'My grandad knew how to fight floods'

Monday 3 February 2014

As I've mentioned here before my grandfather was a farmer and I spent a lot of time there as a boy. I helped with chores and ended up picking up quite a lot about life on a working farm.

It stood on the Shropshire Plain, a long way from the sea. It was Roman-hot in summer and freezing in winter when the fields were lashed by rain that swept in from the Welsh hills, which brooded along the horizon a few miles to the west.

The slow-moving River Roden - a tributary of the mighty Severn - ran through grandad's fields, and various brooks and culverts drained into it. During wet winters the river could flood but never as seriously as in the years before grandad took over the farm. Back then hundreds of acres might sit under sullen brown lakes from January to March.

The reason matters improved so much was because grandad made sure the Roden was comprehensively dredged every five years. He encouraged neighbouring farmers to do the same.

There were penalties in doing this. For a start, it was very expensive. Also, there were trout in grandad's stretch of the river and he let the fishing rights to a club. This useful source of income dried up in the season after dredging.

Wildlife was affected too. You could see kingfishers along the Roden but they would disappear after dredging, along with other species. But it had to be done.

Flash forward - flash flood, rather - to today and the benighted folk who've been under water in the Somerset Levels for a month, with precious little relief in sight.

Read Richard's full Daily Express column here
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