Blenheim Palace's Queen Pool saved after 18-month dredging project

  • Watch report by ITV News Meridian's Juliette Fletcher

A major project to save a lake at Blenheim Palace from drying up is nearing completion.

It's taken 18 months, but in just two or three weeks time the dredgers will have finished their work, restoring the Queen Pool to a depth of over two metres and helping to preserve the stunning view across the palace grounds.

Charlie Oakes from Land and Water Services has been managing the project. He said: "We believe it's the biggest in-land dredging project ever carried out in the UK.

The silt had built up so much there was only 20cm of water left. Credit: ITV News Meridian

"300,000 cubic metres of silt, approximately 500,000 tonnes had to be dredged, hauled to the side of the lake and up the hill to create the landfill."

The floating diggers have removed enough silt to fill Wembley Stadium.

Once removed it was carried to land by hoppers and driven to another part of the estate where it's being used to form a 16-hectare grassy mound.

The silt has been driven to another part of the estate to form a 16-hectare grassy mound. Credit: Blenheim Palace

Kelly Whitton, head of built heritage at Blenheim Palace, said: "It is a man-made lake and it's on a main river. The silt had built up to a point that we only had 20cm left of water when it should have been two metres deep.

"It's also a SSSI - a Site of Special Scientific Interest - and we would have lost that status had we not dredged the lake.

"Essentially we would have not had a lake in the next 5 years, it would have completely silted up and disappeared."

But there have been some set-backs along the way. 

The lake had just five years left before it would have disappeared. Credit: ITV News Meridian

During preparations, they discovered roads and infrastructure linked to a mill which dates back to 1066.

The site had to be shifted by 50 metres so archeologists could investigate.

The Queen Pool was designed  by 'Capability' Brown around 1763 as part of a re-landscaping of the park and gardens. 

During preparations they discovered roads and infrastructure linked to a mill dating back to 1066. Credit: Blenheim Palace

Kelly Whitton said: "Not only is this a restoration project and a biodiversity project but during these last 18 months we've had to work alongside nature, and nature has a habit of getting in the way.

"So we've had to work with ecologists to ensure our fish are kept safe and our nesting birds can still nest in peace and work around them. So it has been a tricky process."

The team at Blenheim are working to slow the build up of sediment here in the future and it's hoped this five-million pound project will preserve the views for many years to come.