Georgian lake re-emerges

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THE LOST lake at West Wycombe Park (above), one of England's Georgian masterpieces, has re-emerged after months of drought with the help of water from a system of bore-holes.

Until a few days ago, the lake, laid out 250 years ago on the Buckinghamshire estate in the style of the Natural Landscape school, was a tangle of weeds among small puddles (below). Last April it dried out completely.

The National Trust, owner of the Grade I listed park and its house, dug the bore-holes after the National Rivers Authority (NRA) agreed to consider long- term water abstraction to help restore the lake. Recent rainfall was of limited benefit and pumps will be used to maintain levels in the park.

A restored lake will help business for the trust, which rents West Wycombe to film companies for up to pounds 15,000 a day. Clint Eastwood shot scenes there for White Hunter, Black Heart with the lake as a backdrop.

West Wycombe is once more mirrored in the water. It was the vision of its Georgian creator Sir Francis Dashwood, the second Baronet and founder of the Dilettanti Society, which fashioned 18th-century tastes. Sir Francis later founded the Hell-Fire Club, also known as the Society of St Francis of Wycombe, famous for its antics on the lake.

The current occupier, another Francis Dashwood, the 11th Baronet, said: 'There's still not enough water in the hills and we need months' more drizzle. We may even need more pumps to maintain levels in a summer drought.'

Part of the pounds 20,000 bill for the bore-holes was paid by funds raised at a ball held last month in the Wycombe caves by the Young Georgians, an arm of the Georgian group which aims to 'proselytise, protect and preserve the joys, delights and beauty' of Georgian architecture.

Orlando Rock, a ball organiser and Christie's furniture specialist, said: 'West Wycombe is one of the most wonderful landscapes and resurrecting the lake is fundamental to its brilliance.'

National Trust officials first approached the NRA last year for permission to sink the bore-holes to a depth of 30 metres to supply the lake's feeder streams.

Some of the water will be recycled, passing through the lake's semi-porous bed, while the rest flows on underground.

Richard Morris, a National Trust agent, said: 'To some extent we are just borrowing the water to fill the lake and recreate the parkland as it was intended.'

(Photograph omitted)