The Seasons Outside My Back Door: Week 10 March 2016
Oh my what a week of weather we've had. Frosts, fog, gorgeous sunshine. And floods. Yes, floods.
As you may recall from previous Seasons Outside My Back Door posts (Week 1 is here) we have a winter stream flowing through our garden. I call it a winter stream as it comes in the winter. Simple really. It's bone dry the rest of the year. It drains the farmer's field at the back of our house, takes it past the chickens, through a pond (not just our temporary pond, but a proper natural one at the front of the house next to the road) which then flows on its way, underneath the road and onwards.
Tuesday night we must have had torrential rain. I looked out early Wednesday morning and saw puddles of water where the chickens have been scratching. I remember thinking how strange that was. I'd never seen puddles in that area like that before.
Walking outside, down to the chickens and the ducks, I noticed the stream was running fast. Nothing unusual about that after a heavy bout of rain. I then went on the school run as normal. I drove slowly and steadily through the water that had collected on the road near the bottom of our drive.
It was 10am when I was returning home after a coffee with a friend. My route back had been tricky. I'd had to make a u-turn in the next village. The bottom of a small hill had flooded. There was no way I'd make it through. As I re-routed and continued my journey home I started getting a little anxious. What if the puddle just down from the bottom of the drive had got bigger? What if I couldn't get through to my house? This, as it turned out, turned out to be a minor worry.
I did get through although the water was now completely over the road. I should point out that the stream that cuts through our garden, and the natural pond, is down a steep slope from our house. There is no way we could flood. Unless of course, we leave the taps on.
But the tenant in next door's house. Well, she is at the bottom of this slope. She's also at the bottom of a hill on the other side and a slope opposite. She pretty much has water coming from all directions.
And she wasn't home.
So it is 10.20am. The water has crept over the road but it is still passable.
I went around the back of the house to check on the animals. They were fine but the stream was now a raging torrent. Fast flowing brown water was storming through the garden. Two railway sleepers we were using as stepping stones were no longer there. I found them forty metres away through various twists and turns of the stream. That's how forceful it was.
This is where you'll have to forgive my photography - my phone was getting soaked.
I went out the front again. It was ten minutes after I first looked. And the pond had completely burst its bank. There is normally a distance of about 50-70cms in height between the pond surface and the road. That gap was no longer there. The road is now completely impassable. Though that didn't stop some.
I whittle and worry. I don't have my neighbour's number. I don't even know her full name. In fact, I wasn't certain I'd remembered her name correctly. (She hasn't lived there that long.) We tried to contact the owner of the property (she rents it). But he wasn't answering his phone.
But I did know where she worked. And that's how we finally managed to contact her, with a bit of detective work, via her HR department, who quickly sent out an email to all staff based on our description of her and where she lived. Oh man. It was convoluted. But it worked. And soon she was back and managed to save many of her possessions. Three of the rooms though are completely trashed. I walked through the flood water in her dining room with her. The floor boards had been forced up and they bounced as we walked on them. It wasn't my house but I wanted to cry. I've never witnessed flood damage at first hand before. It truly is devastating.
By evening the waters had dropped. But the damage had been done. Cars had forced their way through the flood water on the road. And engines had packed up. An AA van was parked permanently on the other side. The council were so busy with other floods elsewhere (one flood in the county had gone over a dual carriageway causing an accident) they had nobody available to close the road.
Every time a car, van, or lorry went through the flood water it would create a tidal wave. Which then oozed through my neighbour's house causing further damage. I told one driver to slow down. The spray he was making went up to her first floor windows. He decided to answer me by gunning his engine and drenching me instead. That water had sewage in it. My response was not polite.
Honestly. Don't drive through flood water. For a start you don't know how deep it is - I found all sorts of debris when the water receded including a number plate that had been forced off. And secondly, the impact as you force your way through the water on surrounding houses is utterly damaging.
After the drama of Wednesday and the recovery of Thursday on Friday we woke up to dense fog and frost. Everything was quiet apart from the bird song. Distant colours were blank or muted but closer details stood out. The bright yellow catkins of the goat willow hugged tightly by the frost, the feathery bloomers of a chicken, the stillness and clarity of the water.
Unlike the raging torrents of a few days before this type of weather forces you to slow down. Both literally and figuratively. You can't drive fast in this weather (although some people try). You slow your walk, too, as you notice things you haven't seen before. The clarity of the stream. The silt that has built up behind the temporary dam. The celandines. The violets on the stream bank. The common osier willow with its tiny catkins. You can feel your shoulders lowering, your tension headache easing.
Finally on Saturday and Sunday we had sunshine. Beautiful spring sunshine. Deceptive, as it is still rather chilly out there. I learnt that to my cost as I was taking photographs. With the sun out I was able to see the goat willow from a distance. The yellow is like tiny neon sunbeams glinting against the blue sky. I saw insects on it, feeding on the pollen. I'm sure I saw a bee, too, but by then I was getting distracted by the cold.
Something else I noticed, however, was the growth on my young trees. The young branches have put on a big spurt, reaching out their branches towards the sunshine. They've obviously been enjoying the rain.
Someone else who has enjoyed the water is the ducks. And not just my ducks. Two wild ones, male and female, have been spotted a number of times on the natural pond. Along with a moorhen.
They say a week is a long time in politics. Well, let's just say, a week can also be a long time where Mother Nature is concerned.