Somerset Floods

Somerset FloodsNormally a New Year starts with something of a bang, however continuous wet weather since before Christmas has turned that into something of a damp squib.

Like much of the country, Somerset has been badly effected by flooding particularly the area now as the Somerset Levels. The Levels as they are known locally are a 650 Km2  area of land with the Eastern edge running north/south between Yeovil, Glastonbury and Wells and nestled between the Blackmore Hills to the Mendip Hills.and then westwards to the sea. The area is mainly drained marshland that historically flooded each winter restricting use to the Summer. It is thought the the name Somerset may have been derived from the “Summer Lands” which was a good description of this area. It is one reason Glastonbury became known as the Isle of Avalon towering aloft it’s winter watery surroundings

Over the years the Levels were drained for farming and grazing by improvement to water courses and the construction of artificial drainage channels with probably the best known of these being the King Sedgemoor Drain. Although the Levels continued to be subjected to flooding, the maintenance of most drainage channels ensured that floods were short-lived. Last winter and the winter so far this year has seen something of a change. Local farmers claim that budget cuts has led to less dredging of the rivers and channels by the local drainage boards while the drainage boards in turn claim the amount of dredging locals claim is needed is neither required and is unnecessarily expensive.

It’s a debacle that has been going on for some time but no one can deny whoever is right or wrong, homes, farms and roads not only continue to be more severely flooded, cut-off and isolated than ever before. While some authorities are worrying over their budgets, no mention is made of the great cost of all this in terms of flooded homes and lost production to the insurance industry and to farmers let alone additional transport costs of wide detours to circumnavigate the flooded areas. It is hard to believe that we now live in the 21st century with all its modern technology and still not agree as to the cause or even more importantly, the solution to what is rapidly becoming an annual problem. A ridgeway road (A39) that runs between Glastonbury and Bridgewater currently gives the impression to drivers of driving along a causeway surrounded by views of flooded terrain on either side.

I cannot help but notice in the extensive television news coverage of flooded areas of the country, new build housing seems to predominantly figure in the background. I would have thought that with all new housing schemes, flooding would be one of the more important aspects to be taken into account. I have no doubt there will be claims that potential flooding is taken into account in such schemes but the eyes do not belie what they see on television screens almost every evening.

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