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How to build a natural pond or lake for your home

Voice Of EU



We may be approaching winter, but that hasn’t put a stop to the wild swimming enthusiasts across the country who take solace floating between emerald-green reeds and aquamarine dragonflies throughout the year.

But it’s not just those taking a dip in countryside rivers and ponds who get to experience swimming without the smell of chlorine and an ugly concrete basin around them.

No, these days anyone can soak in natural water in the privacy of their own back garden by installing a natural swimming pond — a pool cleaned by carefully selected plants instead of harsh chemicals delivered in plastic tubs.

Make a splash: A natural swimming pond with steps into the water makes a great alternative to a concrete pool

Make a splash: A natural swimming pond with steps into the water makes a great alternative to a concrete pool

Swimming ponds have grown in popularity over the past decade as many people have become addicted to rural dipping. 

Others might have grown tired of staring at the uninspiring tarpaulin-covered concrete pools in their back garden, wishing they had something that complements their outlook.

Swimming ponds — also called ‘natural swimming pools’ — come in all shapes and sizes and can be heated or unheated, but the common feature is that the plants they contain are chosen to make the water safe by absorbing the nutrients that would otherwise lead to a build-up of algae. 

Some designs also pump the water through filtration units.

Smita Patel, a GP, who lives in a converted barn in the village of Gonalston, Nottinghamshire, had her 66 sqm swimming pond constructed last year by Ellicar. She takes a dip every day for half an hour.

‘It does seem ridiculous digging a hole in the ground in this freezing cold country, filling it with cold water and inviting people to swim in it, doesn’t it?’ she laughs.

But, luckily for her, the pond was completed in May 2020, during a bout of hot weather.

Natural: A waterlily. Plants will help keep a swimming pond clean

Natural: A waterlily. Plants will help keep a swimming pond clean

‘I swam every day, but then in October, the water temperature fell below 16c and I thought, ‘Gosh, we ought to be sensible about this’, and stopped.

‘But I couldn’t bear it — I became miserable that I couldn’t go for my daily swim.’

So she started acclimatising herself, and now gets in every day, sharing the water with a resident newt and a visiting heron. 

‘It stimulates every nerve fibre and receptor and gives me a real endorphin high every morning,’ she says. 

‘And swimming at night with the stars is just magical. It’s therapeutic. And my children now come and visit more often!’

Ponds like hers cost about £1,500 per square metre. That includes everything — plants, filters etc — but without optional extras such as decking. 

Pools are usually divided into two zones: a central swimming area, and the rim where the plants live. You can wade through them if you like, but most people opt for decking, so you can dive straight into the swim zone.

You can convert an existing pool or build from scratch, and swimming ponds are generally low-maintenance.

A couple of times a year you will probably want to have the firm that installed it come along to keep the plants in check. And there’s no need to cover it up when not being used. A surface skimmer will prevent any build-up of leaves etc.

Other options include solar panels to heat the water, speakers to play music while you take a dip, lighting above or under the water and pavilions to get changed in. The minimum size is probably about 40sqm.

The temperature will likely hit highs of 25c in summer, and 19c in winter. You can still use it in the cold, of course, but a wet suit might be an idea.

Helen Jennings, an interior designer who lives in Diss, Suffolk, had her 50sqm swimming pond built by Natural Swimming Pools two years ago. 

The company creates pools of that size from about £75,000. ‘We built the house in 2004 and I wanted to create a wildlife sanctuary on the plot,’ says Helen. 

‘So when we were thinking of introducing water to the house I didn’t want the normal chemical and concrete block type of pool. 

‘I wanted something natural and I loved the fact that you could have natural plants for the purification process.’

She says it’s the best thing she has ever bought. ‘I loved designing it — these pools are very personal, because you can have them round, square, any size you want.

‘Any season you’re in, you have this fantastic body of life that’s connected to the house because you can open the doors and experience it.

‘And the kinetic energy is wonderful because it’s always moving — you wake up in the morning and you have this lovely pool bubbling away and doing its thing.’

In the summer, she swims in it every day, although she hasn’t yet braved winter-time dips.

‘At the moment it’s about 17c, so it’s parky and makes you shriek a bit when you get in, but once you’re in, it’s fine.

‘It’s the best investment I’ve ever made — I’d make it again in a heartbeat.’

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Barings and HBD secure planning for London logistics scheme (GB)

Voice Of EU



Barings and HBD have secured detailed planning for a strategic logistics scheme in Rainham, London, transforming a 20-acre brownfield site. The new development, Momentum London, is being delivered by Barings and HBD in a joint venture partnership. It will create 381,814ft² of new logistics and industrial space across four units ranging from 41,000 -171,000ft².


The scheme will target Net Zero Carbon, BREEAM “Excellent” and an EPC “A+” rating. This is being achieved by dynamic design, careful consideration of materials, zero use of fossil fuels, maximizing photovoltaic solar panels, battery storage and intelligent building systems. The units will be 100% EV ready, including passive fleet charging to the yards.


The logistics park will be set in landscaped environment with picnic and public areas, as well as direct access onto the Thames Cycle Path, so that it brings further social benefits to the area. Positioned on the River Thames, with potential for jetty access, Momentum will offer an easy stepping stone into Central London and out via the A13, just minutes away.


Darren Hutchinson, Head of UK Real Estate Transactions and Managing Director at Barings, said: Momentum London will be a strategically located logistics scheme with strong environmental and social credentials, beneficial both to future occupiers and the communities around it. Logistics is one of Barings’ preferred investment sectors and Momentum London exemplifies the kind of developments we’re seeking, with a keen interest in exploring joint ventures like this one with HBD.”


Simon Quine, Senior Development Surveyor at HBD, said: “Industrial and logistics space remains in very limited supply across London, particularly larger distribution units. Momentum will plug that gap within the M25 and provide modern, sustainable logistics and distribution space to serve London and the wider South East market. Landscaping and wellness have been thoroughly considered, with careful design considerations and enhancements to the Thames Foot and Cycle path, which we hope will help occupiers to attract and retain staff.”

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Mirrored furniture trend can create the illusion of space in your home

Voice Of EU



Mirrored furniture provokes strong emotions. Some see it as the epitome of bad taste, flashy and bling. Others know that mirrors have magic powers.

A mirrored table or cabinet makes a room or a hallway appear more swish and spacious. It’s a trick that bars and restaurants employ to ensure their establishments appear roomier and more inviting — and they can add lustre to your home, too.

Choosing a piece of mirrored furniture also sends out a sign that you are aware of one of the year’s trends — the return of Art Deco, the influential style that emerged in the 1920s. 

Reflections: A mirrored bedside table. The power of the mirror to create an impression has been recognised for centuries

Reflections: A mirrored bedside table. The power of the mirror to create an impression has been recognised for centuries

It blended forms that celebrated modern machinery with decorative elements drawn from Greco-Roman culture and nature. 

The mirror was a favourite material, used on the surfaces of furniture and walls to supply a shimmering silver and gold effect.

Probably the most famous piece of Art Deco architecture is New York’s Chrysler Building. Completed in 1930, its sunburst-patterned stainless steel spire remains one of the key elements of the Manhattan skyline.

Art Deco console tables, drinks trolleys and other items from the era of the building’s construction sell for thousands on auction sites such as 1stdibs underlining the growing appeal of this aesthetic. 

Jamie Watkins, the co-founder of fabric and wallpaper company Divine Savages, explains Art Deco’s allure for a new audience.

‘Art Deco, with its bold geometrical patterns was such an iconic period for design: it’s synonymous with glamour and luxury.’

The resurgent popularity of Art Deco is also based on its practicality: a mirrored piece works with almost any interior, adding interest and depth.

The power of the mirror to create a wow impression has been recognised for centuries. 

Examples of this technique include the round mirror on the wall behind the bride and groom in Jan van Eyck’s 1434 Arnolfini Portrait in the National Gallery. It sends out the message that the couple are discerning — and wealthy.

Cheers: B&M's £25 oval drinks trolley with two mirrored shelves

Cheers: B&M’s £25 oval drinks trolley with two mirrored shelves

The hall of mirrors in the palace of Versailles was designed to be a place of beauty, but also to display the financial resources of Louis XIV, the Sun King. Mirrors were a luxury item until an inexpensive manufacturing process was invented in the 1830s.

In 2022, it is possible to pick up mirrored pieces for under £100. B&M has a £25 oval drinks trolley with two mirrored shelves that would lend an air of Thirties elegance to any gathering. The £94.99 Ellison serving cart (a U.S. term for drinks trolley) from Wayfair has a similar vibe.

If you believe that the right mirrored trolley would save you money on trips to bars, the larger £144.95 gold oval mirrored trolley from Melody Maison could be the thing.

A mirrored cocktail cabinet will dazzle guests. The £1,200 Primrose & Plum champagne and gold cabinet has a Jazz-Age feel.

The £299 Venetian sideboard from Furniture Market, meanwhile, is a more modestly priced way to conjure up the party spirit of the Roaring Twenties.

The show flats of apartment blocks are often equipped with mirrored cocktail cabinets containing bottles of spirits and crystal glasses. This makes buyers dream of dinner parties, with a prelude of aperitifs, but also serves to make the apartment appear even roomier.

A console table in the hall also creates an illusion of space which can be amplified by the addition of a lamp. HomesDirect365 has a range in the style of almost every era including Art Deco, Regency, the 1960s and the 1970s. Prices start at £233.

The bedroom is often the most cramped room in either a house or flat which is why this can be the best place to experiment with mirrored furniture. 

The desire to preserve family harmony is another reason. The other members of your household may prefer the kitchen and living room to be slick and understated, seeing anything mirrored as excessive.

In the bedroom, however, you can indulge your decor fantasies. Habitat has the one-drawer Hepburn bedside table for £76.

Next offers the antique effect Fleur bedside table which costs £225 for the one-drawer version and £275 for the two-drawer version. 

The Fleur is also available as a six-drawer chest for £599 or a £1,150 double wardrobe if you seek to waft around your bedroom channelling your inner 1930s Hollywood screen siren. 

Dunelm’s Venetian mirrored dressing table also offers a chance to live out your dream of silver screen stardom (£449).

If mirrored furniture has brought out your party animal, kindling a passion for Art Deco in every guise, Divine Savages offers Deco Martini wallpaper whose design is based on the geometric forms, with a hidden Martini glass within the print (£150 per roll).

Some of your guests may not be too busy checking out their reflections on the doors of the mirrored cabinet to notice this subtle and witty detail in the wallpaper.

Savings of the week! water jugs… Up to 52% off 

The Sandvig hammered-glass jug from is half-price at £22

The Sandvig hammered-glass jug from is half-price at £22

Sitting outside on a sunny afternoon is already delightful. But it is even more enjoyable if you are sipping on a cool drink or an iced coffee from a generously sized jug, or maybe even a Pimm’s. The arrival of the July sales means bargains abound.

If you prioritise practicality, Ocado’s textured lustre plastic picnic jug has 33 per cent off at £8.

The price of the pleasingly geometric plastic smoky-grey Prism jug from Wayfair is 16 per cent off at £10.10. 

If you would like to feel as if you are in the south of France, John Lewis has the plain glass Arles wicker-wrapped jug. It is reduced from £25 to £12, down 52 per cent.

Wanting something more elegant that you can also use for flowers? The Sandvig hammered-glass jug from is also half-price at £22.

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VGP acquires French logistics development

Voice Of EU




VGP NV and VALGO signed an agreement to purchase 32 hectares of land that housed the former Petroplus refining units in Petit-Couronne, near Rouen. This brownfield rehabilitation project is fully in line with VGP’s core expertise and strategy. Thanks to the six years ownership of the site by VALGO and its expertise in asbestos removal, soil and water table decontamination, in-situ waste treatment and development, this area has now become a suitable site for the development of new industries and business activities.


On the banks of the river Seine and close to the A13 highway, the 32-hectare area of land offers its future users a highly strategic location. Following the extensive depollution work carried out by VALGO, the site is now ready for redevelopment. VGP expanded into France only a few months ago and is delighted to start its French business activities in the dynamic Rouen Normandy metropolis area, via this major project. In total, around 150,000m² of land are set to be redeveloped to accommodate industrial and logistics projects, with work due to begin in 2023.


Jan Van Geet, CEO VGP, said: “VGP is delighted to begin its business activities in France on a site as exceptional as this one, with strong economic and environmental ambitions that are shared by both our partner, VALGO, and the local authorities. As the rehabilitation of brownfield sites is at the heart of our business, this project is a great opportunity for us to deploy our industrial and logistical know-how. The uncertain geopolitical situation and the rise in transport prices mean that companies are increasingly looking for local support to start their business. In this context, we strongly believe in the relevance of our integrated model with a long-term vision. We are now eager to get to work and bring all the expertise of the Group to the project.”


Francois Bouche, CEO VALGO, commented: “We are delighted that this huge piece of land has been sold to a major investor with experience in redeveloping brownfields in Europe. However, I would first like to celebrate the work of the men and women who worked so hard to make this colossal project a success. It took more than 1 million hours and over €60m in investment by VALGO to turn the page on over 80 years of refining on this site, which already employs 600 people.”

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