Gardening Magazine

A Spot Of Rain

By David Marsden @anxiousgardener

January tends to be wet in Sussex but this year was seriously, I’m-not-kidding-you wet.  Lying at the bottom of a valley, the garden is a convenient sump for all the run-off from the surrounding woods and fields.  During and after heavy rain, water streams through the grounds and into the ponds; it races through ditches and fills dips and depressions in the lawn.

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I’m used to areas of submerged grass in winter; like this shallow, boating lake just outside the front door.

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Sometimes the west pond laps where it oughtn’t, swamping more lawn and the odd shrub.

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The poor, stoic beech hedge regularly paddles in muddy water.

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But when a footbridge acts like a raft and sets out on a nautical adventure, I knew that yep, this was a very wet January indeed.

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With the main drainage ditch overwhelmed

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(how it normally looks)

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and the vegetable beds drowned

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this was the worst Priory flood I’ve seen.

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I made these raised beds five years ago but stupidly didn’t build them two foot high … or on pontoons.

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The east pond seeped out over paving and washed against the back wall of the house.

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And all because the river (a stream in truth) had finally burst its banks.  It has often teased me over the years; swelling wide and deep, roaring through the trees, occasionally knocking one over in its excitement.  But it always receded before really misbehaving.  Bloated far beyond its usual three-foot bed it has quickly, obediently shrunk back again; the banks unbreached.

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But this year it didn’t shrink back again but instead surged over into Margaret’s fields

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and poured into the garden.

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I knew it would happen one day.  And if it was worrying, it was also marvellous; in the way that powerful acts of nature are; like overly melodramatic thunder and lightning or improbably huge and scary ocean waves. A powerless to intervene, stop and stare event.

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Drainage channels that should have carried excess water out to the river and away from the house, instead provided easy passage for river water back up to the Priory.

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At least the sheep were safe.  They had sought higher ground and none were lost or swept away.

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It hadn’t occurred to me that my compost and leaf bins (built on raised ground between two ditches)

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would ever be inundated.

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All that wash-through did sweep mats of duckweed off the ponds.  An annual flood or two is always welcome for completing that chore.

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And the gardens were even more rabbit proof than usual.

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Who’d have guessed that the fern boat would ever embark on a new voyage?

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At last, with one of the house door-sills barely an inch above the flood,

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the rain stopped and the clouds cleared.  I ventured out with my camera to inspect the damage as the water level peaked and then ebbed – leaving new temporary islands and duckweed smothered grass.

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It could have been far worse of course.  The house last flooded in 2000 causing thousands of pounds of damage and one day it will flood again.  But not this time.


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