Just over a year ago I blogged about the floods on the Somerset Levels around Muchelney following a visit to the village in connection with a project. This year the floods have been worse than ever with many houses, farms and businesses affected since December. People have been forced to abandon their homes to the rising waters and take refuge in temporary accommodation; lives and livelihoods have been severely affected.
For some time I have held off going back to Muchelney as I didn’t want to be a flood tourist, gawping at other people’s misfortune. But yesterday my wife and I went down that way and took a detour through the village of Drayton to the west of Muchelney to look at the flooding from that side.
Outside Drayton the road is clear but the fields to the north of the road are badly flooded. It’s hard to tell how deep the water is but, looking at how much the trees are submerged and judging them against how they look normally on Google Maps, I would say it’s about 4-6 feet in places.
The road, flooded and impassable beyond Westover Farm along Law Lane towards Muchelney, comes to an abrupt end as tarmac gives way to water. Within a few metres of the end of the road, as it dips down to cross the moor, the water soon starts to get deep. This is what the road looks like now:
South of the road is an area called Thorney Moor, now one vast lake:
To the north of the road lies flooded pasture land:
Looking at this natural devastation of the landscape, I suddenly became aware of a vehicle heading down the road towards me:
At first, because of its colour, I thought it was an Army vehicle:
But as it got closer, I could see it was a tracked vehicle carrying civilians:
It turned out to be a regular water bus service into the village laid on by Somerset County Council:
This year’s flooding has been a huge shock, coming as it does after last year’s ‘once in a hundred years’ flood. It is currently estimated that it will take 6-8 weeks to pump the water off the land and into the rhynes (drainage ditches) and rivers, and then up to another two years for the land to recover.
It has been very moving to read the flood victims’ stories and I have no idea how the people affected will have the heart to rebuild their lives in this landscape, unless there are guarantees to build better flood defences to protect them against this happening again. Meanwhile the debate around flood prevention rages on.
One small, positive thing I take from all this is the way that local people, as the local and national authorities dithered about what action to take, have used Twitter and Facebook to organise themselves and to mobilise help and support from across the country.
You can make a donation to the flood appeal that is being run by Somerset Community Foundation by clicking Somerset Flood Relief Fund