Walking country – the gentle English countryside

Keep to the footpaths

We live in an area of many public footpaths:  over hills and moorland, across and round the edges of farm land and along rivers.  When natural disasters happen here, thankfully they are usually on a smaller scale than in other parts of the world.  OK, I can think of quite a few terrible exceptions within my lifetime but such events have been few and far between.

So this is a photograph from a very local, small-scale quarrel between nature and mankind – though frustration levels were high .

A nightmare for those living nearest

In this particular valley, the river broke its banks about 6 years ago and decided to go walk-about.  It had done it before 21 years ago or so, and its outcome had been horribly tragic higher up-stream, where a man was caught when using a ford he knew well.  But it had at that time, more or less stayed within or near its bounds, flooding some of the fields further down stream and driving huge trees along its length end over end in its flow and damaging small footbridges as it passed.  I think the worst before that had been the famous 1948 floods which happened all over the country.

On this current occasion all river banks, roads and footpaths in its way were up for grabs most of the way along the valley.

Waders to be recommended

theinfillclicks - flood takes out footpath

When things had settled down, the rain had stopped and all the digging and bailing could end.

Do you see the hills on the other side of the valley?  That is where the river ran its channel until the heavy rains.  So do let’s obey the walker’s rules and go on a footpath, erm hunt?

This is a salmon river and the flood was in September.  When the salmon started their run they had to jump up newly created mini waterfalls where the water had gouged out the field surface and created new channels, into water full of grass, barely deep enough to make further progress.

To be fair to the river it probably used to run across the valley bottom and much more towards this side until, I think the Victorians confined it in land improvement and management measures.

The hills and promontories around are full of the archeology of habitation throughout the history of humans in the region, and the river is one of those reputedly used by Paulinus in baptising the leaders of the area.  There is a particular promontory on this side of the valley (a quarter-mile to my right) that looks as though it was used for ceremonial purposes and it would have made more sense to build it there if it also overlooked a river running nearer its foot than it does now.  And that is where it ended up 6 years ago.

The reinstatement of the river bank was destroyed the following season a couple of times, giving everyone living close stress upon stress,  and now it has been designed for give/filtering through, to allow the water to spread so that it can get away and lose force:  a new flood bank has been built close to the houses affected in our village and ditches have been upgraded to full drainage conduits.  Not a full solution, but possibly a workable compromise with nature.

Here endeth the talk in local river and drainage management.  So as you go walking in our National Parks and elsewhere on this wet and windy bank holiday, have a shuftyat the local rivers you pass.  Do they look as though it’s totally natural that they flow just where they are now?

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