• Deborah Yaffe

Silt and sensibility

As we Pride and Prejudice readers know, Mr. Darcy’s responsible stewardship of his beautiful grounds at Pemberley is an important factor in Elizabeth Bennet’s crucial change of mind about his suitability as a husband.


Alas, however, it seems that estate management is easier in fiction than in reality, at least in a reality scarred by climate change.


Two years ago, flooding following torrential rains caused £250,000 (about $346,000) of damage to the grounds of Lyme Park, the Cheshire estate that stood in for Pemberley in the BBC’s 1995 P&P adaptation. Since the iconic adaptation’s most iconic moment was a waterlogged episode staged at Lyme Park – Mr. Darcy’s soaking-wet stroll across the meadow after an impromptu swim in his personal lake – the entire episode seemed a gift from the Gods of Irony.


Now the National Trust, the UK charity that preserves the nation’s heritage, is planning an expensive effort to forestall a repeat of the flooding: dredging large quantities of silt from the bottom of Lyme Park’s lake, in an effort to collect runoff from the nearby moors.


The silting of Lyme Park’s lake isn’t a new problem – back in the mid-1990s, the BBC shot Mr. Darcy’s dip at a humble pond because the magnificent lake was already too shallow for diving – but climate change seems to have cast the issue into stark relief.


And according to a recent story in the London Times, earlier generations’ attempts to deal with rainfall are only worsening today’s situation: Drains installed to dry out the moors in an earlier era are now preventing the land from soaking up the water that cascades onto the estate. Worst of all, no one mapped the problematic drains, forcing today’s staff to use divining rods to find them.


It’s lucky Elizabeth Bennet didn’t know all this back in Chapter 43. The book might have had a very different ending.

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