A River Runs By It

I scampered over to the northern edge of the Priory grounds the other day.  (I do quite a bit of scampering when no-one’s about).  Here, a small river forms the boundary to the estate.  In summer it can dry up almost entirely, leaving just a broken line of deep, shady pools; in winter it can be a raging torrent, threatening to burst its banks and flood the house itself.  (For some  reason the builders of the Priory chose to erect it on land that floods, rather than higher up on the sides of the valley.  Maybe the topography of the land was different five hundred years ago, though that is unlikely; maybe more extensive woodland held onto rainwater for longer, only slowly releasing  it into the river.  Maybe whoever built it just wasn’t very bright).

The river is low at the moment

In the north-western corner of the grounds a public footpath crosses a tumbledown, brick footbridge.  This was the main route from the Priory to the nearby village of Weydon Priors (not its real name), before the age of the motor-car.  Nowadays, the path is used only by dog-walkers* and ramblers, and I use the arch of this bridge as a gauge to check on how high the river level is;  should I blithely carry on with gardening duties or do I need to run about in a blind, shrieking panic because the house is in danger of flooding?

Leaning over the post and rail fence, I noticed that a branch had got wedged into the bridge arch and that around it a dam of leaves and twigs was forming.  With the through-flow impeded like this, the blockage will only increase.  Couple that with  heavy rainfall  and the bridge could soon act like a dam itself causing the water level to rise very quickly.  There was only one thing to do.  It was time.  Yes, it was time to pull on my waders.


Resembling nothing so much as a giant romper suit, I use the waders when doing wet mucky jobs and to get out to the islands in the ponds.  Thankfully, I am one of those rare people  who can wear waders without looking preposterous.


Half an hours work and I was able to clear the branch and all that leaf and twig.  Reminded me of playing in streams and building dams when I was a kid.  (I love my job).

Some of the trees that line the river are (a bit) Amazonian in size.  These mighty ash and oak can make me to do a double-take – they’re so flaming big.  It does worry me how the river, when in full spate, washes deeply away at their roots.  A couple of these giants have come crashing down already; luckily when there has been no-one about.

For now the river is running clear again.  If we get heavy rain over several days, and the fields about the Priory become saturated, the run off will swell the river and its level will swiftly begin to rise.  And I will need to keep a close eye on it.  Though truth be told, once the river gets to a certain level, and water starts running back up the ditches into the estate, there is precious little I can do about it.  Waders or no.  The house has flooded before and, one day, it most certainly will again.

It’s just a matter of time.

* My first experience of The Priory was walking my dogs along the same footpath, trying to peer through the beech hedge (not that I’m nosy); wondering about its history and who lived there and what the inside of the house might be like.  It is odd now to think back on a time when The Priory wasn’t part of my life and I didn’t know it intimately.

18 thoughts on “A River Runs By It

  1. Are you sure it was scampering and not romping? They can look and feel quite similar, but the latter tends to be a little slower… Just asking… Waders are impossible to look anything other than daft in, though I think mine are more stylish than yours, being blue. There again, you get to play with bridges and rivers and tree branches in yours, I just get to stand in a small pond and worry about falling over and looking even more daft.

    I resume Pooh Sticks get played regularly on the bridge?


    • Definately scampering, Janet – though I have been known to romp as well. Blue waders, eh? Don’t you think blue is rather last season? I think so. Grey is the new blue, dontcha know? I’m concerned that someone is forcing you to pull on your waders in order to stand in a pond for no reason. Please post some photos so I can reassure myself that you’re not being made a figure of fun Thanks.

      I have never played Pooh Sticks on the bridge – but shall rememdy that today. Thanks for the tip.



  2. Are there any old records still at the Priory, or maybe at the local library or historical society, that would give some clue about the siting of the house? That could be a fun research project on a rainy day. Or not… Not everyone gets a kick out of these things, I hear.

    I do hope your waders set a new mode. The fashion for sagging has gone on FAR too long, and I wouldn’t mind seeing things go to the other extreme for a while. They don’t look very warm, though–hope you don’t have to wade in too often again until June or so.


    • Hi Stacy, I’ve done loads of research on-line but there is surprisingly little about the Priory to be found. One day, yes I must research a little farther afield. There is a local historical society and I’ve been meaning to write to them.

      You’ll be very relieved to hear that the waders are very warm (and yes, snug) actually. The material is quite spongy (it’s not all me!).



  3. “wondering about its history and who lived there and what the inside of the house might be like” …and maybe finding out the colour of their curtains and knowing if that colour matches the one of the walls, maybe even knowing what the owners are having for breakfast… not that I’m nosy…
    Yes we all know that you are not…

    I wish I had a little river to dredge just to wear a frog dress like that, it is lovely! 🙂


  4. That’s a natty pair of waders there. There are 3 rivers that run through my local town and the first 2 years we lived here there was some serious flooding. It was scary and thrilling at the same time to see the power of the water as it passed through. The rivers looked like something from Willy Wonka, frothing and chocolately brown.
    We’re still building on flood plains now. I’d give the builders of the Priory the benefit of the doubt but I don’t know what excuse modern developers have!!

    I’m very envious of that sunshine. It is dull, grey and damp here and I’m finding it hard to psyche myself up to get up to the allotment. Did you get any snow?


    • All that sunshine was last week, WW; the snow arrived on Sunday. The Priory flooded in 2000, the same year that Lewes and many other Sussex towns flooded.Part of the problem is that councils don’t spend money on keeping streams and rivers clear anymore; certainly in this neck of the woods


  5. You look fetching in your waders 🙂 And job well done, hope it wasn’t too uncomfortably cold whilst you were within the river. It’s very charming to have a natural stream/small river running within ones property, a plus point for a natural water feature! It’s a shame though that this river is a flood risk to the Priory house. Still, as long as it behaves then it just adds charm to the garden.


    • If anything the waders are too warm, Boys – which was just as well as the water was icy. It is difficult to reconcile the pretty, little river above with how I have seen it in when in full flood.


  6. Wondered if the Muppet Movie was filmed at the Priory..they appear to have left one of Kermits cousins behind!! Oh…specs on…it’s you…nice waders (ahem!)


  7. Now – a question – if you work at the Priory on your own – who took the glamorous pictures of you in your waders? The bridge also looks like it needs a bit of re-pointing my man – see to it will you! I love rivers and streams and could spend hours watching them – it looks like you haven’t had any snow, lucky you – we are in the dirty slushy stage at the moment – very grey here – how come you get all the sunshine?


    • Hi Elaine, not a very interesting answer to your question, I’m afraid; a fence post and self timer! As for the state of the bridge, it needs more than a little re-pointing. The far side (from the photos) is in a terrible state. Sadly it’ll collapse one day and be replaced with a wooden footbridge I imagine. And the snow arrived after these shots were taken.



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