Saturday, July 28, 2012
Our river is quite small, and usually is well behaved: it keeps to its channel, and flows quietly down between its banks on its way to the sea at Otter Head, where the rocks stretch out seawards to catch the unwary mariner, just as they did in the days of our local smuggler John Rattenbury, when he brought his craft into the river and upstream to the quayside at Otterton, where he traded with the mill owner.
But it can catch out the unwary: no violent rush of waters, but after prolonged rain upstream at Ottery St Mary and beyond, where it rises, and as the tide turns and dams up the water it breaks out of its narrow channel and fills the whole width of its flood plain again: silently and suddenly.
Last Saturday, after a day in which nothing seemed to have changed, it surprised many again. By 7pm it was across the fields, the cricket pitch and over the bottom of Granary Lane, reaching the bottom of our garden at the back and to within 30 feet of our front steps on the road.
Police (four of them), fire engine crew (six of them) and scores of bystanders (including children, visitors and reporters) were all watching and waiting! As before (it happened just three or four years ago) the houses at the very bottom of the road were flooded (very gently but very certainly) and eventually the fire crew helped the trapped residents to leave, the police decided that they weren’t needed anymore, the children became bored because they weren’t allowed to try and find out how deep the water was, and people stopped taking picture on their mobiles!
Next morning the ROAD CLOSED sign was in place, and scores of people came down, on foot or in cars, to look!
But most of our friends in Budleigh didn’t know about “our flood” - it was, you see, just a very quiet one: the river asserting its right to its old channel, the sea joining in, as it is wont to do, and really nothing much for the TV cameras to see, unless they had been filming from above, but from the top of our garden, high above the flood plain, the view was magnificent!
The estuary looked as it had done in the beginning of the 19th century, when John Rattenbury had sailed up it with his contraband!
And this is still only the 10th day of July!
June and Ron Dingwall