Fleet of barges to the rescue to save one of Britain's 'finest' views at Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace - BNPS
Blenheim Palace - BNPS

It was a vista once described by Sir Winston Churchill’s father as one of the "finest" views in England.

But that view across the lake and Grand Bridge to the magnificent 18th century palace at Blenheim was until now under direct threat - from tonnes of silt and sludge.

The Queen Pool lake has been slowly getting shallower over the last 100 years due to the amount of silt that has built up on the bottom. At its shallowest, the water was only 12 inches deep.

Now a mammoth dig has ensured the long-term future of the lake, and the views it offers across its waters.

More than half of the 400,000 tonnes of silt choking the waters of the lake - enough to fill Wembley Stadium to its roof - has been removed, with 11,000 lorry loads removed from the site in Oxfordshire.

Blenheim - BNPS
Blenheim - BNPS

Kelly Whitton, project manager at Blenheim Palace, said: "If we had not done this the lake wouldn't be there in two years time.

"If water levels continued to decrease the view would have been ruined and look like a stream with large islands dotted in it.

"We are doing this at the most critical time after delays to the project because of Covid. We had to delay another couple of weeks to allow some nesting coots to move on too.

"Now it is critical that we continue with the project so that we can save the lake and maintain our status as a site of special scientific interest. We want to make sure that this beautiful landscape is restored for future generations to enjoy."

Three huge dredgers have been floated out onto the water with small tug boats used to transport the silt back to land for removal by road.

Oxford - BNPS
Oxford - BNPS

The silt is being used to create a tree-covered mound elsewhere on the vast estate, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was the birthplace of Winston Churchill. The dredging project is expected to finish next spring.

Churchill’s father, Lord Randolph Churchill, declared the views across the palace grounds, designed by Capability Brown, to be "the finest in England", when he first set eyes on it.

At its heart was the lake and the Grand Bridge that was built by John Vanbrugh between 1708 and 1710.

Roy Cox, the director of the Blenheim estate, said: "The dredge is one of the most ambitious civil engineering projects undertaken here at Blenheim over the last 300 years.

"It is vitally important to help ensure the long-term health of the lakes, surrounding waterways and parkland and the rich biodiversity that it supports as well as mitigating the risk of environmental damage due to climate change."