Sunday, 23 December 2012

Dulverton becomes an island

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

Exebridge the following day. Pic by Sam Gardiner

Exebridge following day by Sandy Takel


Frances said...

Jane, you describe nature very well. It does not surprise me that you would want to go out and see all the drama for yourself.

I do hope that not too, too much damage was done to folks around Dulverton. It really was not until news helicopters began to provide live broadcasts that we actually could tell just what Hurricane Sandy did to huge areas around here.

Lots of love to you, Jane, and a very Merry Christmas, too. xo

Exmoorjane said...

@Frances - In comparison to Sandy, this was a mere lick. Yes, it was beautiful to be in solitude by the raging river...something that will stay with me.
Much love to you too, dear heart, a very Merry Christmas to you in NYC. xxxx

Rachel Selby said...

Every time I see pictures of Dulverton I think it must be the most beautiful place to live on earth. I wish you, Adrian and James a very merry Christmas. xxx

John said...

Can a water shortage be far away?

JOHN SHORTLAND, Cotswold Hills, England. said...

Whenever I visit Dulverton which I do quite regularly for a non-local, I'm always surprised by the marker on the wall showing the height of water in the 1952 flood.
Those exmoor rivers certainly are terrifying when in spate.

Let's hope that 2013 is better weather-wise.

Happy Christmas and good wishes for a dryer New Year


JOHN SHORTLAND, Cotswold Hills, England. said...

New Year's Resolution No.1 - Must check for spelling errors before clicking 'send' :-)


roselle said...

Glad it's subsiding. I was brought up in Braunton and my dad lived on the heights of Exmoor. Am down near Dartmoor now - I know what you mean - I so loved driving back alone across Dartmoor at midnight on the solstice in all that wild wind and torrential rain. (WE always have wild weather on both solstices and we always forget.) Am not meaning in any way to belittle the serious dangers people are faced with; and yet there's something in me that is also pleased that we have yet managed to tame EVERYTHING.

roselle said...

Uh-oh. Am with Johnson! I didn't mean to capitalise all of 'We', and there should be a 'not' in that last clause!

joe1190 said...

i was born and brought up in Dulverton.As a two year old can remember nothing of the 1952 floods other than being scared to death of a helicopter landing in the field next to our house. As a young boy i fished in the Barle and Exe. Made rafts and explored the valleys with the freedeom that kids of today are starved of. I remember how docile and inviting the rivers can be but in times of storm these rivers, flowing off Exmoor, are like raging bulls. I well remember the terrific noise of the vast flow of water crashing over the weir at Weirhead and the volume of debris and branches brought down the valley by the swollen river. Awesome!

Rob-bear said...

Those two pictures document a change which folks could well find frightening. Glad you are safe: I'm assuming Adrian and James are too (along with your dogs).


Ross Mountney said...

I so feel for you and everyone who is suffering with the rain. Hope you are delivered soon. xxx

Exmoorjane said...

Thanks for comments, everyone.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Sam, aka gunslinger - got your email but accessed it remotely and, for some bizarre reason, the Chromebook deleted it as I was trying to reply. Patsy is fine - we checked on her that night and was told she was, as you rightly said, not remotely wanting help - her usual independent self. I do hope you get this as I have no way of getting in touch with you. Do email me again and I can give you more. Jane