Monday, 9 July 2012

Not quite Fire and Brimstone - but the result of just one small storm in Dorset last weekend for the Macs...

 We live at the top of a hill, so you’d think that we'd have no trouble with flooding, wouldn't you?  Our garden slopes down towards the house, and when we moved in, we decided (as the house is an old cottage with no damp course)  that we should do something about it.  The builder said "what you need is a soakaway".  So we had a massive hole dug, and into that hole went two open cages full of flints (weight around 10 tons) before the soil was replaced.  Along the edge of the house had been an old  border,mostly weeds, and the soil sat against the house.  So that was all dug out, the area paved and waterproofed, a drain put in the middle, which fed any rainfall to the soakaway.  Brilliant!
Well, mostly.  This area is about about 20 ft x 5 ft, and 9 inches deeper than the sheds that abut the house, and the path between this paved area and the rest of the garden, so when it rains a lot, it's like a swimming pool until it's all been taken up by the soak-away.  (The important thing is that it doesn't leak, so keeps the house dry).  However, for the first time since we have lived here, an Amber warning from the Met Office for Saturday fulfilled its promise, and when I got up on Saturday morning, the water was lapping at the house wall, and thus the kitchen door and the shed doors.  One shed has garden tools and loads of logs, and the other has a spare freezer, the tumble dryer, and shelves of paint, cleaning stuff etc. Another inch, and it would be knocking on the front door, too! 
Nothing for it but to get rid of some.  Put on my trusty waterproof mac over my nightshirt, and bare footed, set off to attempt a bailout.  Three buckets and the washing up bowl later, I used the bowl as a scoop, and John took the filled buckets out to the road and tipped each one into the gutter when no cars were passing.  We probably removed 50 gallons of water by hand to bring the level of the water down about 1.5 inches.  After a hot shower and dry clothes we went out for a hosepipe so that we could run a little pump and get the water out to the road.  Our thinking was that it would take several hours of severe rain to fill that 1.5 inches back up again. 
Left the house in the car to go to a country store, where we could get hosepipe, new wellies, a larger pump etc and then realised that the roundabout at the bottom of our hill was flooded, so it took 20 minutes to do a one minute drive, and we turned off early to get to a garden centre instead of the country store where we successfully found new wellies and plenty of hosepipe.  Got home, fixed hose to mini-pump and started it off. 
Meanwhile, out in the street, one of our neighbours was out with his (very unreliable) dog.  He offered us a hand to bail out more water, and  as John walked towards him, the dog bit him.  When I asked the guy if he had a muzzle, he said yes, but not today!  I was ready to bite a nail in half I was so angry, but all he said was “Do you want a hand or not?”.  Luckily the bite wound, on the shin, didn't go as deep as the bone, although quite large, so washed it with diluted bleach, and would have left then for the hospital which is about 20 minutes drive except that due to the flooded roundabout in Bridport  the traffic was backed up around 4 miles and then you have no idea whether or not you can get back home. ..... 
Anyway, dog owner and wife assisted with many gallons of bailing out, and then another neightbour who we didn't know at all, arrived with a larger pump ! (Saviour!).  We got the level down even further, and then ran the newer pump all the rest of Saturday and overnight, finally switching it off when it’s intake was exposed to the air.  Thought and thought about why it took so long – but under the soil in the garden, which we know is about 6ft deep is solid clay, not water permeable, is it, so of course, is was just pushing the water back up the pipe from the soakaway.  During all of this a lady appeared in our garden pleading to use the toilet – a journey which we know takes about 20 minutes had taken them 2.5 hours, so pee stop and a cuppa were welcomed for this family of Canadians.
Sunday morning we set off early from home to go to A&E at Dorchester, to get the dog bite looked at.  The only village on the road between us and Dorchester is Winterborne Abbas, and it has a stream running along side the road..... which was a torrent at 8.30 am as the stream had more than burst its banks.  The village is still closed more than 24 hours later, and probably not open tomorrow, either. Stiill had to drive through it to get out the other side, and they closed the road within minutes of us going through. 
At the hospital all went well.  Full tetanus course in both buttocks for John and a week of antibiotics, but wound looking good and no sign of infection.  Home then, via a detour, and when we got to another village with a stream running through, guess what - it too had just burst its banks, and I suspect that it would be road closed again very shortly there.  Set off along a windy narrow country road that we know, expecting to have to pull in tight at the passing places - but didn't expect to be hit from behind when stationery! Looks as though the other driver's brakes locked.  He came off worse, lot of damage to his little motor, but not so much (superficially at least) to ours.  He declared he was at fault, and by the time we got home his insurance company was ringing and arranging pick up and hopefully repair of our SEAT Ibiza, and the dropping off of a hire car.  Our insurance company confirm that we loose nothing nor pay for anything, so that's good for us.
Our road (A35, a trunk road)  was definitely closed Sunday night, so quiet for us! And limited traffic today.  So.  You can see what one storm can do.  If you are not reading this in the UK, we described that lot as North American rain – have seen it over there like that, but here, we just don’t have the systems to take it.  North American storm drains are huge, ours are not, and finally, because I am old enough to say this – if we still had “hedgers and ditchers” (and yes there really used to be people who cleared the hedges, and dug the ditches out on a yearly basis) the flooding everywhere just might (might) not have been quite so bad. 
Lets hope for no more!