THIS summer's heatwave has had an unexpected effect on the lawns at Blenheim Palace, with the estate's lost 18th century gardens re-emerging.

Aerial images have revealed extraordinary new details of the palace’s lost history as the outline of the formal gardens, barrow burial sites and other ancient features are revealed.

Like much of the rest of the country the Oxfordshire UNESCO World Heritage Site is experiencing one of the longest spells of dry weather on record.

As a result, the usually lush and verdant parkland has turned brown and exposed a series of parch marks revealing the contours of the old layout.

Among the most striking features to become visible are the outlines of the formal gardens, laid out by the royal gardener Henry Wise and begun in 1705.

According to ‘A History of the County of Oxfordshire’ the so-called Military Garden originally covered an area of around 70 acres and included a rectangular parterre the full width of the palace, parts of which are clearly seen in the parch marks.

The gardens were dismantled in the late 1760s by ‘Capability’ Brown.

Blenheim Palace’s head of gardens, Hilary Wood, said:

“Today we can capture these incredibly detailed images and combine them with historical maps and drawings to provide us with fascinating new information which offers tantalising glimpses both into Blenheim’s recent and ancient history."

The palace is likely to see rain at last, with heavy showers forecast tomorrow and Sunday.