On Edge With Stormy Weather Over Wenlock

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Before and after last summer’s wheat harvest.

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As I’ve mentioned once or several times, I spend much time watching the sky behind our house. I never cease to be fascinated by the false horizon created by this low hill. Behind it is a another false horizon created by Wenlock Edge which lies a half mile further on.  Here in Wenlock, then, we see the movement of clouds in the westerly sky  several hundred feet higher than do our neighbours below the Edge. It is a piece of geographic happenstance that makes for dramatic skyscapes. It’s a bit like watching a moving stage set.

I justify the time spent sky watching on the grounds that I need to make the most of this view. Doubtless the local landowner will get his way and one day build a sprawling housing estate here, this despite the fact the town has a Victorian drainage system that cannot cope with any more human effluent. Already, just to add an off-colour atmosphere to the scene, our sewage works is licensed to dump excess untreated waste into the stream which thence flows into the River Severn and through the World Heritage Site of the Ironbridge Gorge. This is clearly what is meant in England when certain politicians bang on about Victorian Values.  Sometimes I wonder how, as a nation, we can be so very smug about ourselves.

The poor drains of course add to the town’s flash flooding risk, and to replace them would cost many millions. We do not appear to have a planning system in this country that says NO to development, even though there is insufficient infra-structure to support it. Developers of course pay a pro rata community levy on the number of houses built, but such amounts could not begin to cover the cost of the kind of remedial work that is necessary. When Wenlock’s population is less than 3,000, why would a water company spend 10 million pounds on such a venture?

The main problem is that the town sits in a hollow behind the summit of Wenlock Edge. The town centre is at the lowest point and thus one of the most vulnerable areas. In 2007 over fifty houses were damaged. Many afflicted families were still trying to restore their homes up to a year later. And while insurance cover may make good the bricks and mortar, it does not bring back the personal belongings that were lost, or quickly eradicate the memory of having a metre high flood rushing through your house.

Mostly of course, the town does not flood, although parts of it are prone to run-off from surrounding hills in times of prolonged wet weather. As far as we know, our house has never flooded, although given its position, built into the bottom of the hill, this is in some ways surprising. There is anyway a low earth bund along the back boundary and, after earlier flood incidents lower down the street, the landowner’s tenant farmer continues to leave a broad swathe of uncultivated ground behind our houses, and then ploughs  in line with it.

In fact to create real problems it takes a certain kind of storm to hit our catchment area. But when it comes there is less than 20 minutes warning before a flash flood. The roads into the town become rivers. Every hard surface speeds up the flow, and given our antiquated system, all the storm water goes into the foul sewer. All of which is to say, as one of the flood alert wardens with the brief of forewarning elderly neighbours, I also have more pressing reasons for watching the sky, and keeping an eye on any storms brewing.

copyright 2015 Tish Farrell

Related:

In Much Wenlock An Inspector Calls

Please visit Paula’s place at Lost in Translation for more fascinating cloudscape photographs.

30 thoughts on “On Edge With Stormy Weather Over Wenlock

  1. Excellent photos Tish. Looks like more rain coming your way too. I blogged about rain today too. I hope you don’t get aflashflood. They can be really scary.

    1. I must dash to the allotment in that case, Suzanne. It’s sunny just now, but someone in town said it wasn’t going to last. Good moment for putting in the borlotti beans if it’s going to rain though, but as you say, hopefully not flash-flood.

  2. I was listening on our National Radio today to a discussion on these very issues, as they affect NZ cities and towns. In fact the Professor being interviewed mentioned we had our problems in common with much of the rest of the world because we are all compromised by concrete/urban development, climate change and lack of future planning, combined with insufficient funds to deal with the problems. There was a once in a 100 year flood in Dunedin this week. He said we can no longer think in that time frame because we are living in an era where there is a chance these events will happen every year.

    1. Absolutely spot on, G. When we had our flood in 2007, at first none of the authorities would take responsibility when it came to the consequences, so those flooded out were batted between Local Authority, Environment Agency, water authority and insurers. Meanwhile the town was fobbed off with the 1:100 years flood story. In fact it was a 1:8, and because we cannot know what our erratic weather will now do, nor in what degree of severity, the statistics are indeed meaningless. The town’s footprint has increased 3 fold in the last few decades, and the drains, still much of the system comprising the recently mentioned, culverted Shet Brok/Shilte River, dating back to medieval times. Absolutely no forward planning, and when queried on the subject most officialdom simply shrugs and looks sheepish. Meanwhile development continues because this is seen to be the means to fuel the country’s financial recovery. Completely barking.

  3. So you are enjoying some sunshine at last, Tish. I hope it lasts for you. Thank you for this wonderful post. Your photos are inspiring 🙂

  4. I learnt from your post the problems you have as for the weather concerns…..
    For the reasons you mention , they seem to pertain to so many countries , nowadays!
    Wish you much sun and good weather , from now on , but , please , keep shooting those gorgeous cloudscapes !

    1. Isn’t it just. Not only that every time we have heavy rain, which was many days during the winter, the system apparently overtops anyway – before it reaches the sewage works, so who knows how much we pollute the Severn Gorge and beyond. Dreadful.

  5. Beautiful skyscapes, Tish. Hope the flood flash stays away this time. Interesting thoughts about the damages caused by humans and victorian beliefs. In Cley we are always prepared for floods, luckily we live a bit elevated from the main (coast)road and so far stayed dry, but when the holiday makers go home, the put up their flood shutters, just in case.
    Best regards from the now sunny and very warm Cley from the four of us, with a big hug,
    Dina & co

  6. We also live at the bottom of a hill and our driveway used to be a seasonal stream. Thing is, it still is a seasonal stream. What was the seasonal pond was, for awhile, our basement. Thanks to a sump, pump, drains, and ditches, we don’t flood any more. But in a river valley, flooding is never out of the question, especially for those of us who are downhill. Interesting read!

  7. With ever increasing flash floods no longer being 1 :100 year occurrences and the ever expanding suburbs it sounds as though your sewage system is in dire need of a major overhaul. The photos are very spectacular.

  8. I love the way every post of yours is so dense with local knowledge, and so generous with glimpses of your rich and committed local life. The two photos are so dramatic, with colour and line and comparability before and after harvest.

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