A Spot Of Rain

January tends to be wet in Sussex but this year it was seriously, I’m-not-kidding-you wet.  Lying at the bottom of a valley, the garden is a convenient sump for all the run-off from the surrounding woods and fields.  During and after heavy rain, water streams through the grounds and into the ponds; it races through ditches and fills dips and depressions in the lawn. DSM_0430 I’m used to areas of submerged grass in winter; like this shallow, boating lake just outside the front door. DSM_0434 Sometimes the west pond laps where it oughtn’t, swamping more lawn and the odd shrub. DSM_0435 The poor, stoic beech hedge regularly paddles in muddy water. DSM_0440 But when a footbridge acts like a raft and sets out on a nautical adventure, I knew that yep, this was a very wet January indeed. DSM_0449 With the main drainage ditch overwhelmed DSM_1010 (how it normally looks) DSM_0442 and the vegetable beds drowned DSM_0443 this was the worst Priory flood I’ve seen. DSM_0447 I made these raised beds five years ago but stupidly didn’t build them two foot high … or on pontoons. DSM_0454 The east pond seeped out over paving and washed against the back wall of the house. DSM_0479 And all because the river (a stream in truth) had finally burst its banks.  It has often teased me over the years; swelling wide and deep, roaring through the trees, occasionally knocking one over in its excitement.  But it always receded before really misbehaving.  Bloated far beyond its usual three-foot bed it has quickly, obediently shrunk back again; the banks unbreached. DSM_0503 But this year it didn’t shrink back again but instead surged over into Margaret’s fields DSM_0469 and poured into the garden. DSM_0504 I knew it would happen one day.  And if it was worrying, it was also marvellous; in the way that powerful acts of nature are; like overly melodramatic thunder and lightning or improbably huge and scary ocean waves. A powerless to intervene, stop and stare event. DSM_0487 Drainage channels that should have carried excess water out to the river and away from the house, instead provided easy passage for river water back up to the Priory. DSM_0499 At least the sheep were safe.  They had sought higher ground and none were lost or swept away. DSM_0475 It hadn’t occurred to me that my compost and leaf bins (built on raised ground between two ditches) DSM_0486 would ever be inundated. DSM_0496 All that wash-through did sweep mats of duckweed off the ponds.  An annual flood or two is always welcome for completing that chore. DSM_0506 And the gardens were even more rabbit proof than usual. DSM_0473 Who’d have guessed that the fern boat would ever embark on a new voyage? DSM_0452 At last, with one of the house door-sills barely an inch above the flood, DSM_0484 the rain stopped and the clouds cleared.  I ventured out with my camera to inspect the damage as the water level peaked and then ebbed – leaving new temporary islands and duckweed smothered grass. DSM_0509 It could have been far worse of course.  The house last flooded in 2000 causing thousands of pounds of damage and one day it will flood again.  But not this time.

41 thoughts on “A Spot Of Rain

    • Hi Charles, it doesn’t seem to. Several shrubs and stretches of the beech hedge sit in water for days at a time but don’t seem to be too distressed. This particular high water was only about for a few short hours. D

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  1. We have a stream of water causing similar problems around here, almost every (or twice!) a year. During monsoon in spring and autumn. Yes because we have monsoon, I have no other scientific explication for that amount of rain. I really hope the house is ok and the garden will recover soon. Oh and obviously thank God there hasn’t been any casualties amongst sheep!!!

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    • Hi Alberto, in 2000 the parquet flooring in the house took a bashing after lying for several days beneath muddy water. Rugs didn’t appreciate it either. I’ve seen footage of flooding in Italy, mountainous areas I think, where rivers have washed away houses and carried off cars. Serious stuff. D

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  2. If the river has broken its banks and flooded the garden, I can only hope it has brought lots of fertilizing sediments with it. (I had to think of something optimistic to say for your poor garden :)) Amelia

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  3. Well, even though this is a calamity for you, I must compliment you on the pictures. Very clear, very beautiful. I live in middle Georgia in the USA South and we had a summer of rain in 2013 that almost drowned us for over three months. But fortunately I live on higher land and had no problem other than looking at rain day after day through the windows. Our area was as lush green as I have ever seen it and I’m 80 years old. Hope you get some relief soon but I do say your blog and pictures are interesting and very lovely.

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  4. We used to have scenes like this along the right hand side of our lane, then three years ago the two nearby tributaries, one 15 metres from our house were dredged by the drainage board, its made a massive difference, but then maybe we’ve had less rain here? How do you deal with the flooding damage to fertility?

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    • Hi Julie, I think local councils and/or water-boards only dredge and clear ditches if they are on roads nowadays. Out in the sticks they leave them be which does cause localised flooding. That’s budget cuts for you. On this occasion the water creeped in and crept out again without washing away any soil or, I think, goodness. I’m a little more concerned about seeds washed in to be honest. Dave

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  5. Gosh that is a worry. It is an impressive and incredible force of nature, but still a worry. There was I chewing myself to bits about a bit of waterlogging on one little lawn. This post has put me in my place! Great photos by the way.

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  6. I live in “Wash-ington State” We’re always wet and that explains our “Rain Forest”. Those Hawaiian Trade winds and all the water have to go somewhere. When this happens here we get our boots on and grab the fishing nets! Salmon!

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    • Hawaiian Trade winds sound fabulously exotic and should just provide a warm, spicy breeze rather than rain. But to have a garden full of fresh salmon is damn good recompense for any temporary flooding. Amazing. D

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  7. That’s a lot of water. I hope no permanent damage has been done to the garden. Although things have been quite soggy here in Wiltshire, we’ve not had anything to match the floods of last (2013-14) winter – when one of my gardens was in a similar state to yours, judging by the pictures.
    I noticed that the river level at The Farm had dropped a bit last week, though still well above normal (whatever that might be). We’ve had no rain to speak of for a couple of weeks now, so things will start to dry out as the sun warms up a bit.

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    • Yes, it’s been dry here too for the past two or three weeks. I can walk across the grass now without leaving muddy footprints – which is nice. I don’t think the rain on this day was particularly bad, I seem to remember worse but I suppose a combination of waterlogged ground and full river created the ‘perfect flooding storm.’ No permanent damage, thanks for the concern. Indeed no damage at all really. D

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    • Hi William, the stream is now no longer dredged or cleared – councils don’t have the money for it. The local farmer has done her ‘bit’ but that is only for a few hundred yards. I am surprised that whoever built the Priory didn’t build it on slightly higher ground, which would have been pretty easy to do. D

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  8. Wow. You have more water at the Priory than we have in the entire state of New Mexico. (We got .7 inches of rain in January — double our historic average!) Glad all are safe and well, if soggy. The fern boat has a lovely “Lady of Shalott” look to it in the water.

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