AN idyllic view in West Oxfordshire, once hailed by Churchill's father as the 'finest in England', is at risk of being lost forever. 

Blenheim Palace has unveiled a 'radical' multi-million pound plan to save its Queen Pool from being completely sucked up by silt - which could then cause the iconic Grand Bridge to collapse.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site in Woodstock today revealed the lake, created in the 18th century by Capability Brown, has become so shallow and laden with silt that it is at risk of drying out.

That fate could have destructive results for the bridge, which was built by architect John Vanbrugh. 

Head of estates Roy Cox said: "There is an absolute certainty that, if we do not do something radical soon, the view will be lost forever.

"We have to act now to safeguard this iconic landscape for future generations to discover and enjoy."

Blenheim plans to drain Queen Pool and bring in diggers to dredge 400,000 tonnes of silt from the lake and neighbouring Blenheim Lake: enough to fill Wembley Stadium to its roof.

The works would be the largest restoration project at the historical site for more than 250 years, and would also reveal parts of the bridge that have been submerged for more than a century.

According to Blenheim, Sir Winston's father Lord Randolph Churchill praised the view as he passed through the Woodstock Gate entrance for the first time in 1874.

His wife later wrote: "As we passed through the entrance archway and the lovely scenery burst upon me, Randolph said with pardonable pride: ‘This is the finest view in England.’"

Sir Winston Churchill was born at the stately home and is buried in nearby Bladon. 

Investigative work will begin at the lake this year with hopes for the main work to begin in 2018/19.

Mr Cox said: "This will be one of the largest civil engineering projects ever undertaken at a stately home and will need to be completed within a relatively short timeframe [approximately 20 weeks] to prevent permanent damage both to the lakes and the bridge. 

"The logistics of the rescue plan are incredibly complex."

The dredging forms part of a wider 10-year management plan at Blenheim. 

In some areas the lake - a designated site of special scientific interest - is just 30cm deep, instead of its original depth of two metres.

In a statement, Blenheim added: "As well as returning the lake area to its former glory, the project will also have a hugely beneficial impact on local wildlife.

"It will also open up an entirely new area of the estate for visitors to explore and enjoy, with a series of new visitor areas and plans for passenger boats to allow tours on the water to take place for the first time."

The works could reveal rooms, architecture and artefacts that have been hidden underwater for decades.