IN one of my earliest Notes from the Sticks, nearly two years ago, I wrote about the Ribble flood of February 9, 2020. It turned out to be a record for the river. It is typically measured in our area at about 3ft, and that day it reached more than 15ft. This is a re-run of that article, published on February 15, 2020, with some up-to-date material afterwards.
WHEN Storm Ciara arrived last weekend, it was one of the few occasions I can remember when the weather warnings turned out to be accurate. In Lancashire we were lashed with rain of film-set intensity. It was genuinely like having bucketsful thrown over you. Water cascaded down our chimney and came in under the front door. Luckily our floor is flagged.
For me it was a reminder of the sheer power of water. The stream at the back of our house rose from its usual few inches to about three feet of churning, ferocious energy. The first time I saw it that high, a few years ago, I was puzzled by an intermittent clanking or clunking sound above the noise of the water. It sounded a bit like rocks being bashed together. Slowly I realised that it was exactly that – rocks rolling along the bed of the stream. Every time the water subsides, a new pattern of boulders has appeared. Some of them are large, maybe the equivalent of a two-foot cube. I guess they would take two or three hefty men to shift them. The sound of them bowling along as if they were footballs is exhilarating, the earth’s forces in action in front of you.
I wonder where they come from? There seems an inexhaustible supply. My best guess is that they are glacial moraine, the debris dumped when the glaciers which covered this part of the world receded about 11,000 years ago. Our stream is gradually uncovering the deposits and taking them to the sea, grinding them as they go, ultimately to form new rock deposits an unimaginable time hence.
Half a mile from us, the Ribble burst its banks on Saturday. It seeped and then poured through a stone wall separating it from a road. Knowledgeable folk told me there were holes in the wall to protect it from being knocked down by the force of the water, but nevertheless huge chunks of stonework collapsed. An intrepid soul made a video in the area, and you can see the damage to which I refer at about 1’ 50”.
By the time I went to take pictures the bulk of the rubble had been cleared away (I felt sure I could rely on it taking weeks) but perhaps you can see how powerful the surge must have been from this picture of a wall on the other side of the road which has been swept into a field, its stones strewn for many yards. It too is visible in the video, opposite the collapsed river wall.
The vicious wind and rain has finally departed but, as I write, Storm Dennis is on the way . . .
The damage to the walls in our village can be seen between 1’50” and 3’20” in the video. It has been repaired over this summer by Lancashire County Council, and their team have made a terrific job of it. First they reinforced the bank with huge rocks.
Then they rebuilt the stone wall to the same pattern as the old one. It is not a dry stone wall, plenty of mortar was used, but it hardly shows (the old wall is the same).
This is where old and new wall join.
As you can see the new wall has been provided with plenty of drainage, a lot more than before, so I imagine it will withstand many more floods. It has not had a severe test yet, though the water has lapped at the wall once or twice.
I took these pictures on Thursday when it was beautifully bright, though cold. I also took a video to show the river in more peaceful mood with that lovely sound of running water.
Notes from the Sticks is taking a short break; I hope to be back on Sunday January 3. By then we will have passed the shortest day and be en route for spring. Here are a couple of early signs. I saw this cheerful bush in a garden yesterday; I believe it is a Viburnum bodantense ‘Dawn’ but I stand to be corrected.
And here are some hazel catkins.
The imperviousness of nature to anything the politicians and ‘scientists’ dictate is a great solace to me.