Our lake is an important part of the landscape and castle grounds and was created soon after the castle was finished by damming up two streams that ran through the valley below. Generally, after works fifteen years ago to strengthen the bund or bank, it has stood the test of time quite well. It is now home to coarse fish, duck and herons.
At weddings, we use the far bank for as a base for firework displays, with the reflection in the water adding value to the proceeding as far as the party is concerned. When we are open for visitors, there is a good walk around its banks, with great views of the castle and plenty of benches for those wanting, or needing, to take their time. There is a syndicate of fishermen who enjoy the peace and quiet, put what they catch back into the water and keep an eye on what is going on.
The overflow is in the form of a weir, made of stone and “limecrete”, a concrete where the cement is replaced by lime. It was designed by the architect of the castle, Robert Smirke, but in the last few years it has been leaking round the side and a number of stones have become dislodged. After exhaustive advice and comment from the Environment Agency, English Heritage, Natural England, Herefordshire Council, a civil engineer and our architect, we drew up a plan, which met everyone’s approval for its restoration and were fortunately awarded grants towards the cost by Natural England and the Country Houses Foundation.
The contract went to Treasures of Ludlow: www.treasureandson.co.uk and the image shows work cleaning the stones on the top of the dam. When digging up the floor of the pool below the weir itself, the men found a cavity full of eels, which were all caught and released in to the lake. Otherwise, they have found the leak, which they hope they can stop. In the meantime, the water bypasses the weir and flows out through a sluice. The lake is emptier than usual with the level lowered for the work. It does not look quite so good, but it makes mealtime easier for the herons.
JH-B 1st Nov 2012
Although Eastnor looks like a castle from a distance and turns out only to be a castellated mansion house on closer inspection, our lake looks like a lake from far away and is not a mirage when you get to it. It really is a lake and it was created in about 1820 by the damming of two streams that flanked the old house, Castleditch, which was demolished when the castle was deemed fit for family occupation in 1818.
As there is a reasonable flow of water through it, even in a dry spring, Robert Smirke, architect of the house and then the lake, closed the dam off with a weir, which forms a point of interest for those walking around the lake. It also has the capacity to allow flood waters to roar over after heavy rain as a better alternative to bursting the bund. The pool below the weir is crossed by an elegant, if now somewhat rusty, cast-iron bridge. A sluice can be opened to by pass the weir and lower the level of the lake below its crest at times, for example when we want to net fish or repair the bund.
We are required to have the lake inspected under the terms of the Reservoirs Act 1975, as now updated by the Flood and Water Management Act 2010. However, we have not needed an engineer to tell us we have a problem, though the threat of trouble from the authorities has galvanised us into getting plans drawn up to have the dam properly repaired. The problems are more or less obvious from the image: damage to the stonework of the weir walls and face, water leaking round the side and rust on the hand rail of the bridge. The structure of the weir consists of a lime concrete base, a material pioneered by Smirke and one which fortunately can be repaired.
We expect to start at the end of the summer English Heritage has offered a useful grant, for which we are very grateful, but we hope our visitors keep coming this summer to help provide the rest of the money needed. JH-B 5/6/11