One of the biggest civil engineering projects ever undertaken at a British stately home, aimed to save ‘the finest view in England’, has officially begun, Blenheim Palace said in their latest announcement.
In 2016 planning started for the restoration of Queen’s Pool and vital repairs to the Grand Bridge. Created by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown over 250 years ago, Queen’s Pool has become extensively silted, with 75% of the volume lost and the water quality and ecology degraded.
“This ambitious project will not only reinvigorate the biological health of the lake but also allow vital restoration work to take place to the Grand Bridge,” according to the official statement.
The £12 million project will include:
- Repairs to Vanbrugh’s Grand Bridge;
- Dredging silt from the Queens Pool;
- Improving water quality in the catchment.
What is happening this October?
“We are lowering the water level for a month to carry out surveys of the bridge and lakes. The dewatering process also allows us to test the contingencies we have in place for the private water supply, begin to manipulate fish stocks and also test the methodology for dredging,” according to the release.
It will be the most visible part of the project this year and will expose silt both upstream and downstream of the Grand Bridge. It will also expose many rooms in the Grand Bridge which have been flooded for over 250 years since ‘Capability’ Brown first made his mark on Blenheim.
The water level will then be raised back up for November ahead of the Christmas activities.
Works in 2020
The main works to the lake are planned to start in spring 2020 and last through to the winter of that year.
“The Grand Bridge, river catchment and visitor work will start at the same time and run for an expected three years. When we come to dredge the lake, we will drop the water levels again and mechanically remove the relatively dry silt during a 22-week period,” said Blenheim Palace.
This silt will then be transported via a haul road to the north of the park where it will be spread over around 150 acres of farmland.
This farmland will then be reverted to grassland in keeping with the World Heritage Site.
The work has been supported by West Oxfordshire District Council, Natural England and the Environment Agency, but also involved Thames Water, Universities and voluntary organizations such as the Evenlode Catchment Partnership.