Everyone knows how important it is to keep active, but it can often take gorgeous weather or super sporting events to remind us to head outside. If you want to get more exercise or, better yet, if you want to get the whole family involved, you can do much better than backyard ball games or joining an overcrowded gym: you could instead install a fantastic garden feature that will help you keep fit not just when you’re reminded to, but all year round!
The best sporty garden features are ones which are suitable for all ages. After all, children tend to shoot up rather quickly, so investing thousands in a pint sized option can quickly turn into a waste of money. Your chosen feature should also be one that adults can enjoy; tennis courts and swimming pools for instance can be superb social features, and getting fit with friends is always more fun than struggling along on your own.
Of course, another secret to longevity for any new sporty garden features is having them installed by an experienced professional! The groundwork should usually be organised by a local landscape designer, who will also be able to offer garden design services if you want something truly unique. Having said that, it is more important to make sure that you hire an experienced Pro. A local architectural designer may have more experience in adding swimming pools to a property, for example.
Also keep in mind that, while local councils love to encourage exercise, healthy intentions will not give you a free pass for developments. There are far, far too many stories of homeowners who built exciting garden features, only to be told that they needed to take them down because they failed to gain the proper consent. In other words, if you have the time to decide on your ideal garden feature, you also have the time to ask your Local Planning Authority about what permissions you will need for the work, if any.
Here are just a few of our favourite ideas for getting sporty with your garden!
Tennis is a sport which has been around for centuries (bet you never knew that Henry VIII was a pro!) and one that continues to entertain and inspire fans around the world. It also happens to be a demanding sport which requires serious practice and dedication, but if there are no public courts in your area then you could find yourself out of luck.
Turning your garden into a home tennis court can take several months, but the rewards will be long lasting. Artificial court surfaces are easy to maintain and can be used all year round - not to mention the fact that a good solid sports surface can be used for other games as well. A doubles court can even let you train alongside friends and neighbours!
For something really impressive, why not go all out? You could create your own mini-Wimbledon with your own outside lighting, water fountains and spectator seats.
Shooting basketball hoops has an ‘easy to learn, difficult to master’ quality that makes it infectiously enjoyable for fans of all ages. Better yet, installing a basketball hoop can be as simple or complicated as you want: anything from a professional wall-hoop with a fiberglass backboard to a simple freestanding model can be enough to get you started.
Whether or not you want a surface suitable for actually playing basketball is up to you. A garden patio can often be sufficient, not to mention versatile for when you want to use your garden for something other than sports.
Just be sure not to install your hoop or court too close to the property boundary - your neighbours won’t appreciate it if your ball keeps finding its way into their yard!
Golf is often seen as a sport for the privileged elite (i.e. those who can afford country club memberships). However, if you want a spot to practice your swing and perfect your putting technique, installing a golf putting green could give you exactly what you need without breaking the bank. All you need is a level playing surface and a hole, but of course there would be nothing to stop you from having a joiner create fun bespoke obstacles for you and your kids to enjoy.
That said, maintaining a golf-friendly lawn can be a demanding task. This is why we recommend installing artificial grass: not only is the surface virtually maintenance free, it is also far easier to install than fresh turf.
This is the one you were waiting for, isn’t it? Every property owner, at some stage in their life, has wondered just how feasible it would be to install their very own swimming pool.
The truth is that there are options to suit most gardens, provided they are of a certain size. Installing an above ground pool is far easier than digging out a below-ground option, especially when it comes to gaining permission for the work. These pools are also far easier to remove, so you will not have to worry as much about the project devaluing your house if future buyers have a preference for staying dry.
Before installing a swimming pool, however, it is important to think about long term costs. Heating the pool will be one of your biggest concerns, especially in winter when running a pool can cost £10 a day. The pool will also need to be cleaned and maintained, and if you have any small children you will also need to make sure that the pool has a solid barrier around it.
In short, building your own garden swimming pool is a project worth serious planning and consideration, but for the right household a pool can be a wonderfully rewarding feature that will get used for years to come.
Are you a thrill-seeking adrenaline junkie? Is your local council run by squares who don’t know the value of a top notch skate park? Never fear, because we’re here to show you how to install your very own skateboard halfpipe in your back garden!
Designing and constructing a plywood halfpipe is a simple job for a local joiner, though there are also an increasing number of skate-specialists in the UK who can hook you up with something more impressive.
The downside to a project like this is gaining consent for it, as halfpipes higher than 30cm will need planning permission. Neighbours can also be a bother because of the noise that a wooden ramp can generate, though this can be minimised with some careful planning and strategic use of expanding foam.
Seriously, what other garden feature leaves you literally jumping for joy?
Garden trampolines are nothing new, but something that many homeowners fail to appreciate is just how dangerous they can be. Without proper supervision it can be unsafe for small children to even use a standing trampoline, but there is a simple way around this problem: dig a hole and install a sunken trampoline instead!
Leaving the bouncy part of your trampoline at ground level and surrounding it with soft grass will make it much safer to use. You can even buy models specifically designed to be sunken rather than standing. Granted, actually excavating the space can be pretty physically demanding, but considering how larger trampolines are suitable for everyone from kids to adults it can definitely be worth the effort.
Are you looking for an excellent way to build your upper body strength? How about a way to help your kids get over their fear of heights? Installing a garden rock climbing wall could offer both of these - and you might not even need a new wall for the job!
Actually installing a towering rock climbing wall might be out of the question as far as planning permission is concerned, unless you are blessed with a particularly large garden that is. A 'traverse wall' on the other hand is relatively simple to create: all you need to do is install climbing holds on an existing wall and you will be left with an excellent climbing area, albeit one that goes sideways rather than upwards.
That said, the wall you actually use will still need to be in good condition, with well maintained mortar and no bricks crumbling away. For the avoidance of doubt, you may want to run your plans past a local builder, who will be able to assess the health of your wall, before doing anything else.
If you decide to have a full climbing wall installed, be sure to have it assembled by an experienced carpenter - ideally one who has worked on similar projects in the past.
As fun as all the options above might sound, they are not for everybody; certainly not for any budget and space-conscious homeowners who cannot afford to go all out. Still, who said that this was even necessary to enjoy sports outdoors? All you really need is some imagination and the right place to play!
Lawns can be perfect for sports and ball games, but unfortunately they are not maintenance-free. Most lawns need to be mowed at least once every two weeks at peek growing time, which also happens to be the time of year when we are most likely to come outside to enjoy the warm weather.
Luckily, you have alternatives! Installing a patio can be an excellent idea both for getting active and staying social. Hard surfaces are ideal for games and simple exercise, as well as garden parties and BBQs. If you love the look of a green lawn, however, you may want to consider laying artificial grass. This will also provide an ideal surface but will require much less maintenance than the real thing.