15 November 2015


River Mersey at West Didsbury

So it wasn't the named storm Abigail, but an unnamed blob (scientific term) of rain that caused England's rivers to flood.

Hoping for some drama to enliven a suburban weekend I stomped down to the Mersey, and was gratified to find it had indeed over spilled its allotted embankments and was sitting sulkily across the pathways.

How exciting to have a well used public path closed by an act of nature. It was almost like being on a proper hike where you have to use your wits to find the route ahead. In this case the challenge was too great, I simply turned round and walked along a road to re-join the river further up. That is what I, as a middle-aged mum, did anyway. A rather nice young Irishman who I debated the problem with chose the more macho solution by clambering up the bank, but I was too chicken to follow.


Flattened grass and mounds of twigs showed the river had been up to a metre higher earlier on. Which is just what the graph produced by the Environment Agency shows. This particular graph is for Northenden weir, and it shows the peak flow had occurred during the night and early morning.


It looks like the level is rising again. The nearest measuring station upriver is at Baguley Brook at Northern Moor. I'm guessing that a high river level there would mean an increase in water volume here a few hours later. This graph then is ominous:

The Mersey is already well over the height it normally floods at, and it doesn't seem to be falling much. All that water is coming our way.

These graphs are really interesting (as long as your house isn't in the way) and I recommend a play with the EA website to see how your local rivers are flowing. Live Flood Warnings

Once I'd bypassed the flood I went to the weir at Northenden expecting to see a wild torrent of water, but it had completely disappeared and there was barely a ripple to mark its existence.

Northenden Weir

So on I trudged. There was a heron, and a grebe, and an abandoned tyre.

The walk had a strange meditative quality to it. The air was warm, and the river, although fast flowing, had a rolling motion. I was feeling fuzzy headed because I had spent the day before indoors*, trying to process what has happened in Paris. There weren't many people about, so it was just me and the grey water and the grey sky.

The whole situation is so complicated I doubt it can be fully understood, and no words I have can solve it. To borrow the river as a metaphor, we are like twigs carried along by the flood of history. What is happening has deep roots in time and is so powerful we as individuals cannot stop it. But, this particular war is about culture. The enemy wants to destroy culture, not just ours, but their own as well, and this is where we can do something. Every unproductive act of joy is an act of defiance. Every time you eat in a restaurant, go to a gig, share in another's culture you are defeating the enemy. Even watching Xfactor and Strictly becomes heroic (maybe). So this blog, which tries to find meaning and story from a mixture of personal observation and science, is my contribution, my show of strength.


*A comforting marathon of The Onedin Line