A major clean-up operation is under way at one of the National Trust’s best-known properties after severe flooding caused “significant damage”.
The trust said it was unsure when Lyme Park, which featured in the BBC’s 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, would reopen.
Streams and ponds at the estate in Cheshire burst their banks on Wednesday, and the scale of the havoc wreaked by the extreme weather is still being assessed.
Aerial photos showed parts of the estate under significant amounts of moving water, while paths, walls and fences were “washed away” as drainage pipes a metre deep were exposed.
“It’s been a hectic 48 hours,” the estate’s lead ranger Chris Dunkerley said. “The rain washed away a 30-metre stretch of dry stone wall that has stood for at least 300 years, and some big veteran trees have just given way because there is so much water around the roots. There is a beech tree which was probably 150 years old and an oak up to 250 years old.”
He said it would take a “huge amount of time” to resurface footpaths and reroute watercourses that had changed course, while the visitor car park was “completely trashed”.
“It will be OK, things will recover, we can repair most of the damage but it will take time and there’s going to be a cost to it. It would look devastating to some people. There has been significant damage.”
Flood warnings remain in place across Cheshire, including a severe alert, after up to 20mm of rain fell in the north-west in eight hours on Wednesday.
The heavy rain came after a long dry spell and filled up streams and becks, which “completely waterlogged the ground”, Dunkerley recalled.
“Then Wednesday came and there was constant heavy rain, falling on to waterlogged ground and adding to volumes of water in all the streams, ponds and lakes. Rain just kept building and building up, then at 4pm things suddenly went from manageable to panic. We were running around with sandbags as streams and ponds were bursting their banks and water was coming up through the drains.”
A tractor had to tow cars out of the flooded visitor car park, while staff moved quickly to shore up the property with sandbags to successfully safeguard artefacts and antiques. The 600-year-old mansion, the focus of the grounds, was used as the home of Mr Darcy, played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel. It was not damaged.
The National Trust said: “Following the recent flooding, Lyme remains closed to the public to allow the clean-up work to be carried out and the full extent of the damage to be assessed. We will be reviewing the situation on Monday to establish how long Lyme will remain closed.””