Monday, 7 November 2016

The aftermath of Storm Desmond

We had a lovely but slightly disappointing walk with the lurchers on Sunday, heading up to the Boatside at Warden. We  have not been up this way since about October, partly because I had my gall bladder removed in November, so more ambitious walks have been off the cards. The Sele is a great place for our lurchers to walk, but in winter there are disappointments such as the grounds of Hexham House being closed off in the evening, so any change is very welcome not just for our hounds, but for us too!

Between our last walk to Warden and today there have been a number of storms, most notable Storm Desmond, which have caused extensive flooding across northern England. Here in the Tyne valley we have escaped the worst of it (unless you live in Corbridge - sorry!) but the Tyne was very high and not content to stay within her banks - or even to be contained within flood defences. Being a pair of closet Geomorphologists, my wife and I have been looking forward to seeing what had happened up that way, having already witnessed the aftermath down Corbridge way.

The riverside towards Warden did not disappoint. In numerous areas there were fresh deposits of sand and the vegetation has been scoured away. Some of the trees are badly damaged too, although they have fared better than those down at Corbridge, I would say.

The most dramatic thing was the fresh scar on the opposite bank. Beyond the A69 bridge over the Tyne there is a field that is high and dry above the river. This does not mean that it is safe from the river, however. Over the summer this scar had a fair covering of plants but it was obvious that this was an erosion feature. The first time I saw it early last year, there were the buried portion of a pair of telegraph poles just emerging from the bank (new poles had been inserted further back from the edge in the field and presumably these ones had just been sawn off at ground level). After a storm earlier in 2015 these stumps were casting a shadow - meaning that the soil around them had been eroded, but they were still well enough embedded in the bank to remain in situ. Today they were gone. The whole lot has been washed away and is spread across the Tyne valley downstream. I wonder how many years it will be before the newer poles have to be replaced in the same way. Clearly the river will continue to erode this bank of the Tyne and the course of the river will shift northwards little by little. The field will be getting smaller, and there is nothing that the owner can do - property law concerning rivers and streams is quite clear that the boundary lies mid stream - and if the stream shifts, one side gains and the other side loses out. Life is tough.

The lurchers were clearly confused by all of this. Not only has their beloved undergrowth been stripped bare, it is almost certain that the rabbits have gone too. Furthermore the river is still on the wild side and there are no ducks to entice them into the water. Over the summer the river has been our friend, causing great mirth as Rover somehow manages to find "the exact same stone" that you threw in for him, or with the pair of them competing for a stick. The Tyne is nearly fordable here in the summer-time. However, now is not summer, now it is winter and the river is cold, fast-flowing and very strong. So we have not been encouraging any water play - I would not like to have to jump in to rescue them if anything went wrong. Thankfully, although they have been drawn to the water's edge, they seem to either pick up our anxiety or feel unsure of the raging torrent themselves, so they have gone in no more than their fore-paws in depth. Rover keeps assuming that he is fine, then hastily jumping out looking surprised.

We found two breaches in the flood defence here (levee is the wrong term, these are definitely man-made). In both cases I suspect that rabbit warrens have weakened the defence, as you can see other areas where there are collapsed burrows. When the weather was better you could walk along the top of the structure, and some of the chamber of warrens near the surface would collapse leaving holes that were a trip hazard at the time. I can remember thinking that these could affect the integrity of the barrier if it was put to the test. As I said earlier, there do not seem to be any rabbits in the area at the moment, although I have no doubt that they will recolonise it over the coming months. There has been no attempt to rebuild the barrier yet, but this will take a lot of soil to achieve.

In among all this waste, Rover found something to roll in. He was shouted at to stop, which he listened to, had another roll and then came away. Strangely I kind of forgot about this, so when I was later sorting out one of Amazon's poos later on, with Rover back on the lead, I associated the new smell with Amazon. The smell kept coming from time to time, so I was checking my feet, my hands, my clothing, then got Cath to do the same. Finally Amazon had the indignity of having her tail lifted up to see if there was anything clinging there. There was not. Finally we put it down to silage. It was only much later, on the way back, that I noticed the stiff spiky hackles on Rover's neck and I put two and two together.

The snowdrops are out along the way again, which is nice. I got a great picture of some which have had to push away some of the deposited sand in order to get to the surface, and it is so obvious that this has happened. I will try to upload it later, along with other pictures of the day.

I mentioned disappointment. Well, nature certainly didn't disappoint, and Rover, well, you have seen posts about Rover rolling before, so although it was a pain, it was hardly a disappointment. Well, the disappointment was yet another effect of Storm Desmond that we were unaware of. When we got to The Boatside at Warden, we found that it was closed. In spite of its name, the Boatside is a good two hundred metres from the river, and much higher up, lying beyond another line of flood defences. We had often joked that you would be hard pressed to get a boat up to the pub. Well, it would seem that in the aftermath of Desmond, it was perfectly possible to get a boat to the pub, which suffered flood damage and was closed. I really hope they got a photograph of the pub with a boat outside it.

So, no sit with a pint of Northumberland (or occasionally Cumbrian) real ale and a bag of peanuts for us while the lurchers eye up the bar snacks hopefully. Also no rest for Cath's hip and no loo stop. These things are important, although the latter is not so important if you skip the real ale. Having no other alternative, we peered in through the windows with heavy hearts. According to their website they are hoping to reopen in mid February, but I think from the state of things on Sunday that it may be a bit longer.

Then we retraced our steps through all of the devastated terrain already described, and on to home. It was here that we finally discovered the awful smell had nothing to do with Amazon, and the culprit was lured into the bathroom, then carried back into the bathroom to meet the fate of dogs who roll. He wasn't happy with being in the bath or with the shower, or with the shampoo for that matter, but I think he was happier with the warm water than the outside tap that he gets in the summer, so after he had been toweled dry he gave me lots of licks to say that he understood why we had to do horrible things to him and that he forgave me. It's a good thing that dogs have big forgiving hearts, isn't it?

No comments:

Post a Comment