Floods in the UK

Earith Bridge,Cambridgeshire Flood Waters Rising

Earith Bridge Cambridgeshire

Earith Bridge is a main crossing point in north Cambridgeshire and is often closed due to controlled flooding. This can lead to quite lengthy detours and property damage.

Flooding is not uncommon in many parts of Britain and the Eastern region has extensive flood protection systems. Although there appears to have been cutbacks in maintenance in recent years. Flooding seems to be on the increase.

East Anglia's weather though, seems to be becoming more unpredictable. Do you know the flood risk where you live. Check the maps below.

The videos above, are from Earith Bridge in Cambridgeshire. The bridge was closed for maintenance and repairs on 1st April 2013 and has since reopened.

It is closed again. December 2014 and no doubt will be closed soon as we are having some heavy rain. Summer 2015.

St.Ives,Huntingdon District,Cambridgeshire,UK

St.Ives,Huntingdon District,Cambridgeshire,UK Before and after the floods by Michael Mulcahy @mamulcahy all rights reserved.
St.Ives,Huntingdon District,Cambridgeshire,UK Before and after the floods by Michael Mulcahy @mamulcahy all rights reserved. | Source

Earith Bridge,Cambrideshire is often closed due to Flood Water

Environment Agency Strategy. Controlled Flooding

The video shows the river rising fast. The risk of extensive flooding in the region is high under these conditions. Flash floods can develop quickly.

The sheer volume of water moving through this area has to go somewhere.The Environment Agency manages these sudden increases in flood water by filling the surrounding fields. 'The Washes'.

However, when the surrounding land is already saturated, and the washes are almost full to overflowing. There is nowhere for this excess water to go. Extensive floods under these conditions are inevitable.

Flood at Holywell Cambridgeshire

Flooded Car Park at Old Ferry Boat Inn,Holywell,Cambridgeshire

Source

Flood Map where do you live

The level of the above river is usually a couple of meters lower. With one of the wettest summers and autumns on record things are not looking very promising.

What is a flood plain and why are we still building houses on them. Is your home in a high risk area. These are questions, we should all know the answer too.

The odd thing about flooding, is that one of the first things to be affected is the availability of clean drinking water.

Floodplain of East Anglia

Crossing the Fens recently. It was apparent that the water levels were very high and rising.

Building on Fenland has always had risks attached to them, as the fens are predominantly below sea level. The fear has been that the sea, will breach coastal defenses.

What has sometimes been overlooked, is the rainfall on areas that are below sea level and other low lying points in the geology. Water with nowhere to run too will gather in the lowest lying area.

The East Anglia region relies on a series of dispersal methods and pumping stations to pump the area clear of excess water. Whilst major flooding in fenland has been relatively rare in the past, considering the geology. When it does happen, it can be catastrophic.

East Anglia Flood Plain Maps Risk Areas

The Environment Agency public domain
The Environment Agency public domain | Source
The Environment Agency public domain
The Environment Agency public domain | Source

Norfolk Broads Wetlands

This part of Britain, is in the main below sea level. It has been inhabited for 1000's of years and many ancient artifacts have been found in the peat deposits.

Peat is a great preservative. Whole intact wooden boats, small communal dwellings and even primitive timber bridges have been uncovered over the years. These artifacts show a long period of human habitation and how we lived in the region.

The area was largely swampland or more poetically wetlands. It still retains vast areas of wetlands for example the Norfolk Broads is an intricate river system when viewed from above. At ground level it resembles the Okavango Delta in Botswana, full of bulrushes. It is one massive flood plain.

It is an area of outstanding natural beauty and of site of special scientific interest.(SSSI) It is protected under strict environmental laws

There are many small islands of land above sea level. These have traditionally been used as places to build housing and settlements over the centuries.

These wetlands and fens have systematically been drained over the 400 + years to provide reclaimed land for pasture and farming activities.

As more land has been reclaimed, more people have moved into the area and the demand for housing has increased.

In earlier times not much was known about the dangers and many people got caught out in these [flash floods]

The Ferry Boat Inn,Holywell,Cambridgeshire

The Ferry Boat Holywell is one of the oldest pubs in England. The river level is dangerously high.
The Ferry Boat Holywell is one of the oldest pubs in England. The river level is dangerously high. | Source

Flooded Car Park

The flooded car park is located where the red life belt is hanging. It is under several feet of water. The driver was apparently following the GPS sat nav. A selected few of these images are available on Redbubble
The flooded car park is located where the red life belt is hanging. It is under several feet of water. The driver was apparently following the GPS sat nav. A selected few of these images are available on Redbubble | Source

Balloon Flight over East Anglia

Geology of East Anglia

The geology of the region as mentioned above is below 'mean' sea level. The soil is made up of several different types of materials. Oxford clay, mud-stone, silty mud-stone, siltstone shingle, sand and peat.

Some of these materials are permeable (porous) and some are less so.

When there is heavy or persistent rain, some areas in the region that are made up of these permeable materials allow for the extra water to soak away into the porous rock in the ground, this is known as an aquifer.

Less permeable layers like clay are called aquicludes or aquitards, As they stop water from moving and it can build up.

Areas that do not have this permeable material in the soil, and so do not have the ability, to allow the water to soak in, have the effect of funneling the water onto the next lowest lying level.

This excess water flows as water will, to the lowest point, under the force of gravity. Causing flash floods.

Another aspect of the below sea level issue is peat. As peat bogs are drained. They can shrink, become compressed and become eroded by wind.

So adding to the general lowering of the surrounding land and creating additional low points for water to gather and increase in volume.

Peat Levels

There is a recording post in Holme Fen erected in 1851 that shows peat levels are 12 feet lower today than when the post was erected.

This area had been drained and peat has been extracted for 200 years 'prior' to the installation of this recording post.

The Washes = Protection

Half submerged trees show the level of the water
Half submerged trees show the level of the water | Source
Somewhere below this water is a walkway.
Somewhere below this water is a walkway. | Source
The sign is under several feet of water
The sign is under several feet of water | Source
The washes prevention better than cure
The washes prevention better than cure | Source

The Water Cycle

How does it all work. The Water Cycle
How does it all work. The Water Cycle | Source

Designed for Deluge

The local area is designed to allow for heavy rainfall. Local housing is relatively safe.
The local area is designed to allow for heavy rainfall. Local housing is relatively safe. | Source

Flood Alert Warning Signs

Red Alert [Flooding] is expected. Immediate action required.  Signs courtesy of  environment-agency.gov.uk
Red Alert [Flooding] is expected. Immediate action required. Signs courtesy of environment-agency.gov.uk
[Amber Alert Flooding] is possible. Be prepared. Signs courtesy of  environment-agency.gov.uk
[Amber Alert Flooding] is possible. Be prepared. Signs courtesy of environment-agency.gov.uk

Why Do Floods Happen

As this water gathers momentum it can produce flash floods. The defenses, include the ability to allow for the controlled dispersal of the excess water, into open fields in low lying areas.

Large parts of East Anglia are flood plains. Do you know the risk factors where you live. Do you know what a severe risk warning sign looks like?

The Solution

The idea is brilliant in it's simplicity. Two banks of earth and other materials enclose these two rivers

These are known as the washes. On the River Nene and the Great River Ouse. Between the two river embankments are wide strips of grassland stretching for 10's of miles. When tides are high combined with heavy rain, and the rivers are in full bore.

They are allowed to over-top the banks and flow into this central strip of land (the washes) In so doing they perform two functions. Firstly they act as a defense for a 112 square miles of rich farmland further upriver and act as a huge water storage system.

Like most things that work well over time. It is as simple as it is effective.

In addition, an extensive pumping system has been developed over time, designed to distribute the excess water to other outfall areas.

Developing the Nene Washes, allows excess water in the River Nene to pass through the city of Peterborough by being diverted into these washes, during high tide, where it can stay until the ebb tide.

Sometimes, these too may become prone to higher risk, so high powered pumps are available to shift some of the excess water, away from the washes, to other storage areas.

The Environment Agency has responsibility for these defenses. Their preparations and risk assessments are based on the concept of a 1 in 100 year event. In other words. A situation that would only occur once in one hundred years.

The 1998 inundation of the River Great Ouse, Alconbury Brook and the River Kym caused extensive damage to over 600 buildings, 9000 hectares of farmland were inundated, and major disruption caused to gas and electricity supplies.

The above major event led to a review of defenses to consider several new factors including climate change, land shrinkage, increased run off and housing development.

Flood Warning Signs on Canals

East Anglia Locks
East Anglia Locks | Source
Narrow boat. Prepared for the flood
Narrow boat. Prepared for the flood | Source
Water level rising
Water level rising | Source
Cattle by the river. Animals are at risk
Cattle by the river. Animals are at risk | Source

East Anglia Flood events since 1912

So how often does it happen? Quite a lot it would appear. But it usually goes unnoticed due to elaborate systems of water management and control. How often do we have hose pipe bans? Every year now it seems.

The reasons are twofold. Partly because we have insufficient storage facilities, and from the loss of water from broken and leaking water pipes. It is estimated that 3.5 billion litres of water are lost daily.

Chronology of flooding events in the Fenland area of East Anglia.

  • 1912 Ramsey extensive damage covers 2300 acres
  • 1937 Great Ouse River Catchments
  • 1947 Heavy Rain and snow melt Nene
  • 1947 Great Ouse River Cam & Bedford
  • 1950 River Nene seven event peaks
  • 1950 River Nene
  • 1960 '' ''
  • 1974 '' ''
  • 1978 Sutton Bridge
  • 1978 River Nene
  • 1981 '' ''
  • 1982 '' ''
  • 1983 '' ''
  • 1998 Middle Level Catchment 2800 properties damaged

Source:- Environment Agency Archive

Whilst it is reassuring to know, that the Environment Agency has developed extensive systems to deal with these extremes of weather, by utilizing these plains and massive pumping stations. It begs the question.

'Why do they [Environment Agency} assess a flood risk on the basis of a 1 in 100 year event when they occur on a much more regular frequency'

It appears that this 1 in 100 event would be so catastrophic, that major damage and loss of life would occur. For the 1000's of homes that are destroyed on a semi regular basis.

Wouldn't it be better to stop building on these low lying areas. Instead of further developing expensive and elaborate drainage and water diversion systems. Wouldn't it be wiser to stop building on the high risk areas.

In the middle of a deluge. isn't It about time that the water companies stopped making excuses and fixed this wasteful, leaking and broken system. There are plenty of people who need work. It's a win win all around.


Flooded Directions

Which way next. More storage or stop the leaks?
Which way next. More storage or stop the leaks? | Source

Flood Poll

Do You Live In A Flood Risk Area?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don't Know
See results without voting

East of England

More by this Author


Comments 48 comments

molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago Author

Howzit Martie,

I know it is so strange. We were going to buy a place out near Darling on the west coast.

The houses were all up on stilts and I asked the estate agent. What was all that about. She replied. 'It's just the fashion' lol

Turns out that they area was prone to flash floods, and the floods came up quite a distance from the river.

We didn't buy it lol.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 4 years ago from South Africa

Very interesting hub, molometer! You know floods are often a real threat down here as well, and I always wonder why people keep on going back to build 'their nests' below the water level. Pondering.....


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago Author

Hello Green Bard,

Thanks for dropping in. I'm glad you found this article interesting. People can live their whole lives and not know what is around them. i.e. what has been put in place to make them more secure, by their ancestors.

Floods in the UK are quite common and without these defenses we would be considerable wetter. :)

The flood plains are beautiful but have to be controlled.


Green Bard profile image

Green Bard 4 years ago from Tenerife

I just voted up and awesome for your hub because it is! I have never been to East Anglia but am very interested in nature and the countryside and that was what attracted me to your article.


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago Author

Hello Tina,

It is a very real problem that we ignore at our peril. Floods in the UK are more common than many people realize. We just have well developed flood defenses.

As to the question. Why do we keep building in these floodplains, it is all about the 'prestige' of living in these places, plus people seem to have short memories.

I always check flooding potential when I am moving to a new house.

Thanks for your interesting comment and sharing your countries experience too.


thougtforce profile image

thougtforce 4 years ago from Sweden

Very interesting hub and this is a increasing problem in many areas. It seems that climate change has increased both flood and drought and I believe that we have to be prepared for worse weather. Good question about why we keep on building in areas that are known to be flooded since it isn't so hard to figure out where a flood can occur. In Sweden we have a new recommendation that say that new buildings which are important to the community should not be built below 2 meters above present sea level and there should be no new building plans below that line either. But there are so many houses already built in those places and these buildings are also the most expensive and most wanted estates. Both the Swedes and Norwegians buy coastal property for astronomical prices along the Swedish west coast so no one is taking this seriously for now! Great hub and I enjoyed reading, it is interesting and it concerns all of us.

Tina


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago Author

Hello Theresa,

We have the Dutch to thank largely, for the amazing flood defenses in this part of England.

They were here centuries ago, teaching the Brits how to drain land. Pretty clever stuff considering the times.

We have just had a micro heatwave for a few days. So the hose pipe ban has not been lifted for some areas.

Floods and drought at the same time! welcome to the UK weather :)


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Michael - A fascinating Hub. I had no idea that there were flooding problems in England. You have quite an elabotaye system to deal with it, apparently. Very, vry interesting. VOTING all but funny. :)


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago Author

Hello Redberry sky,

we are very fortunate to live in such a temperate climate, such as we have in Britain. The unique weather patterns account for such a green and pleasant land.:)


Redberry Sky profile image

Redberry Sky 4 years ago

Luckily I live on a hill so I don't get flooded but there are flood flashoints in a few places just a couple of miles down the road, and that can really hem us in when bad weather strikes. UK weather ... bah. Great for the garden though :)


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago Author

Hello megan!,

Thanks for leaving a comment. How are you handling the hosepipe ban? :)


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago Author

Hello poshcoffeeco,

Further to my email, think I will leave it out until the almighty decides what is okay and what is not.

I have another one now getting bombarded? It is getting rather hmmm? I don't know what!


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago Author

Hi jenubouka,

It can only happen in Britain? or can it lol. I just added a video of a jaguar car, sitting in the middle of the river.

Apparently the driver was following his SAT NAV to the car park and drove straight into the river?


jenubouka 4 years ago

Very interesting indeed Molometer; water can bring a source of energy and be purified as well. I would be scratching my head as well when the water is up to my chin and there is a ban. Interesting and of course, Awesome.


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago Author

Hi Ethan Green,

It is shocking when we consider how much profit these water companies are making and the current mass unemployment.

Create some jobs and fix the leaks? It's a no-brainer really. Why hasn't someone thought of that already?


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago Author

Thanks amithak50,

I agree we must do all we can to solve this situation. Starting with taking better care of the environment.

Floods in UK are not as rare as they seem.


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago Author

Hi Alastar,

I think you may have a point on the Gulf oil spill disaster. The jet stream has shifted south and this pulls down cold air from the arctic.

The jet stream is affected by the warmth of the North Atlantic conveyor current.

It is all interlinked, so yes I think you may be right.

Michael thanks for your interesting observations.


Ethan Green profile image

Ethan Green 4 years ago from England

Great hub! Funnily enough I was at work yesterday, in west London, when all our taps ran dry. We found out there was a major burst water pipe and half of the NW10 post code area, which is a very large area, was without water. When we rang Thames Water, then reassured us the problem would be fixed in the next 6 hours. So I wonder how much water was lost? It's insane how many water pipes burst in the UK, and how long it takes them to fix them. You are right to focus on that problem.

Ethan


amithak50 profile image

amithak50 4 years ago from India

I don't like floods at all and I think nobody does and we should plan things and need to fight with Natural calamities ..Thanks a lot for nice information


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

Very interesting piece- you did but alot of research into this. Learned some on your weather history and geology. A hose pipe ban is amazing considering whats happening. Floods aren't too bad here because of the elevation. Wonder if the Gulf oil spill disaster which supposedly disrupted the Gulf Stream has anything to do with the weather?


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago Author

Thanks aviannovice for your comment.

It really is a bit baffling.

They do know the risks.

Profit before common sense?


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago Author

Hi maggs224,

It really does beggar belief that housing is built on these 'known' floodplains. Floods in UK are not as rare as we think. It is just that these flood sites are generally well protected. Except when we have weather patterns that are changing so fast due to climate change.

It can only get worse over the next few years unless we stop building in stupid places.


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago Author

Hi Rebecca,

It never ceases to amaze me that people still build on these flood plains. I suppose it is because the floods are so infrequent that we get lulled into a false sense of security.

I am happy to hear that you took to the hills. lol

I will stay dry, don't worry. ha ha


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago Author

Hi Always,

Thanks for dropping in, we seem to be having these weird floods and droughts on a more regular basis. Climate change may have something to do with it too.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Good historical info that I did not know about. The question that you raise about why keep building in areas that are continuously flooding, is a valid one.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 4 years ago from Sunny Spain

We used to have a narrowboat on the Inland Waterways and every now and then when touring around we would see new housing going up near the river and wonder what idiot was allowing that to happen as it was part of the flood plain.

We have been away from Britain for over 8 years and it seems like the weather is much more extreme back there since we left with the large snow falls and the floodings.

I hope you manage to stay dry and safe through this latest bout.

A very interesting Hub I really learned a lot, lots of information but written in such an interesting manner. I am voting up and hitting the relevant buttons on my way out.


------- 4 years ago

Intresting article...


tierney! 4 years ago

this is awsome sir!


megan! 4 years ago

this is a beautiful creation sir!


charlie 4 years ago

thanks molometer its great.!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

You really did a lot of good research. This is a VERY impressive hub. Stay dry, molometer. We have been on the dry side for years, but I have seen some pretty big flooding especially in tropical storms and high tides.But I have since moved into the hills so there are more places for the water to go.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

This is an amazing article. I had no idea the flooding was that bad there. We are needing rain, we're 6 in. low for the year. The video was very interesting..Thank you..


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago Author

Hi Helen,

I shot the second video last Saturday. I could see that the water was rising. So I stopped the car and filmed it. There was two guys there from the environment agency checking the sluices. Even I could tell it wasn't going to be long before it over-topped the embankment.

There was no flood warning issued until the next day?

A little late if you ask me.

It is a terrible state of affairs I agree. How do they get away with building on these flood plains?

A few back-handers I would guess.

It seems to me that we are being ripped off,these leaky and broken pipes would save billions if they were fixed.

The flood defenses in East Anglia are in need of upgrading as these floods seem to be becoming more common.

Thanks for leaving such a detailed comment.

Michael


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago Author

Hello Angie,

You are so right. It has been a terrible wet start to the drought!? :)


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago Author

Hi mary615,

Thanks for sharing and the votes.Basically this whole region is one big flood plain. Just seems weird to have a hose pipe ban when water is running down the street lol


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago Author

Hi Aurelio,

It can get pretty hectic sometimes, like now. Usually the flood defenses work well but it is getting serious at the moment. Everywhere is soaked.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

A fascinating hub! I've seen a lot of footage on TV and the internet on the flood areas in England - the damage that is caused must be so distressing for the folks involved. The worst one I saw, it was actually in Cornwall I think, was a woman's Tea Room that she had just opened being literally destroyed in minutes, by one of the rivers that broke its banks. It was really heartbreaking to watch this poor woman's life dream disappearing under water and mud.

I'm in Fife and the last few days has been - as usual - rain constantly and very cold. But it very unusual for us to get flooding here, so we're very lucky. The coast of Fife does cause concern though. For example the historic caves at Weymss are being washed away yearly by the encroaching sea. However, nearby there are building sites putting up knew houses???? It really beggars belief! But at the end of the day, as with your part of the world - and very beautiful it is as well - greed rules over any concern for people or the environment. The jokers putting up these houses make dam sure they don't have their own properties anywhere near flood areas etc. but they don't give a toss about the punters they're selling to!

Anyway, sorry about the novel! But this was an excellent and thoroughly absorbing hub! Voted up!


Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

Hi molometer ... interesting hub.

I must agree with you it's been a damp start to the drought :)


mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

You have done an outstanding piece of work with this Hub! I'll certainly vote it UP, etc.etc. Here in S. Fl. we have flash floods. When it finally does rain after a drought, the water won't drain or it just stands on top of the soil. I definitely live in a flood zone, and I have flood insurance, too.


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

Yikes, your flooding there is just as bad as in some parts of the U.S. Fortunately, that's fairly rare here in dry Southern California. But then, we have forest fires and earthquakes. Voting this Up and Interesting. SHARED.


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago Author

Hi Ian,

I hear what you are saying and I totally agree. The whole shebang needs overhauling and new housing developments should be thourougly investigated before approval. (this is supposed to go on already) Many cases this 1 in 100 years idea is used to pass plans that should never get approval.


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago Author

Hi UnnamedHarald,

It is amazing and you are quite right that the irony of flooding is that it can lead to water shortages.

The danger of contamination is a great threat to health.

'$3 billion in damages' for the Cedar rapids flood is amazing. We can sometimes underestimate the power of flood waters.


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago Author

Hello Bill,

The flood defences are impressive. It seems odd to be having a hose pipe ban, in the middle of all this flood in uk currently.

It's a bright sunny day today lol! can you believe it?


molometer profile image

molometer 4 years ago Author

Hi snakeslane,

Thank you for your warm comments. They are much appreciated.


snakeslane profile image

snakeslane 4 years ago from Canada

Hello molometer, this is an amazing and interesting page. I appreciate all the hard work and research you've done to put this together. Voted up and awesome. Regards, snakeslane


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

Fascinating and great research my friend. About twenty miles from where we live is one of the worst flood plains in the state of Washington. As of this moment they still have not taken steps to alleviate this problem. It appears the UK is light years ahead of our local government in being proactive.


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Very interesting article. Voted up and interesting. I've been to the Norfolk Broads a couple times (Beccles) and it is a beautiful area. It is ironic about the hose pipe ban during floods, but that's the nature of flooding; for example, when places get flooded, many times people need supplies of water to drink as the water supply is contaminated. We survived the great 2008 flood of Cedar Rapids. 10 square miles, including the city center was flooded and over $3 billion in damages. All but one city wells were contaminated. I and hundreds of other volunteers responded to a TV news plea for help. Even with one well we had to ration water-- no showers for a week!


alian346 profile image

alian346 4 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

The lack of water has so much to do with ancient infrastructure which is falling to bits and leaking and overbuilding causing strain on the existing system. OK - and the lack of rain in the last 2 years!

Greedy people building properties on flood plains and selling them to unsuspecting individuals should be severely penalised.

But if it's water you need because of hosepipe bans - come here to Scotland!

Ian.

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