Work has started to put the shine back into the half moon reservoir at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal.
The National Trust is using an innovative approach to keeping the water garden looking as splendid as its original designers intended.
Michael Ridsdale, Head of Landscape at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal explained: “Water management is an ongoing challenge for the estate.
“Since 1983 the Trust has spent nearly £3million on maintaining the water features in the World Heritage Site garden and that’s just a drop in the ocean.
“Many people don’t realise that the water garden’s elegant ponds and canals are fed directly by the river Skell, and winter storms often cause costly damage and flooding to the abbey as well as the garden.
“Silt carried downstream into the property’s waterways has been one of our greatest threats to conservation and presentation here on the estate.”
The World Heritage Site and iconic Yorkshire landmark, which attracts visitors from the region all year round, saw full scale dredging of the lake in 2010.
Alexa Morton, Visitor Experience and Marketing Manager explains: “We knew the work would need to take place over the summer months when water flow is at its lowest, but that’s also our busiest season with visitors coming from far and wide to enjoy the splendour of this special place.
“Memories of the lake dredging project in 2010 conjured up scenes of mud, diggers and tractors, but this project has been completely the opposite.”
The latest £300,000 project marks an important step forward in river management inside and outside of the National Trust.
Work started in June and has been taking place throughout the busy summer months.
Michael continues: “Traditional dredging has been the only way to clear silt from the watercourse here for hundreds of years.
It’s a messy and involved process; invasive too as sensitive wildlife can be disturbed. We wanted to find a new way to approach things and we were sure there would be a sustainable solution out there.”
Innovative Yorkshire-based Ebsford Environmental is using a new technique involving pneumatic pumps to filter the silt from the half moon reservoir into a collecting area in a nearby field and will run until the end of September.
Once the silt has dried Tenant farmer Andrew Leeming will use it as fertiliser on surround land.
Nick Hartley, Managing Director of Ebsford said: “Everything has been bespoke to the nature of the site as well as the brief.
“The collecting tank we’ve built is made entirely of biodegradable and re-usable materials and uses the natural topography of the site.
“It holds in excess of 8,000 cubic metres old silt which will dry out to form a cake ready for agricultural use.”
Michael added: “Water is a key design feature of the landscape here, reflecting magnificent views of the abbey and follies in the water garden in mirror-like surfaces of the ponds, lakes and canals.
“The ground-breaking work we’ve done this summer will transform the appearance of the reservoir, restoring that stunning vista of the abbey to inspire visitors for another couple of hundred years.”