06 Jul 2022

Investigation into Emo Court's disappearing lake by Office of Public Works

Investigation into Emo Court's disappearing lake by Office of Public Works

Before and now: Emo Court Lake. Second photo by Audrey Hendy

Visitors to Emo Court this autumn may have noticed that the lake has almost dried up.

The 20 acre manmade lake at the Laois beauty spot is a focal point for visitors with a wealth of wild birds and fish abounding there, and a walkway restored some years around its perimeter. 

However this year vistors could instead walk across the dried up lake from one side to the other, with large mud flats growing next to advancing reedbeds.

The Leinster Express asked the Office of Public Workswhy this is happening, and what will be done.

A spokesperson has explained that they share the concern for the "ongoing problem". 

"The water level in the lake at Emo Court is very low at the moment. This is a regular occurrence at this time of year but it is particularly bad this year after a very dry summer.

"The lake at Emo is an integral part of the site and we cherish its aesthetic value as well as its importance to the local ecology and biodiversity.

"The lake at Emo is supplied from a spring located some four miles upstream. OPW is commissioning a survey of the watercourse to investigate the route for signs of blockage or syphoning. At the moment OPW is supplementing the lake water supply from a local on-site well.

"This is an on-going problem which OPW is attempting to resolve.  It is hoped that the investigation and report will identify the physical issues regarding the watercourse, and make recommendations as to how OPW might address them," the OPW said.

Emo Court was gifted to the Irish state in 1995 by its owner Major Cholmeley Harrison who remained living in the house until his death.

In recent years it has undergone renovations including the restoration of the lake perimeter walkway. It received a €1.2m Rural Regeneration grant in 2018. The house is closed until 2022 for further renovations including a new security system to protect and exhibit valued artworks.

It was estimated in 2019 that over 300,000 people visit the free grounds annually. Many more visitors now enjoy them since the start of the Covid pandemic. 

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