The Industrial Revolution, which made Britain the powerhouse of the world in the 19th Century, may have been consigned to the history books but it has left a legacy of environmental problems.

Experts warn it continues to pollute drinking water, poison rivers and threaten flooding and in the process it fuels climate change and affects huge swathes of the modern landscape.

The mining of lead, tin and other metals is thought to have contaminated nearly 2,000 miles of waterways. Estimated repair costs run into the hundreds of millions.

Dr Hugh Potter, a mine pollution specialist for the Environment Agency, said: "The metals are going to continue to come out of these mines and spoil heaps for hundreds of years without any significant lowering of the impact.

"So unless we do something about it, it will have an impact for a very long time."

But recent attempts to undo some of this, and other examples of historical damage, have made notable headway.

Fresh research into mine pollution is being carried out, and last year a major project to clean up more than a century of colliery waste in County Durham won international recognition.