|Pic: Gina McIntyre|
Last night Dulverton became an island. The rivers burst their banks; the bridges couldn’t cope. It didn’t surprise me somehow – I could feel it coming as I drove back over the moor. A restlessness in the river.
I came through a deep flood on my way into town, thankful I’d followed my instinct to drive straight back from Braunton. I got through fine with the Toyota’s high wheel base but I figured it wouldn’t be long before the road was impassable.
When the main flood came, it came quickly. ‘We watched the water rise up against the bridge,’ said Kenny, the landlord of the Bridge Inn. ‘And we cleared everyone out of the pub and put up defences as best we could. Then, it crested the wall and just swept over in a tsunami of water.’
People here were their usual stoical, sensible selves. Vulnerable people were checked; offers of help abounded. But rumours spread, the way they will. Someone had heard there was fire; other people were concerned about relatives they couldn’t reach. There were reports of cars being swept under bridges, of people stuck in cars. Social media is great in emergencies, but it can also breed panic. So we went out to check up on a few things, hopefully to separate fact from fiction, to report back and reassure if we could.
Adrian patrolled the pubs, of course. I turned away from the town centre and walked up Northmoor Road to check on a property up there, where the owners are away.
The river roared alongside me – just a few inches of wall separating us. It crashed and smashed over the weirs, a maddened beast flinging itself against rock and tree. The ferocity took my breath away – it was majestic, a barely caged lion and I felt like the stupid child, standing at the bars, almost tempted to poke its finger in.
The street lights flickered out and I walked on in darkness. Just me and the river. Until I came to the place where the road ended in black water. And found the fire brigade.
‘Are you all right?’ one asked me.
I explained I was there to check on a house and we tried to see the names by torchlight. Then I stood and stared at the water.
‘You’re not thinking of going across, are you?’
I smiled. ‘Of course not.’
He gave me a beady look.‘That’s good.’
And I bid them farewell and walked slowly back to town, resisting the urge to wander up into the woods, having to stick my fingers in my ears to avoid the siren call of wind and water and darkness and feeling more than a bit guilty for loving the wildness so much, when it causes such destruction and such misery for so many people.
PLEASE NOTE: Dulverton is no longer cut off. Please do continue to support our pubs, shops, cafes and restaurants over the Christmas period. The Bridge Inn hopes to re-open as soon as possible. Probably Boxing Day.
|The bridge last night (pic The Bridge Inn)|
|The bridge normally (yes, that's me on the bench!)|
|The Anchor - pic by Alice Hounslow|