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Tuesday, 12 November 2013


I am quite unexpectedly in the National Trust offices today writing a blog post about floods. 

It's a beautiful sunny autumnal day and I was meant to be home, getting on with chores and maybe doing some laundry. But my neighbours are having some earth-shaking drilling done to fix their water mains. Unfortunately, despite having lived in noisy cities, I can no longer seem to bear bone rattling sound. 

This quite minor inconvenience made me think about the tenants of West Wycombe Village who have patiently if not cheerfully adjusted their lives because of the recent construction work. 

For further perspective I thought of the happy and spirited Filipinos. Despite the devastation in the Philippines 
where at least 10,000 people are feared dead and survivors are desperately waiting for aid after the recent typhoon destroyed their homes and villages, their undying spirit, hope and smiles remain.

Just aside, my family in the Philippines are quite fortunate and unaffected. Like many, this leaves me sitting on the sidelines reading the news like a spectator seeking ways and means to help.

Back to the West Wycombe Village and the National Trust. 
I found my silver lining, peace and quiet at their offices this morning. 

I learned a bit more about the great flood of 1936 and these photos give a flavour of its impact in West Wycombe Village. Following a three week drought in May, torrential rain considerably flooded West Wycombe and Piddington. The High Street was flooded to a depth of several feet and the Oxford to London Road was blocked by earth and chalk that had been washed onto the road. 

(The men below are standing on a water trough for horses.)

High Street in front of the Swan Inn, 17th May 1936.  Photo by Ron Goodearl of Desborough Ave.

High Street in front of the Swan Inn, 15th April 1931.
Our area has four significant rivers and streams: the River Wye, the Hughenden Stream, the Hamble Brook and the River Thames. Smaller ones include the Lyde and the Bonny & Elm Brooks. 

West Wycombe Village is nearest the River Wye fed by a chalk spring between Chorley Farm and Cockshott Farm. From its source, the Wye is 17 kilometres long and flows steeply south-east towards and through High Wycombe. In 1965, most of the Wye was culverted or channelled underground through a tunnel under much of the town centre. 

Culverts can cause bottlenecks and flash floods. But the safety nets for our river and any potential flooding are the Rye and partly the lakes of West Wycombe Park which act as designated flood storage areas or as functional floodplains. 

Although no major flooding has been recorded since 1936, floods can still strike, especially with our recent erratic weather. 

The Parish Council archive shows it focussed on maintenance projects in 2008 such as flooding outside the Swan Inn which has the lowest ground level point in the village. 

But in the end, Richard Fillmore explained that any flooding nowadays is more likely to be caused by urban motorway paving and climate change. 

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