Where has all the water gone?

VISITORS to Clumber Park this week got rather less than they bargained for.

With one of the wettest summers on record, they might have been forgiven for thinking they would be met with a lake bursting at the seams.

But no, the lake was barren – reminiscent of a severe drought – revealing for the first time in three years the wreck of a boat that once belonged to the Duke of Newcastle.

The charred remnants of The Lincoln was one of many vessels kept on the lake by the Duke, whose passion was so great that in 1821 he employed a full time sailor.

The boat is a scaled-down version of a naval frigate bought in 1871.

It was set alight and destroyed by children in a mooring accident in the 1940s.

Water is being drained into nearby rivers from the lake so that conservation work – including bank repairs, dredging and regrading – can be conducted safely in what is the biggest maintenance effort since the late 1980s.

Contractors appointed by UK Coal are working to counteract the effects of subsidence caused by mining in the area to ensure that the lake is preserved for future generations.

Work on weirs near Hardwick last year balanced lowering water levels, but this was only a temporary measure.

The work will last until September 2005 and is being paid for by UK Coal.

Meanwhile, The National Trust is making sure that it does not impact on people's enjoyment of the park.

Posters and flyers are being used in the shop and cycle hire centre to explain what would happen if action was not taken on this long-standing problem.

Paul Wankiewicz, the National Trust's regional building manager, said: "The consequences of mining have been something we have had to deal with at Clumber Park in the past. "

"We hope that our visitors will appreciate the need for us to undertake the necessary works to ensure that the park is conserved for future generations."

Coal has been mined from beneath the park at various intervals over the past 70 years and UK Coal nowadays mine just 850 metres (2,790 feet) beneath the park.

UK Coal subsidence engineer, Eric Fretwell, said: "We are working with the National Trust to remedy the effects of mining subsidence and to ensure the benefits of the park to the public are maintained and enhanced where possible."

An environmental impact survey has been completed to minimise impact on the park's large wildlife population.

Though the fish remain in the lake – which is still deep enough for them to survive – there will be no fishing until the 2005 season.