and still I was sick. Curling into a ball , face underwater, preferring to do the business under water than have to think about keeping my head clear and risk gasping more salt infested water into my stomach. After being sick, I would feel weak and disheartened, but Tom made me swim on. 
One day a few weeks before the swim, I solved the issue. I simply stuck standard plasters ( the rough textured ones, not the smooth ones) across my nose and sealed the gap of my nostrils together. Then taped up my whole nose to ensure they all stayed stuck on. 
In order to facilitate exhalations through my nose, I put the tiniest spot of Vaseline under my nose, where the plasters would not stick. I could now breath out through my nose but water could not enter. It made all the difference. Once fixed, the plasters would last the whole duration of my swims without needing to be reapplied. It looked odd, but mid Channel there are few spectators. I could now swim in a far more relaxed position and not care if my whole face were submerged by small waves. 
It was so exciting swimming for Tom, and both Trish and I were seeking world first or world oldest status. Straight forward swims would never seem to match up again. The training was always difficult, generally becoming used to the hours, or to be more precise, comfortable and patient of the hours still to do before being allowed to get out. 
One session early August had Trish arriving a couple hours late, but she spotted us and started to swim out to intercept Toms boat, Windsong. During the swim over, she had dropped her car keys which had been attached to her watch strap. We spent the next hour or so, swimming back along her route. After a while I spotted a glint in the sand and duck dived maybe 10 meters, I couldn't tell whether it was her keys, until I actually extended my hand towards them. A real stroke of luck. Later that day, Tom spotted a brown thing floating by and I got the blame. It wasn't me. Sometimes, things help a session to pass more quickly. 
The following week, we were training as usual, but Trish had arranged some TV and radio for her swim. I had been roped in too, although from a different region, they had two stories to cover. I felt awkward with my plastered up nose and removed them, so I could speak and not look silly. 
Tom is filmed from the wheel of Windsong as he looks over the side and waves me on, bellowing words of encouragement in a rather gruff tone. It prompts the question every one has to ask of a trainer. "Just why are coaches always so horrible?" asks the presenter, "Well, if you're not cruel, you don't get the best out of them. It's a cruel sport this" replies Tom. 
After I was finished with the TV cameras, I cruised around close in shore and an older gentleman swam out and approached me. He introduced himself as Gordon Chapman. He had been the first swimmer in 1951, that Tom had coached across the Channel and the 25th Channel swimmer ever. A spot of history, Tom's first and the latest in a rather long list of swimmers that had Tom to thank forever. 
We spent a couple hours with this fun way to use up some training time and I must say, the coverage was fantastic. But is was soon time to get back into normal training routines. 
The day arrived soon enough when we all met up at a Folkestone guest house and then those precious and unforgetable moments on 26th August, standing on Shakespeare Beach, all greased up. The cameras were there again, but this time they were intruding and expected interviews. I guess they needed ten minutes. Trish had arrived ashore before me and was in good voice. The last thing I needed was to stand around , being blow dried in the cold dawn breeze. I brushed off a question with a "We really need to be swimming right now" and off I walked into the shallow surf. Trish followed immediately. Today would be history making, if we both got across, the worlds oldest lady and the worlds first backstroke. 
The swim caused a real stink. 
Early in the year I had swam the Exmouth Fairway Buoy swim, a short sea swim, often used as the first meeting in the South West of the regions distance swimmers. It was a bit of a surprise to see that I was not the only back stroke swimmer, and a guy from Cheltenham was also laying his cards on the table, to be the first to swim the Channel backstroke. 
Suddenly there was a race on, Scott and Amundsen all over again. Except one problem. I had booked my pilot boat the summer before, for a September tide. The Cheltenham guy, had booked his for early August and would get the first crack. Trish had booked hers for mid August. 
It was difficult reconciling the fact another swimmer would have first crack at attempting the swim. I didn't get the full details of his swim, except he did not make it. I felt awkward feeling happy about that. But there still remained sufficient time for him to get in another swim, well before my tide. It was a worrying thought. It just seemed natural, that I go halves with Trish's boat and share her swim. Bringing my swim forward a few weeks before I was ready, was a bad plan (particularly as I had not registered this swim with the CSA) it was a last minute decision but needed to be implemented. 
Looking back through the records of The Channel Swimming Association, it was clear many people had shared a pilot boat. Indeed, Tom had also coached and observed for others that also shared a boat. The rules of the Association were silent on the matter of shared boats and drafting had never been a concern in those days. Being registered to swim was though, and notifying the CSA your swim was planned as a record attempt was also a requirement. 
Side by side we swam, escorted by our boat 'Accord' and the TV boat, filming. It was a relief when they turned back towards Dover after thirty minutes or so. Together we swam. As it was Trish's boat, she called all the shots. I fed when she fed, I swam at her pace, if she wanted to swim one side of the boat I followed. 
The swim progressed for hours as we gently swam alongside each other. Swimming with a companion realy does make a huge difference compared with a solo effort. Then the gales came. Swells were higher than ten feet and winds exceeded F5, we were being battered. We had taken shelter in the lee of the boat and out of the wind. We would swim forward until we were ahead of the bows where we were then whipped with the sting of spray blowing off the waves. Then Accord would be put into gear and would slowly catch us, draw level and pull ahead. We would again be whipped as we fell behind the stern . Accord would then go into neutral and we would slowly overtake the boat and the cycle would start again. 
This continued for a couple of hours but the writing was on the wall. Trish had swam her heart out and after twelve hours, reluctantly climbed back aboard Accord. Defeated by the weather? One thing is sure, had the Channel be gentler she would have stayed in for the last few miles and would have been crowned the worlds oldest female Channel swimmer. Her swim would have counted and mine would have caused controversy. 
I was left in the water and encouraged Tom to take care of Trish while I swam on, rather than having to take care of us both at the same time. The pilot had said we were being taken further away from France by the minute in the storm. I suggested I had been swimming slowly and was cold, but had plenty of swimming left. I could now work harder , get warm and see what happens in the next hour. I stayed in. It was great, I had a five mile battle to get ashore and it felt like a simple training swim but with intensity. I swam my heart out . After an hour, I was much warmer and inspired with the battle. But, I was now six miles from France and it was clear the swim should be abandoned. Safety is paramount and indeed, coming ashore (even if I could get there) would be very risky in a storm, in the dark, and nearer Boulogne than Cap Gris Nez. This effort was the best training swim ever. 
Trish and I huddled together for warmth in the cabin and spent a semi conscious few hours in the rather unpleasant boat ride back to Folkestone. Unaware the storm at sea was being matched by a storm in the offices of the CSA. 
Without delving too much in the history , personalities, politics and reasons of what happened during the subsequent meetings and phone calls. The consequences were clear. No more shared boats and no more swimming side by side. Our failed swims had raised questions which once answered, were rule changers. Whilst all the previous swimmers that had shared a boat , swimming side by side and successfully making the crossing, had been ratified "Channel Swimmers", the practice was no longer judged to be acceptable and new rules were introduced baning both practices. It is now no longer permitted for two swimmers to share the costs of the swim, and swim side by side for the crossing. 
We could always argue about safety or lack of revenue for the pilots if the habit of sharing boats were encouraged. However, the growing number of aspiring Channel swimmers were causing a back log of swimmers waiting as much for available boats as for good weather. Boat sharing by two swimmers (particularly equally paced training companions) swimming together on one tide seemed just one way to resolve the problem. 
The fact that boat sharing had been an accepted practice for years seemed irrelevant. But for some reason, our failed swims had caused sufficient discussion to change the rules. 
Obviously, there needed to be more boats, and now each swimmer would be required to pay the full amount. At about this time, some disharmony between the members of the CSA commitee, pilots, swimmers and other interested individuals caused a split. 
The formation of the Channel Swimming & Piloting Federation (CSPF) eventually brought more boats to satisfy the growing business of escorting the ever increasing numbers of aspiring Channel swimmers and with variations to the rules between the organisations, a swimmer could now select which organisation they would choose to ratify their swims. 
There remained to be answered the most awkward question of all. If I had got across during my unregistered first attempt , my swim would not have counted. Then, if my fellow backstroke swimmer, in a subsequent couple of weeks returned for a second attempt, and succeeded, he would have been officially the worlds first backstroker, even though I would have been ( in reality), the worlds first. 
This would have been a real mess and to a highly strung swimmer, I had given the question no thought whatever. I knew my swim would never have counted but I would certainly have stood clear of water in France and claimed it to be a world first, had I of succeeded. Looking back, I wonder if Tom saw the problem and ensured I would not stay in long enough, calling me out just in case I got across. I hope so. Maybe the bad weather was fortuitous. 
Despite a 'successful' swim, not counting, and the second persons successful swim counting, the second swimmer would always know his swim, despite being officially regarded as being the first, was actually the second. Both swimmers are robbed because of the need to abide by the rules. 
I suppose then, some swims are not simply a matter of swimming. The swims also have to jump through a number of hoops too. Sometimes the hoops are complicated, expensive and poorly designed. Others are in place to retain the integrity and transparency of the swims. Twenty years later, integrity is more and more being questioned and tested to the full. Rules change to incorporate new developments and sentiments, we the swimmers, often demand them. But at the end of the day, the English Channel still has to be swum, and Neptune punishes every one who thinks he is ready. 
Whether the race was still on with the Cheltenham swimmer, I had no idea, except I still had my boat booked for September and properly registered with the CSA as a world record attempt, this time it would count. 
6th September arrived. The tide was in Spring mode and many aspiring swimmers chose to stay ashore that day. Aboard Accord we motored out of Folkestone and followed a moonlight glow, past the tunnel workings and the twinkling lights, on towards Shakespeare beach. All greased up and complete with rather natty sticking plasters applied firmly in place. Channel swimming history in the making. 
0225 Shakespeare Beach. Just the thought sends shivers up my spine. Air temp 54F water 62F. Within two hours, my gentle pace and the flooding tide brings us close to the Goodwin Lightship.This was not good news. I knew I was taking it easy but had no idea how the flood had taken over and had pushed me so far up channel. I had been suffering with cramp in my legs and would spend a few minutes cycling them rather than kicking them, in an effort to stretch them out. Sometime later we had moved inside the light and Ramsgate was directly astern. 
0620 and I am told to stop and look at the sunrise happening behind me. What an awe inspiring site. Photos were taken (and my mum as a surprise, later copied a photo into an original oil painting. It's become a valued possession). The French coast would soon be visible in the brightening morning sky. I get sick and throw up in the water. This is worrying after so few hours thus swam, but simply has to be ignored and is soon forgotten. 
0945, I am told I just missed catching a brown jellyfish in my hand. It's strange how the crew can see these things, but I had no idea. In all the swimming in the English Channel, I have never been stung, not once. Nicely in the separation zone now, with many boats either behind or in front. It was looking to be a great day. Tom yelled at me to get moving, I had been taking things too easily. I suppose, after the swim with Trish, I was aware that I could get across if I left enough in the tank for the final few hours. 
I was beginning to suffer. It's an unusual torment. The body tired after a few hours, but the knowledge there are many more still to swim. I recognise that when I start to think I cannot possibly make it, I am somewhere around half way. This is the hard bit. The mental torture of simply maintaining the struggle for a few more hours. 
Although conditions were perfect, I had muscular pain and was cold. Nine hours in. The struggle made me feel I could not carry on and my thoughts were defeating me. I was desperate and felt I couldn't possibly make it. I suddenly thought of Tom McNally, the non swimming adventurer who sailed the Atlantic in a five foot homemade boat. (I had met him a few days earlier). He had been sponsored by Sector Watches. Their 'No Limits' philosophy popped into my mind and for an hour or so I repeated the slogan in my mind, over and over again, in time with my stroke rate. (left arm," NO", right arm," LIMITS"). I concentrated on wearing the mantle of a world champion, considering the ten second effort of the 100 meter sprint superstars. The negative thoughts were replaced by inspiration. I deserved my record and was going to get it, even if it took the rest of the day and into the night. 
The English Channel really is everything that is said of it. Yes, a few hundred swimmers have got across but many (most) are ordinary people. We are not super fit athletes who can train every day. We are not superstars, not even swimmers in our prime. We simply have a dream to swim to swim the Channel and have to suffer everything it takes. The rest of the swim was painful but my mind was refocused. Dreams can come true if you make them. 
For me, the Channel is about as tough as I could ever imagine. Tough enough that (if a little tougher) it would be too big a challenge and too much to suffer. Yet within my ability sufficient that I simply have to suffer and if I give it everything I have, I might just be able to maintain the suffering just long enough to get close. 
The paradox is clear. Many much greater swimmers than I fail and many succeed in times approaching half the time I would take. I wonder who is the better swimmer. I consider how the record holders would feel if they had to swim for ten more hours. If a top class swimmer can get across in under seven hours then surely they were good enough to swim for seven or ten hours more. After all, I as a pretty rubbish swimmer had to swim for such a time, surely they could too? (Twenty years later the world record would be under seven hours, a full ten hours faster than my swim). I wonder how Trent Grimsey would have felt if he were told he had ten more hours to swim, after his record breaking swim? Surely he was good enough to do so, if required? I reckon he would cry like a baby, just thinking of it. So we cry too, doing it. We stay in far too long, we suffer. We are not good enough but something keeps us afloat, we swim. Enduring the hours, tormenting our souls. Body and spirit defeated, yet we still swim. There is always strength for one more pull. We pull. 
I start to believe again and earnestly promise myself that I will never ever have to swim the Channel again. It really is too tough a swim for an ordinary swimmer like me. After today, I can hang up my trunks. I believe me. 
Twelve hours swimming gets us four miles off the French coast. Four miles now seems insignificant after the many training sessions of similar distance. But it's a false comfort. Nevertheless, I hold the thought close. Only four more miles, maybe three more hours (it turned out to be five more hours). Sometimes it's all you need to know. If only I can keep swimming for a couple more hours, then I will be so close I could almost walk ashore. Even if I had to simply float ashore, I was going to have a great ending to the toughest day of my life. 
Dover Coastguards radio for location check in. It seems the swim is getting a lot of attention now the final stages are being played out. 
1.3 miles from the Abbeyville Buoy, the cliffs getting bigger and the monument on Cap Blanc Nez standing as high as I hope soon to do. But you can't see France when swimming on your back. 
I have been here before, the time when I see the frantic working on the deck, to prepare the rubber Zodiac for the final escort inshore. Soon Accord stands off, and I am aware of the Captains mate and John Calder the CSA observer, coming alongside for the final twenty minutes. It's been a long swim, salt water fills my goggles from the inside and I avert my eyes. 
I am aware I am swimming in shallow water and attempt to stand. I feel the sand under my toes but cannot stand. I swim a few more strokes on my back and try again. I can stand, but facing France I try to walk forward, but only succeed in walking backwards towards England. I fall over. I ceremoniously tear off the plasters from my nose and try again. I stand but cannot walk forwards at all, falling over every time. Soon enough though, I reach shallow enough water where I can crawl on my hands and knees. The water is now inches deep and a few moments later I will be clear. 
Standing up but being unable to stand steady. I look back towards England, it is too far to see in the dimming light. I know it's out there somewhere. It's nearly half past seven at night and getting dark. I try to think how long the swim has taken, but cannot work it out. 
I raise my hands above my head, but they are too heavy to celebrate. I have just become the first person in history to swim the English Channel backstroke. It's an odd feeling, me? How come it was me? Surely there's been a mistake. I am not a great swimmer, I am very average. Really, I am ordinary, but have just done something extraordinary. 
Looking back to England again, I wonder how much more swimming I had left. Could I really swim back to the boat, or further still? It doesn't matter and I stop thinking, I need to rest. There are just the three of us on this deserted section of French beach. I quickly get into the Zodiac and we motor back to Tom on Accord. 
Tom and John said something special. "We'll mark it on our calender 6th September 1993, the Haydn Welch day.....forever" 
Worlds first Backstroke 17 hours 2 minutes. 
Thank you Tom Watch. Words will never be able to express how you have inspired my life. I will be greatful to you and your lovely wife Sheila, forever. Maybe you know that already and the words don't matter. It's all in the smile. Perhaps I should just say "Thanks Tom, you crusty old sea dog". 
And thanks John Calder, for the diaries, cartoons and being the official CSA Observer. 
And my training partners Paul Millet, Bob Holman, Marc Newman, Trish Bayliss. We shared the salt water sores together. 

Natural Swimming Pond 

It was always a decision waiting to be made and one that every swimmer eventually makes. One day, I would want to put a swimming pool into my garden. This raised substantial issues, not list being what does a long distance swimmer do with a swimmng pool ? Something big enough would be ugly , expensive and lower the value of the house. Maybe small was the answer. I bought a cheap plastic pool off ebay. Tied myself to an elastic cord and swam, swam and swam. The pool was operated by a pump unit 
keeping the water moving and chlorine to keep it clean. Despite this, I always had to change the water twice a year. It looked incongruous in the garden and we never quite figured out what to do for a permanent solution. Then, a few years later in January 2014, a BBC 2 program presented by Charlie Dimmock, called The Great British Garden Revival was aired. The program discussed ponds and in particular it featured a natural swimming pond. 
I immediatly decided I was going to get rid of the plastic pool and build a natural one. Although I had no idea how, the program did not discuss that aspect of it. However, that evening I researched the internet and came across a rather eccentric Norfolk chappy called David Pagan Butler on You Tube, extolling the virtues of his natural swiming pond. I bought his dvd and eagerly awaited its arrival. I must say, his TV manner is rather memorable, the dvd was great fun to watch and appeared to explain sufficiently how just about anybody could build their own pond withpout hiring in specialist contractors. Thus a £70,000 project could be turned around for under £15,000 depending on the size of the pond. He had in fact built two ponds, and the dvd explained the process for both.  
Further research found other materials, ideas and companies willing to be contracted to do the work, but virtually nothing to help a self builder. You might have a copy of Davids' dvd already. You will notice that David really does come across as one with no professional skills, slightly eccentric with the air of a boffin, about him. Certainly not a builder in disguise or business trying to sell their custom. In his words, if David can do it, you really can believe that you can do it too. This publication will therefore serve you well in helping you recognise that if I can do it, following Davids model, you too really can do the same.  
I could never afford the cost of building such a large traditional swimming pool. Even supposing I could afford it, the cost would still be impossible to justify. A natural swimming pond appeared to be different. The costs brought right down if the project was wholly diy. Material costs being relatively low, but with huge demands on labour. A diy project really might only cost around 20 % of the contractor price. David explained his project took him two years of spare time. Therefore affording it, is spread over a long time. Of course, I felt two years quite rediculous and decided three months would be better. 
Now, size matters. Less isn't always more. For a swimmer, there are a couple magic numbers........Olympic Long Course is 50 meters, and Short Course is 25 meters. Frankly, there was no point in choosing any other number in between, or outside of these two. Clearly the swimming zone of the pool would therefore have to be 25 meters long. Rather larger than Davids. I would attempt to ensure the length fell within the 3 mm tolerance of the official distance. Therefore maximum length would be 25 meters and 3mm, and no shorter than 25 meters. The width didn't worry me as much, anywhere around 4 meters would do (roughly two lanes of your local swimming pool). Of course, added to these dimensions would be the area of the regeneration zones. 
One thing bothered me still, the size of the project would only increase the cost. David moaned having to lay 400 blocks, I had 1200 to lay. His expensive bit of plastic cost him £3000, mine likely to be £7000. All the costs would be bigger for me. I guessed £15,000 might be sufficient. Now, lets be clear, £15,000 is still a lot of money. I therefore decided there would be no swimming this year. There would be no one hundred and twenty mile round trips a few times a week to Weymouth or other beaches to train in. No £1000 foreign hoilday flights to training camps.No Channel Swimming or competition fees. I probably spend £3000 a year swimming, and this year there would be no swimming. The time, energy and costs would be diverted to the pond. A day swiming would become a day labouring. Having said all of that, you can build a pond half the size , it would still be a substantial project but come in well under £8000. Or copy Davids' plunge pool for a couple thousand. Unfortunately, only 25 meters would ever do for me, and thus my exposure to costs was roughly set at rather more than I would have liked. 
I decided I would commence the build in May and aim to complete it by the end of the summer. This gave me a few months to think it over and prepare. 

Preparing the Ground 

View from bedroom window 
Ground all cleared 
Dismantling the old plastic pool 
Looking back towards the house 
Dismantling the old mobile home 
Prior to removing a few small trees
With a few months to spare before the project could begin, I took my time to dismantle the old pool (which was later sold on ebay), and the mobile home. It was a surprisingly difficult and time consuming task. Luckily I was able to burn the old woodwork and rubbish as I went and tidily packed up all the scrap metal ready to take to the scrap yard to sell. I would say, dismantling a mobile home and having to cart away the rubbish would have made the job really long winded, it took the best part of a week as it was. The ground looked far tidier once the land was tidied. 


I hired the largest digger I could get and a 6 tonne dump truck and reckoned ten days should be sufficient. The weather forecast looked good for the duration. Unfortunately, I needed to finish installing around thirty feet of soil pipe from the extension on the house and fit it into the existing septic tank. This job should have been finished a year ago by the builder, but he went off to another job and the ground was still rather a mess. It took the whole day to lay the pipe and back fill the trench and into the dark before I had levelled and tidied the ground. However, next morning, I was excited to start the excavation for real, eventhough I first had to remove a huge mound of soil which had come from the extension and had been placed alongside the old pool. This took most of the morning. Once cleared I was able to roughly lay out the shape of the lake. 
At this stage, I was happy to commence, even though I did wonder regarding exactly how to plan digging such a large hole. I decided to remove the turf first, followed by the topsoil for the whole area of the pond. This left a patch of excavated ground approx 30 meters by 25 meters and around two feet deep. I had stacked the topsoil into a couple of large spoil heaps ready to be reused nearer the end of the project. Approaching early evening and I started to dig deeper, thinking it best to gradually increase the depth of the lake equally, and leave the deeper swimming zone until last. In hindsight, I believe this was a mistake. I now consider whether the job would have been much easier had I excavated only the swimming zone first and to build the block walls, before excavationg the rest of the lake.  
Shortly after commencing the swimming zone, the heavens opened and it poured with rain. I continued digging, loading the dumper with the clay subsoil, and driving across the lawn to be dumped. At first, everything seemed ok, the work was less pleasent in the rain, but the lawn seemed to standing up to the dumper. The same could not be said for the excavated areas. These turned to a muddy quagmire immediatly the loaded dumper was required to commence its travelling back and fro. The digger was less affected by the rain. The problem was the dumper, after a few runs, it became virtually impossible to drive across the excavated areas. Had the excavtion been limited to the swimming zone, the dumper would not have needed to tarvel over the same area more than twice, and running on grass would have be less problematic. Within thirty minutes, it was obvious the job had to stop until the ground firmed up. The rain lasted until dawn and the next day, in the daylight, the gound was a real mess. The forecast was hopefull though, and although no work could be done that day, the followowing day, things began to dry out. Digging and dumping commenced again. The ground was still very soft and many times the dumpers wheels would spin deeper into the mud. The wet ground was torn to shreds. Nevertheless, I continued throughot the day and working until nightfall. Digging, dumping, digging, dumping. For a few days. It is surprising how much volume the spoil heaps took up and how much time it took to plan where to locate these. In the end, I had to grade the heaps neatly along the garden. Thankfully, I had plenty of space but a smaller garden could have been a real problem. 
The job ceratinly took far longer than I had anticipated and I wonder now, whether it would have been better to have employed a trained operator. I guess he might have finished the excavation in half the time, saving a few hundred pounds in hire charges (which of course would have been paid as his wages anyway). So no cost saving , but maybe a better job. Having said that, there is much value in doing the work yourself. 
Eventually, it was time to take more care and to start measuring the depth of the lake. The ground fell away in two directions and it was surprising difficult to guage by sight. 
Once I thought the swimming zone area looked about right, it was time to put a bunyip together and start measuring. I was shocked to realise that in fact, I had dug far too much sub soil away at the lower end. Although the swimming zone was around two meters below ground level, nearly all the way around, when standing in the lower end, it was clear that the water level ((about five feet deep at the lower end, would only be about two feet deep at the top end). I didn't believe the bunyip and anxiously awaited nightfall, in order to use a laser level. The bunyip was right. 
I had been working since 5am and it was now way past 10pm, it was also dark and I could do nothing more that night. I went to bed and fell asleep immediatly. I had no time awake to consider how best to resolve the matter, however, by morning the problem had been solved in my mind. 
I reckoned I had spent around six hours removing too much soil at the lower end and this gave the swimming zone a deep end and a shallow end. To make the matter worse, the lay of the land gave the impreesion that the lower end of the lake would look like it should actually be a shallow end, therefore it would always look wrong to the eye if this lower end of the lake was actually a deep end. In fact, I had decided to keep the swimming zone an equal depth throughout. I consider the type of swimming I do is sometimes a little off the scale. It would be a very serious matter when winter swimming at around zero degrees, if I ever needed to stop swimming and was unable to stand with my head clear of the water due to having a deep end. I had to ensure I could stand with my face clear at all times. Therefore the water level must never be much deeper than neck height (even though most natural swimming ponds have a two meter deep swimming zone). 
It was clear that I needed to replace a lot of sub soil to make the bottom of the swimming zone level as it would be too difficult to dig deeper at the other end as I was already onto solid flint bedrock. I also needed to build up a berm around the lower half of the lake to create extra depth. This meant moving the excavated sub soil which I had placed at the other end of the garden, back to form the berm around edge of the lake. It would have been much more efficient had I built the berm as I went. After a few wasted days and about a week of continuous excavation and earth moving, I eventually had a hole in the ground that resembled a lake and a berm ranging from ground level to three feet high, around half the lake. 
The walls of the swimming zone were quite vertical and clean in plaves, but also, due to the huge amouunt of flint, some sections had been damaged by havingb to remove the flint which then left a gaping void into the wall. This caused some areas of wall to be less firm and crumbly. 
The swimming zone was now ready to shutter off around the bottom edges for a foundation trench. This turned out to be easier than otherwise expected, considereing I had just replaced many tons of soil which was soft and easy to work. The alternative to building a shuttered section would have meant digging trenches through the layers of flint, with a matock and spade, it would have been a terrible prospect. However now the bottom of the swimming zone had a soft layer of replaced soil it was far easier to dig the trenches. These trenches needed to be around 12 inckes deep and wide , however, with the dry soil, the trench walls were falling inwards and in many places were well over 18 inches wide, in other places the ground was so solid with flint, it was almost impossible to dig 1a deeper trench. The trench therefore ended up deep in some places, shallow in others. Sometimes narrow , sometimes wider, and not perfectly rectangular. 
Foolishly, I considered mixing my own concrete and had estimated the trench would need around 6 tonnes. This calculation was difficult as the trench was not a uniform set of dimensions. I decided to construct wooden shuttering around the edge of the trench inorder to make the trench a little more level all around and provide extra depth. 
Thankfully in the end, I decided to buy ready mixed concrete delivered by truck. Luckily the contractor mixed the concrete on site and he poured the mix down extended shutes into the trenches. With myself and two boys shuvveling, we were completed within 90 minutes. Pouring nearly 8 tonnes of concrete into 58 meters worth of trenches. Mixing such a quantity would have taken a day or two of back breaking work and may easily have cost more than buying the concrete .  
I reckon I could have built more accurate sized tenches and this would have saved maybe £200 of concrete. I could also have spent £200 on better standard shuttering to save on the concrete. In the end it was obvious to simply not spend so much preparation time in trying bto ensure the trenches were not too big, afterall, a trench that was a few inches too big would ghold more concrete and therefore be stronger. It was easier to just pour more concrete.  
I had hoped maybe the shuttering would be salvagable, but it wasn't. Although I spent an hour or two removing it a few days later, rather than leaving it in situ to rot over the years. 

Building the Swimming Zone 

With the concrete foundations nicely set, I was able to lay out the dimensions of swimming zone walls . This is when I found the next mistake. I had previously measured the length of the swimming zone to be 25 meters, and in setting this out, I had measured a length of twine exactly 25 meters long. Unfortunately, when pulling this tight, it stretched by about 12 inches. I had therefore built the foundation trenches 12 inches too long. For many pools this would not have made any difference at all, but I wanted to get as close as 25 meters as possible. Indeed, I was aiming to reach International Short Course accuracy (a minimum of 25 meters and a maximum of 25 meters and 3 milimeters) I therefore needed to redig another trench alongside one end to shorten the pool length. I mixed a bulk bag of ballast & cement and poured the extra foundation. This wasted time, effort and around £60, just because I had made a mistake which could have easily been avoided. Ultimately, the new foundation turned out to be pretty accurate (although nearly a meter wide) . The block work swimming zone wall would fit neatly on top of it. 
I had considered a number of ways to build the walls for the swimming zone. The first was to employ a bricklayer. The prospect of building a swimming zone 25 meters by 4 meters and one meter high, was daunting. However, the decision was made for me after a number of calls resulted in all of the bricklayers suggesting that although they were all happy to do the work, none could schedule it for well over three months. I therefore steeled myself to do this work entirely. 
I hoped to use the larger lightweight blocks that could be sawn to size. But the manufacturer confirmed they were not strong enough. The choice was then the standard breeze block, the high density breeze block or the larger hollow block which would be infilled with concrete and steel rods. After considering all of these, I decided to go for high density 7.2 Newton concrete block and to lay them on their flat. I would also build a number of pillars into the length and width for additional strength. 
I had happily noticed since the few weeks of excavation that the main body of subsoil forming the outside of the walls of the swimming zone, were still pretty much vertical. They had not weathered into a sloping mess of loose soil and scree, therefore I judged the gound was stable to support itself and would not exert much side pressure against the walls. (Of course, once filled with water, any side pressure exerted by the ground, would be equalised by the water). Just to clarify this, the ground around the swimming zone would press against the walls of the swimming zone with a certain amount of sideways force. This force can be calculated. You can imagine it by seeing a few tonnes of sand as it is unloaded from a lorry, it creates a mini mountain with sloping sides. The angle of the slope can help determine the force the mountain will exert against anything that blocks its path. This is the same for the walls of the excavation. (Over the past few weeks and through all weathers, the walls that I had excavated had remained pretty well intact and vertical. I could therefore take the assumption that the soil was self supporting and had little sideways pressure. However, in the area where I had cut the ramp into the swimming zone for the digger and dumper to have access, there was no wall of soil as it had all been removed . Therefore after building the swimming zone block wall, I would have to replace the soil and this would not be self supporting as it would all be loose). This soil would exert a pressure against the side of the swimming zone wall which could be sufficient to eventually push it over. Actually, when calculating the various forces, it became clear that in fact, if the swimming zone was filled with water, the water would exert a greater force than the soil. This would be continually trying to push the swimming zone walls out. Therefore i is important to back fill and compact the soil outside of the swimming zone walls to counteract the force of the water inside the swimming zone. It would also be important to equalise the pressure exerted by the soil by filling up the swimming zone with water as soon as possible. 
In fact, once I had decided to build the wallls myself, I felt much more comfortable. I even felt happier saving around £2500 in labour costs and knowing in the end, that I would have built this lake by myself. Now, at this point, I had never built a wall before and this was going to be rather a large one. 
Ordering the concrete blocks was rather a dificult exercise as the merchants could not deliver as many as I needed (and indeed had they been able to, they would have been dumped too far from the lake) . I had hoped they would have been able to lower them into the middle of the swimming zone , but unfortunately the drivers were all too nervous to try and they stacked the blocks on their pallets at the lake side. This caused me to have to carry them one at a time into the work area walking down the beach zone and then dropping them into the 3 foot deep swimming zone. It caused an awful lot of extra work which could have been made easier had I only excavated the swimming zone raher than the whole lake. Had I of done so, the ho;e in the ground would have been nearly two meters deep though, but the blocks and the sand could easily have been placed exactly where they needed to be stacked. However, now there were the bulk bags of sand which also needed barrowing into the work area.  
To make maters worse, I would run out of blocks after a few days and have to wait for another delivery which never seemed to happen just in time and on a couple occassions the weather meant the lorries could not drive close enough over the grass to get anywhere the lake, and I rejected a couple deliveries which would otherwise have meant carrying each block (one at a time ) around 50 meters to the work area. 
The height of the foundation varied by around 3 cm. I found it straight forward to lay the first course of blocks onto a mortar bed starting at the highest point of the foundation. Therefore to keep the blocks level all around, I simply needed to lay a thicker mortar bed in places. Where the foundation was wider, I built pillars. I suppose it would have been better to have the pillars equally spaced apart and maybe have built one or two additional ones, but some areas the foundations were not quite wide enough as I had not excavated the hole wide enough and the wall of soil was in the wqy. As it ended up, the pillars were fairly evenly spaced out in any case.  
Laying the blocks on their flat was hard work as far as effort goes, each block (being the high density version) was very heavy to handle and leaning into the work at such a low level was tough. After a while I got used to mixing a suitable barrow ful of mortar which would stay workable without beginning to set too soon (which did happen if I tried to mix too much in one go). Setting out the first course was quite time consuming too, trying to ensure the measurements were exact for the length and width, and to ensure the corners would be square. However, once the first course was laid, it was a real relief. It was also a moment of some joy when measuring bthe height of the first course which was much more level than the foundation. I tried to ensure that if the height of the blockwork was measuring a liitle high I would try to adjust the thickness of the mortar a little to compensate. Happily, the 3 cm discrepancy reduced nicely. 
I then started to build the corners for three courses. I was concerned that I shouldn't build them to the full height as the weight of the blocks might squash the mortar under the weight. Gradually the second course and then the third was laid. I made a mistake though by not cleaning off the excess mortar from the joints as I went (on the inside of the wall). I realised after a while that these joints would need to be smooth so as not to snag the liner and quite a lot of mortar had hardened after ooozing out a little. Also some of the joints were a a centimeter recessed. This would cause problrms for the liner. I therefore had to spend some time in knocking off any protuding lumps of mortar and filling in any gaps. It was easier afterwards, to make the surfaces smooth before the mortar had set.  
Sometimes I had to cut some blocks and I noticed that some of the vertical joints would extend into two courses rather than make the correct bond pattern. Generally the blockwork looked pretty good. I had bought a tool called the Bricky, this tool was laid onto the course of blocks and the mortar laid into the tool. This ensured the correct amount and uniform depth of mortar was laid . It sped up the job tremendously.The Bricky is a really good tool, costing around £40. I figured I would sell it on ebay later andI would recover half the cost. I also figured quite quickly that some trowels were easier to use than others. It was surprising how heavy a large trowel weighed once loaded with mortar and I prefered a smaller version. I also prefered one with a rounded tip rather than a pointed one. 
It was always a nuisence running out of mortar and having to mix more, so I quickly figured that it was best to mix the next load and have it spinning in the mixer while I was laying the previous load of blocks. Otherwise, I would have to waste time waiting for the freash mortar to be mixed and just be standing around. It was alo a bother running out of blocks and have to spend maybe ten minutes walking down fresh blocks (especially f there was half a barrow of mortar waiting to be used). It was suprising thateven measuring the sharp sand with the cement and water got much easier as did the mixing. Sometimes I would need to add water and sometimes I would need to add more sand or cement as the mixer trundled around, but generally, the job got easier and faster as it progressed and I decided to stop after eight courses. I could always add a ninth course later. 
At the end of each day I would ensure all the tools were washed and tidied up. It was surprising how often I would put down a tool and not be able to find it again. only to discover it the next day all clogged up with set cement. There were also tools that were spoilt by being left out over a few nights (particularly metal tape measures) and those despite being washed (the shuvel) that got heavier by the day as it got weighted down by set cement. 
Building the swimmimg zone walls took the best part of a month. Some days working the whole day, other times just evenings after work. There were with a few wasted days due to bad weather, waiting for deliveries and of course having to go to work. However, it was extremely satisfying and a real pleasure tidying away the tools , concrete blocks and sand, once the last block was laid .  

Back Filling and Shaping 

I finished the swimming zone with a couple days to spare before travelling to Ireland for Cork Distance Week and was looking forward to back filling the soil to enclose the surround. I also needed to create a berm around the lower half of the pool in order to compensate for the incline of the ground. It is always fun taking delivery of a digger and dumper. I started to move tonnes of soil from the mounds that had been built across the other side of the garden and start dumping it in place. this took a few days and ultimately required me to move every single barrow full, before I was reasonably happy with the landscaping. Albeit very rough and absolutely full of stones and flint. Again though, it was a very satisfying site once this work had been accomplished and the main shape of the lake began to develop. It very soon became apparent that the pool had captured a number of amphibians and I spent ten minutes rounding them up and carrying them to safety. 

Soil Retaining Walls 

It had always been apparent that I would have more building work to do when facing the top end of the pool and staring at around 5 feet of vertical soil bank. I could not figiure out how this could ver be made stable if I simply shaped it and lay the liners over it. I decided therefore to build a retaining wall, after the same fashion as the swimming zone. One at each end. I hadn't imagined doing this at the start of the project and so (I guess like many ideas), the project evolved somewhat as it began to take shape. The soil retaining walls would also serve as a base to support decking sections once the pool was finished.  
I couldnt get the digger in close enough to excavate trenches for the footings, so did this by hand. Then mixed and laid the foundation concrete at both ends. It was fun to start building again and soon enough I had built two retaining walls (which needed more backfilling.  
After some more ground work and shaping, the next part of work became a race against time which I was destined to lose. I had always hoped to get the project finished by October, but was required back at work sooner than expected. It was clear I would not even have time to clear away the flint and stones , rake smooth and tamp down the lake bed. Nor to level and flatten the swimming zone base. Let alone lay the liners and start to catch the winter rain. I did what I could in the time remaining and started to level the base of the swimming zone. It was surpising how difficult this was and many small irregularities remained which would be an inch or two lower than other sections. These might level off ok once I lay a few toones of sand.....we will have to see. I also spent time shaping the regeneration zone along one length of the lake, which I decided would have a steeper side with a flat deeerp bed. On the other side I would have a gentle sloping beach. I then removed as many stones from these areas as possible and use a whacker plate to tamp the soil down before running out of time (and weather as it happened) to continue. All too soon Sumer turned into Autumn and I was back full time at work. The lake would have to sit quietly through the winter. I had previously looked forward to a wet winter, but now hoped for a dry one. I had no idea at all how the swimming zone would stand up to four of five months of rain which would only cause the side walls to have a greater force exerted against it, especially if the ground froze solid, and with no water inside the swimming zone to counter the pressure . The delay turned out to be a mixed blessing which balanced out well in my favour. 

After the Winter was over 

I hadn't thought to examine the lake much, over the winter and cannot say for sure when the first cracks appeared in the block wall. The worst being at the lower end corner. This whole are had required all fresh subsoil to be laid outside of it as this had all been previously excavated to allow for a slope into the swimming zone for the digger and dumper. There were also a couple over cracks through the morter in two other area. Although the corner crack penetrated throgh the whole block and not limited to the mortar joints. I have no way of knowing whether these cracks would have appeared had the liner been laid and the zone filled with water. I do feel that this would have pushed back on the wall and the pressure equalised. I now have to consider how to remedy the situation. Obviously the first thought is to remove a small section of wall and rebuild it and as soon as possible thereafter, install the liner and fill with water. I wonder though, whether I might eventually have to rebuild whole sections of wall, maybe a couple hundred blocks. This would take some effort to carefully dismantle. Its funny looking at it, and thinking only the blocks either side of the cracks need replacing, but to cut in new blocks might be insufficient and it looks easier to remove whole sections. I wonderb thyen, whether it might be easier to just build another wall just on the inside (using the heavy blocks but on their edge and not flat), then backfill with concrete and maybe steel reinforcing bar.......for the whole length. I will need to take some advise.  
The other issue, and the one which has the greatest saving grace, relates to the amount of soil which has slumped. Had I have been able to lay the liner, the weight of the water would have stretched the liner down into the voids revealed by the settling of the backilling. Despite using the whacker plate for hours, the few months of winter and rain has caused some areas (almost a whole length, to have slumped as much as 8 inches. Although mostly it is limited to about 4 inches. This would certainly have made the lner tear. 
This is a fairly straightforward fix, simply to backfill more soil and tamp down firmly. Bringing the soil level back up to the top edge of the swimming zone walls. Ultimately the soil level will be higher after I lay 100mm of sand. If this slumps again, the liner will not be forced against the edge of the concrete blocks.  
It is now nearing the end of March and I am back on the pool with much of my spare time being spent on it. I am spending the next few weeks raking smoothing and picking up many tonnes of flint and stones which are laying all around the lake both within the footprint of the liner and without. I will monitor the cracks hoping they do not increase in the dryer weather. 
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