Tag Archives: Floods

Our “winter of discontent”…

Back in July, and indeed long before then, many of us were warning that we had to spend the summer working incredibly hard to ensure that the UK would be able to be resilient in the face of the likely rise in COVID-19 infections. It seems instead that the government took its eye of the ball, hoped that COVID-19 would somehow go away, and instead concentrated on trying to impose its will on the European Union over the Brexit trade negotiations.

In September (the 18th), when I was feeling particularly disgruntled with the incompetence and stupidity of our government, I therefore posted on Facebook a list of some of the things that I feared might happen over the next year under the heading “Now is the winter of our discontent… (Shakespeare, Richard III). I wonder how many of these will coincide in the UK over the next few months”. Having been for a long autumnal walk today (the picture above), the day after our Prime Minister announced a new 4-week lockdown from 5th November, I just thought that I would also post them here as a record of what happens over the next few months. I so hope that I am wrong, but I will update the content periodically to see what happens: green means that fortunately my fears were ill-founded; red indicates that sadly I was correct; and pink indicates that there is some evidence that we are heading this way! I should stress that these are not predictions, but instead imaginations of what a “perfect-storm” would look like. Already, our government has indebted future generations for years to come. There is no doubt that things will get very much worse before there is even a glimmer of hope that they will improve.

  • Dramatic increase in serious COVID-19 cases leading to overwhelming pressure on hospitals;
  • Crisis over Brexit negotiations resulting in serious trade disruptions and collapse in value of the pound (not least on 20th December, in large part because of coincidence of rapid surge in new COVID-19 strain with stalled Brexit negotiations, Port of Dover announces ferry terminal closed to traffic leaving UK; massive lorry queues at Dover as borders closed; however agreement on a Brexit deal on 24th December slowly improved matters; but subsequently border queues and bureaucratic changes led to further problems in January 2021 as evidenced with BBC report on M&S, shirt exports in The Times, and Michael Gove the Cabinet Office Minister stating on 8 January 2021 that there will be significant disruption at borders)
  • Influenza pandemic (partly because of insufficient vaccines available) coinciding with COVID-19 pandemic causing additional crisis for NHS;
  • Food shortages (resulting from trade disruptions) leading to rising thefts from supermarkets and shops; (BBC News: trade disruptions at Felixstowe, 14th November 2020; BBC News: Brexit increasing food supply chain costs)
  • Serious flooding in much of lowland England as a result of heavy rains in October and November (BBC reports heavy rainfall and risk of flooding, 3rd October; BBC also reports homes evacuated in South West after downpours and flooding on 19th December; and serious flooding in Bedfordshire and elsewhere reported on Christmas Day – BBC)
  • Increasing power outages resulting from gas shortages, lack of sunshine for solar power, and storm damage;
  • Standstill caused by heavy early snowfalls in late December (Glad that this did not happen)
  • Mass graves dug in major cities because crematoria and mortuaries are overcome by demand (not yet, but overflow mortuaries were being created in early 2021 – BBC News: emergency mortuary in a Surrey woodland, 11th January 2021)
  • Very significant riots as more and more people realise that Brexit was a huge mistake;
  • Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II dies of COVID-19 complications, and mass demonstrations against Prince Charles lead to his resignation and the declaration of a Republic;
  • Northern Ireland joins a united Eire;
  • Scotland and Wales declare unilateral independence from the UK, and form a wide-ranging mutual interest pact…

Who will be the sun of York to turn this winter into glorious summer?

Latest update 14th January 2021

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Runnymede floods and Staines under Thames, 16th February 2014

What seems like the first bright sunny day for weeks provided an opportunity to take a photographic record that would capture something of the flooding along the Thames in Runnymede, Egham and Staines.  The pictures below provide a follow-up to those that I took earlier in the year in January on a rather more cloudy day, when the floods were less extensive.

Whilst I have every sympathy with those living in flooded areas, these images emphasise that flood plains are meant to be just that – plains where rivers flood!  We have had exceptional amounts of rainfall, and no-one should therefore be surprised that such flooding has occurred!

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Thames floods at Runnymede, January 2014

I have to admit to being a bit perplexed why so much fuss is being made over the recent flooding in the UK.  Yes, of course there has been damage to property and loss of life, there have been huge waves that have reshaped our coasts, and weeks of rain have given rise to extensive floods in the first few days of 2014.  However, floods are to be expected!  Anyone with the slightest bit of knowledge about rainfall and hydrological systems should know that flood periodicity occurs, and that this can be described statistically.  Thus, we refer to the notion of a 100-year flood as being a flood amount with a 1% probability of occurring in any one year; a 500-year flood has a 0.2% chance of occurring in any one year.  Big floods are expected; we just cannot predict exactly when!  Naturally, flood plains are those areas into which rivers overflow, and historically people knew this and built their properties above the usual flood level.  Looking at the photographs of flooded parts of England, it is fascinating to see that in most cases it is the ancient churches and oldest houses that are most frequently to be seen above the rising water levels.  River management systems seek to deal with the most frequent flood levels, and the challenge is to get the balance right between protection and cost.  Thus, the expense of protecting against 1000-year floods is often prohibitive, and it is generally argued that it is much better simply to pay for repair to the damage of these extreme events.  In Britain, the Environment Agency, for example, provides detailed maps of flood risk, which specifically identifies the areas at risk of 1000 year floods (in pale blue).

Unfortunately, a long period of relatively few floods in the UK in the 195os and 1960s led planners increasingly to build on flood plains, and although the amount of building on flood plains in Scotland and Wales is now very slight, 11% of new builds in England in 2011 were still in areas at risk of 100 year floods.  Some 5.2 million houses in England, representing 23.1% of existing properties are estimated to be at risk of such floods.  This demand by ‘developers’ shows no signs of abating, and a report in 2012 indicated that planning applications were submitted to build as many as 28,000 new homes on land that officials considered to be at serious risk of flooding. It is not nature, or any failings of the Environment Agency that are to blame for the misery of our present floods, but rather the demand for housing and the greed of those who want to maximise profits from house building and other construction on flood plains!  I have to say that with respect to the recent floods it would appear that the Environment Agency has actually done a remarkably good job, and I am dismayed at how critical so many people seem to have been of the flood protection efforts made by recent governments.

Whilst such floods are obviously very sad and damaging for those affected by them, they are a good reminder that nature is actually much more powerful than we often give it credit for, and waterscapes of flooding can indeed be very striking and beautiful.  Below I capture some images taken over the last couple of days of the Thames at Runnymede – as the National Trust sign says, “The birthplace of modern democracy”!

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