Visitors often ask the staff at Bekonscot “What do you do when the village is closed over the winter?” Each year we have a programme of jobs which includes regular maintenance work and re-painting of the many models and figures. This year however, staff from across the village pulled together to complete the major task of draining and cleaning the main lake. A build up of silt and vegetation has left the lake in a poor condition and a rather unhealthy environment for its many fish inhabitants. So, for the first time in 20 years, the lake needed to be completely drained, cleaned and refilled and the work had to be completed between weekend openings!
The first job was to partly drain the lake and construct a temporary home for the fish. The use of a modern paddling pool was somewhat appropriate bearing in mind the lake started life as Mr. Callingham’s swimming pool.
Catching all the fish proved to be quite a task, carried out on a particularly cold and drizzly November day.
Once the lake was fully drained it was possible to appreciate its full depth – and the depth of the silt at the bottom! Whilst empty, the engineering team took the opportunity to upgrade and re-lay new cabling which runs through ducting under the water.
Then came the job of sucking out 20 years’ worth of silt, which was collected in a tanker and taken to a Thames Water processing plant. There it was placed in a silo to dry and will eventually be used as agricultural fertilizer.
Re-filling the lake took the combined efforts of some significant rainfall, another tanker full of clean water and a hosepipe running overnight. The final job was to release the fish back into the lake where they now have significantly more room to swim around and a cleaner environment.
Whilst emptying the lake a number of items of “lost property” were recovered from the area near the bridge. As well as a number of figures from the village (some with various limbs missing), we also recovered a mobile phone, a camera and numerous toys. Sadly, none were in a suitable state to be returned to their owners.