The calm after the storm – 16/07/12
The floods of last week, have not only left their trail of destruction, but also revealed how the landscape needs to change to prevent a repeat… enter the Russian tractor.
Even though its pretty unlikely that further flooding will occur this year, now is the time to consider all possible tactics to divert any future deluge. The week has been dominated by post-flood reparations as well as some serious landscaping to reshape the default flood path from the hill down to the river.
About twenty years ago, the front pasture had been loaded with all the rubble from a new-build next door. This had completely changed the contours of the field and up until this year, the error had not been spotted. Now though it was obvious that this inadvertent landscaping was a recipe for disaster, channelling excess water away from the river and onto the road, where it happily seeks out cellars and low-lying dwellings, swiftly ruining electrical appliances, archives of memorabilia, soft furnishings and anything else in its’ way.
One of our neighbours up the opposite slope happened to see us shovelling rubble into wheelbarrows, back and forth on our ruined driveway, filling up the holes at a very slow rate. So she sent her husband with an old Russian tractor whose large shovel could scoop the equivalent of three or four barrow loads in a fraction of the time.
Suddenly the drive took rapid shape and regained an approximate semblance of its’ former ‘glory’. The tractor also strategically drove into the pasture above and below the track to encourage a new course for the water to take. On one of these trips the front wheel of the tractor ran straight into a hidden hole at least a metre deep and the whole machine toppled over onto its’ side.
The sight was unforgettable. Whilst we handed round cold beers and worried about how we would get it out and whether it would be fatally broken, the driver (and later his wife and other neighbours), light-heartedly waited for a larger tractor to arrive, chatting amiably with no sense of pressure or stress. The second tractor was twice its’ size and hauled it out the hole, intact, with relative ease.
We finished the job a few days later with a rented digger. The northern and front pastures look brutally battered now, but it won’t be long before green will re-emerge.
Repairing our sheep fence is the next job – it had just been completed the day the first of the storms arrived. The little hoofs and droppings of our five small sheep (whose arrival is now well overdue) will certainly help to heal the scars and restore a natural form to the land.
Redcurrants and gooseberries are now in their prime and the apples are ripening beautifully. The pressure is on to sort out a decent kitchen space to deal with the fruit, and the imminent arrival of tomatoes galore. (We will of course manage as we must with our improvised little kitchen upstairs, but with a whole string of visitors lined up for the next few weeks, we must make the most of a keen and willing workforce).
On a big sheet of wood painted with blackboard paint, we sketch the downstairs spaces. After a few drafts we have a pretty good plan of what needs to go where. On the walls we chalk out the electricity points, ready for an electrician to assist us with the finer planning details. We will then lay the cables ready for him to connect up, enabling us to crack on with plastering the walls. With the water points already plumbed in, the electricity is the last thing holding us back from transforming this raw shell into a spacious kitchen and dining room for us and our steady stream of visitors.