Originally published February 2014
Hello Everyone! I hope the excesses of the season have left you hale, hearty and able to cope with the excesses of the weather at present. The combined efforts of Thor, the Anemoi, Michael Fish and the rest of the weather-related deities may be battering us with wind and rain but as usual our little corner of the country seems to be having a better time of it than many.
Nevertheless a quick glance at the lake, locally known as the Crowhurst Marshes, may lead us to the conclusion that much of our terra firma is waterlogged. If only this was the case! The marsh is doing what marshes are meant to do; that is to store excess water until it drains out to sea. The problem Britain, and in particular the south east, faces is that too much of our rainfall is remaining on the surface as run-off, often causing a lot of damage en route to the coast. Much has been made of an article in the broadsheets advising on the benefits of tree cover in water catchment areas and allowing rural land to become natural floodplains. The article makes a good case but is certainly not a revelation to hydrologists and other right-minded people. The Romans, Ancient Greeks and many of the other Classical Civilisations had the savvy to realise that if you dug a hole in the right area it would fill with water. They also knew that this happens because water percolates down to be stored in underground aquifers ie. the interstitial spaces within and around rock and soil particles. If streams and rivers are compared to the veins and arteries of the land then aquifers are the capillaries carrying life-giving water to the extremities of the planet. Any youngling today will be able to tell you where this is likely to happen as they learn about porous and impermeable rocks and materials in Primary school.
The Environment Agency’s recent document, Underground, Under Threat, explains the importance of groundwater and its role in our water supply. Over 70% of our public water in the Southern Region comes from this source. Our densely populated area is such a major concern, as ongoing house and road-building schemes come to fruition, the Agency makes the staggering claim that parts of the south east have less useable water per person than countries like Syria! This is not as improbable a comparison as it seems; run-off and pollution account for a large amount of the water that should be re-charging our supplies of aqua vitae.
Another recent broadsheet article is causing a great deal of discussion in laboratories and pubs alike. It claims that the argument citing global warming as the main cause of flooding is merely distracting us away from what we do know, that local policies regarding building on flood plains and concreting the landscape really do make a difference. The crux of the article was that by making global warming the chief culprit it becomes a global issue and, if not exactly passing the buck, certainly relieves local government and planners of much of the blame.
This time last year our very own environmental disaster started to unfold. Trees were savaged, habitat was destroyed and the concreting of yet more of our landscape began. We can only wait and see how they cope with the Crowhurst/Combe Haven ‘lake’ but sadly it will be the subsequent generations who will pay the price in that much underrated currency, quality of life.
They may also face the threat of a shortage of good quality water. Yes we can expect more of the wrong kind of rain falling onto the wrong kind of land!
What the future holds in store for our little reserve on the hill is difficult to predict. My very first scribble for the ‘News’ asked the question Where has all our Water Gone? A question we have not been able to answer satisfactorily, yet! Currently our fully-charged pond is safe on a bed of Clay lining a hollow in the Sandstone. We will have to accept that every so often it will drain away and travel the interstitial route to the marshes. The lengthening days and relatively mild temperatures have triggered a flurry of activity amongst out fauna and flora. The Feathered Folk are busy feeding and tuning up for the Avian Proms and frogs are calling out as a prelude to doing their bit for the survival of the species. One cannot help but feel that it’s all happening a tad early and it will all end in frozen tear drops.
However, before the tone of this first article of the year disappears off into the Stygian gloom let us enjoy the sights and sounds of Ma Nature waking her subjects up. If only to remind us of what we can look forward to in a couple of months.
Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
The Ryme of the Ancient Mariner (Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1798)
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Tales from the Beleaguered Lands – Update Feb 14