The ‘perfect’ conditions

We joke and say we live about four hundred yards from the sea and about 4 inches above it! We live at the south end of a large sandy bay – you can descend from the promenade (by a couple of feet) onto the beach, but heading out into the sea there is thick, thick mud because we are virtually on the estuary of the River Severn. Weston Bay, formerly Glentworth Bay has the second highest tidal range in the world, the highest being the Bay of Fundy in Canada. As you can imagine there is a danger from flooding at high tide, especially with an on-shore wind, but there are now sea defences and flood gates which are closed when conditions are extreme. We live at the south end of the bay in the village of Uphill, and there are even stronger flood defences  here because of the river Axe which loops round and flows into the sea by Uphill beach. There are massive banks, massive flood gates, and water meadows to allow controlled flooding. We’re very thankful for the flood defences, and many people who live her remember a time when there was no such protection against the elements. A combination of extreme high tide, 40mph onshore winds, torrential and exceptional rainfall on the Mendip Hills which run into the sea at Uphill created the ‘perfect’ conditions for flooding, and much of the village was inundated. The flooding extended over a large area, and although it was estimated that about 25,000 livestock were lost, thankfully it seems only one man was swept away and lost his life.

I was thinking of this last weekend when I went away with my two writing chums for a short retreat in North Devon, in the pretty little coastal village of Lynmouth. Wikipedia says of it “Lynmouth is a village in Devon, England, on the northern edge of Exmoor. The village straddles the confluence of the West Lyn and East Lyn rivers, in a gorge 700 feet (210 m) below Lynton.” The rivers run off Exmore and join together on the other to flow into the sea. The cottage we stayed in was right by the West Lyn, we could go out of the front gate, cross the narrow road, lean on the wall and look at the pretty little river rushing noisily past. It’s idyllic and we took so many photos, and all the time we were there, even with all the windows and doors closed we could hear the Lyn tumbling past, chattering as it flowed. We were, however, very aware, that seventy years ago, on the 15th and 16th of August, due to absolutely torrential rain, there was a horrific flood. An inundation, rushed down the gorge sweeping away houses and people, destroying buildings. More than a hundred buildings were seriously damaged, some completely destroyed and four hundred and twenty people lost their homes. Twenty-eight bridges (of thirty-one altogether) were destroyed, but most tragic of all, thirty-four  people died, the youngest a three month old baby, the oldest, an eighty year old man, and a woman of unknown age because she was never identified.

The Lynmouth Disaster occurred on the East Lyn river due to rocks and fallen trees having been washed into the West Lyn river. These formed a log jam near Watersmeet, forming a landslide dam. When the pressure behind the dam increased to uncontrollable levels, the water broke out of the dam, and rushed down the East Lyn (via the convergence of the rivers) into Lynmouth, obliterating houses and ultimately resulting in 34 deaths.

River lyn

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