Flooding In The Somerset Levels – A Case Study

By Paul Homewood



There was an interesting report in last Sunday’s Telegraph about recent flooding in the Somerset Levels. I’ll  not reprint the whole thing, but would certainly recommend reading it.

The essence of the article is that the flooding there, which began late last month and peaked on 1st January, are the worst in living memory. 

Now, anyone familiar with this part of England will know that the Levels are notorious for winter flooding, and have been since time immemorial. Indeed, according to Wikipedia, one explanation for the county of Somerset’s name is that, in prehistory, because of winter flooding people restricted their use of the Levels to the summer, leading to a derivation from Sumorsaete, meaning land of the summer people.

And, of course, King Alfred hid away from the Vikings at Athelney, in the middle of the Levels, protected by impenetrable swamps.

Consequently, when someone says “the worst in living memory”, I tend to get the pinch of salt ready! But when a farmer, whose house is flooded for the second time in just over a year, tells us that it had not been flooded for the previous 88 years, you have to treat the matter seriously. To quote the Telegraph:

For the moment, he and his partner, Linda, are living upstairs at Horsey Farm, because the ground floor of the building has been flooded.

“The carpets have gone, the floorboards will have to come up, the plaster will have to come off the walls, we will have to start all over again,” he says. They only returned to the property nine weeks ago, having been out of it since a similar flood in November 2012.

“Before that the house had not been flooded for 88 years, that’s the point,” he says. “People lived here for centuries without it being as bad as this. Something is definitely going wrong. The water levels have gone right up.”


So, is this all evidence that climate change is making floods worse, as many would have us believe? Let’s take a look at the Met Office data. I have outlined in red the rough area we are looking at .

As can be seen, although December rainfall was higher than average, it was not abnormally so. I have also included the November map, to show that that month was around or below average for Somerset, so there is no evidence of a long term build up of water.



November 2013 Rainfall 1981 - 2010 anomaly

We can also look at the December rainfall trends for SW England & S Wales. The area covered by this region is shown below. Although this region covers a wider range than just Somerset, a look at the above December map indicates that much of the region was wetter than the part we are concerned with. In other words, the regional stats probably overestimate the rainfall anomaly for Somerset.




Figure 1

The graph makes clear that last month’s rainfall was not unusual in any way. Since 1910, it ranks as the 19th wettest, in other words a once every 5 year event. The rain in December does not even compare with years such as 1934, when 307mm was recorded. In fact, it is noticeable that all of the really wet Decembers occurred prior to 1970.

Taking all months of the year, rather than just December, there have been 70 months with higher rainfall than December 2013. On average, therefore, the region would expect to see rainfall amounts as high as, or higher than, last month at some stage of the year every year or two.

We can also look at the stats for the local station of Yeovilton, about 20 miles to the south of the Levels, rather than the region as a whole.

The Met Office data, which runs back to 1964, shows 121mm rainfall for December 2013. However, the Telegraph article mentions that torrential rain on New Year’s Day made the floods worse, and a check with Weather Underground shows 18mm that day, so I have added that onto the Met Office’s December figure. (It is also worth pointing out that since 1st January, rainfall amounts have been close to average for January).

The resulting 139mm would represent the 14th wettest month since 1964, so about a once in three year occurrence. Given the evidence in Figure 1, it seems likely that many more such months would have occurred prior to 1964.



Figure 2

It is utterly clear that there has been nothing unusual about levels of rainfall, so what has been going on in Somerset? This is where the locals in Muchelney make their views plain.

There is, however, one awkward challenge that has to be made to the villagers. The Somerset Levels were built to flood. The name of the village derives from the Saxon for “great island”. If people choose to live on a historic floodplain, how can they possibly complain when it floods?

“Yes, the fields are meant to flood, but it is too much now,” says Maxine Grice, a long-time resident of Muchelney. “It comes too quickly and it stays too long. It used to happen every 10 years and it was never this deep. People have been flooded lately who never were before. It’s because the rivers haven’t been dredged over the last 20 years. They have silted up.”

Others villagers agree this is why the flood levels have risen catastrophically. They blame the Environment Agency for neglecting the local rivers, which have now silted up so much that they can only carry a third of the water they used to. The theory is that this leaves the rivers unable to cope in the rain when extra water is also sent from Taunton and Bridgwater, from where it is pumped away to protect new homes built on former floodplains.

We are being sacrificed in order to help those towns,” says Ms Wilson-Ward. “Yes, we are a small village but we are still taxpayers, we still need to protect our houses and our businesses like everyone else. The Environment Agency need to pull their fingers out, apply for whatever money they need, start dredging, get people down here and start fixing things.”

Final Thoughts

Similar complaints have been raised many times in recent years, but this case gives us real evidence that such concerns are justified.

Whilst Somerset is only one part of the country, and the performance of the Environment Agency may be better elsewhere, it is important that, if flooding problems are to be resolved, the actual causes are identified, so they can be acted on.

It really does not help the inhabitants of Muchelney, or the thousands of others affected by floods, when David Cameron, Corinne Le Quere, Chris Smith and the rest blame them on climate change, and think that building lots of wind farms will make things better.

Perhaps some of the money spent fighting climate change should be diverted to repairing our neglected flood defences and drainage systems.

Unfortunately, it is sometimes easier hiding behind excuses than taking the responsibility to do something about a problem. And it is also very convenient when those excuses support a political agenda.


Christopher Booker, who lives in Somerset, made similar comments about the failure of the Environment Agency to dredge the rivers there. He also suggests there is a desire amongst many at the Agency to see the Levels return  to the swampy wilderness that existed prior to the 17thC, when they were drained


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January 18, 2014 10:44 pm

The Environment Agency was taken over by environmental activists years ago. See http://www.insidetheenvironmentagency.co.uk/index.php?controller=post&action=view&id_post=41

Grey Lensman
January 18, 2014 11:01 pm

Seeing how quickly Paul dug up real data on rain and flood, the twice flooded farmer surely has a bona fide case to sue, and sue.
One stick that use to educate Watermelons, the magic co2 is used not only to make money but avoid responsibility for real problems. This is a classic example.

January 18, 2014 11:19 pm

The UK EA,, the largest (pro rata for population) such organisation in the World, and stuffed with people who are lazy and indolent, was created by Blair to promote the myth of CAGW. In the same way as the Intelligence people ‘sexed up’ the WMD story so Blair would support Bush in attacking Iraq, the CAGW scare was sexed up so Blair could do a Bush/Obama with imaginary catastrophic anthropogenic global warming.
So, they have deliberately encouraged flooding and prevented farmers from doing their own remedial work, thereby to promote Agenda 21’s policies, to restore nature ‘to it’s natural self’. This means the people in Somerset and in the East are being abandoned, also the farmland.
We need to put key bureaucrats on trial for treason, also selected politicians who betrayed their nation to promote imaginary IPCC pseudo-science. The US might consider the same for its own corrupt bureaucrats and politicians.

David Chappell
January 18, 2014 11:20 pm

I am slightly surprised that the Met Office only has rainfall records for Yeovilton since 1964 because it has been an active Fleet Air Arm airfield since 1941.

January 18, 2014 11:54 pm

To all and everyone
Sumarsæte is obvious. Sumar is summer, and sete is where you sit. meaning where you sit and rule.

Mac the Knife
January 18, 2014 11:57 pm

It really does not help the inhabitants of Muchelney, or the thousands of others affected by floods, when David Cameron, Corinne Le Quere, Chris Smith and the rest blame them on climate change, and think that building lots of wind farms will make things better.
No. It doesn’t help the long term inhabitants of Muchelney. But it does provide cover for the politicians…. and the developers that put housing developments in historical flood plains up stream and force pump the flood waters down stream onto Muchelney.. The buyers of those upstream houses bear responsibility as well.

Susan Young
January 18, 2014 11:59 pm

This is yet another example of perception (of the farmer in this case) being coloured by warmist propaganda rather than being based on scientific reasoning. I live in Devon, less than 2 hours’ drive from the Somerset levels and the flooding on our property was the worst we have seen in 17 years. However, this was due to the fact that the rain came in a very short interval of time on already saturated ground. Had I not a scientific background I might have blamed ‘global warming’.

blah blah
January 19, 2014 12:03 am

Anecdote… Following on from phillipbratby (above).
I seem to remember that when the “Department of the Environment” was dreamt up by our lovely politicians sometime around 1970, the big joke was that they occupied the biggest, ugliest most Stalinist building in London, but apart from that didn’t seem to have anything useful to do.
It’s precursors were more practical… They dealt with where people could build houses, and what sort of public buildings were erected and where.
In the great game of politics, it would seem that the DOE was created by the “traitor” Heath to demonstrate that he had “feelings for the countryside”, of course, later the DOE was merged with the Ministry of Transport and then later on Agriculture… It is now called DEFRA, again the wags have a good name for it “Deathrow”, because it has ordered the unnecessary slaughter and total ruin of a huge number of farmers.
It seems to be long forgotten that the original government department (before the DOE pre 1970) ACTUALLY DEALT WITH THE PROTECTION OF OUR ENVIRONMENT.

blah blah
January 19, 2014 12:06 am

My apologies… I didn’t mean to suggest that farmers have been slaughtered… This was an aside about the periodic ritual slaughter of their farm stock, when there are perfectly good vaccinations available.

Draycote's Falcon
January 19, 2014 12:23 am

This seems a clear case of FRAUD under Section 4
of the UK Fraud Act 2006 – “Fraud by abuse of position”
4 Fraud by abuse of position
(1) A person is in breach of this section if he—
(a) occupies a position in which he is expected to safeguard, or not to act
against, the financial interests of another person,
(b) dishonestly abuses that position, and
(c) intends, by means of the abuse of that position—
(i) to make a gain for himself or another, or
(ii) to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss.
(2) A person may be regarded as having abused his position even though his
conduct consisted of an omission rather than an act.
– So then the failure to dredge the rivers is “an omission”,
a lapse of duty, by the environment agency, or more specifically
the Environment Minister, who must be culpable as he or she is
the de facto head of the organisation, and responsible for the
rules of its operation.
Interestingly, the last Conservative Minister in this post was the
Climate Change Committee Chairman, John Gummer (1993-1997).
This is no short term failing, and the previous Labour Government
Ministers must be the real culprits here. So who were the previous
Environment Ministers, let us see.
Ministers of State responsible for the Environment: (Labour)
Michael Meacher (1997-2001)
Richard Caborn (1997-1999)
Nick Raynsford (1999-2001)
Margaret Beckett (2001-2006)
David Miliband (2006-2007)
Hilary Benn (2007-2010)
These people were so convinced that “climate” was alone responsible
for these catastrophes, that they omitted to carry out their duties in a
proper fashion, and as a result they caused a loss, or exposed others
to the risk of a loss, and so therefore they are in jeopardy of breaches
of Section 4, of the UK Fraud Act 2006, The fact that some offences
occurred prior to the Act receiving “Royal Assent”, does not change
the fact, and they miscreants would still be culpable under the previous
fraud legislation, notwithstanding the offences of misfeasance and that
of nonfeasance, being “misconduct in public office”.
Will any person in the “Somerset Levels” make a complaint in these terms
to the Somerset Police. That would be a first step in getting the matters
resolved, since I am sure that the current Minister, Owen Patterson MP,
would not wish to join his Labour Party predecessors in the Dock.
… D.F.

January 19, 2014 12:44 am

Of course it doesn’t help that upland bog has been drained (to make way for wind generating stations) thus causing faster run off from the hills, which cannot be coped with downstream. Also planning permission has been given for building on flood plains/meadows, wetlands as people from town/cities move to the country who cannot understand why locals have never built in certain areas.
The hints are in the names: Flood Lane, Watermead/meadow lane, places including Fen in their name etc

Ex-expat Colin
January 19, 2014 12:49 am

I lived on the Somerset level (at Mark) for about 18 months (1965/66) and had my VW beetle subjected to slight floating across dips in a single track road (the Kingsway) and very alarmingly, water in the fuel tank. I have suspected a fuel stop on the A38 nearby one rainy afternoon for the latter. I have also lived in Lincolnshire which is a place of dykes and much pumping – don’t seem to hear much from there about flooding though.
I have also lived near Tewksbury Abbey (Gloustershire) which is always distinct by the Abbey above flood level. Build houses in these places and you are simply asking for it at some point.
All very flat areas and drain into the sea(s)…if they can? Look on Google Maps to see these areas.

Man Bearpig
January 19, 2014 12:50 am

I lived close to the levels for some time and there are many many places that have a network of very large ditches that drain the land to minimise flooding. It is not unusual to see fields full of water in the winter months around that area.
Look on Google earth at around the outskirts of Glastonbury and you will see them. Here is a Google Map Reference
Zoom in/out until you can see road names and look for the term ‘Drove’ you will see Long Drove, Crabtree Drove, there are loads of them. Zoom in on these and you will see the ditches, they run parallel (usually on both sides of the road) and criss-cross the fields.
You can find these scattered around all over the levels.

January 19, 2014 1:00 am

After working in floodplain management in western Washington state for over 20 years, I can tell you that this Somerset flooding is absolutely typical: Upland development increases run-off, while environmental agencies do everything they can to impede the maintenance of lowland drainage systems, aiming to return the floodplain to “natural” wetland conditions.
One thing is certain: Climate change has little or nothing to do with it.

January 19, 2014 1:01 am

The ea have annual maxima data for flood flows available for download on their website, rainfall does directly relate to a flood flow, there are many other factors involved. I would assume the drain is gauged somewhere and the river parrot would be. Clearing of the ageing drains cut by the catholic church to drain the swampland is an on going issue, as well as groundwater issues, land movement (the sw is sinking slowly due to glacial rebound i am told) no doubt there is also longterm settlement due to the old organic peat layers as often occurs in such land. No doubt though the levels have always been very wet andflood prone with the original residents living on islands in the reed marshes.

S MacDonald
January 19, 2014 1:05 am

It’s worth pointing out that in the same section of the Sunday Telegraph, there was an article by their Environmental correspondent Charles Clover that promoted the exact opposite solution – namely, that floodwater SHOULD drain to low-lying fields and ditches, and that dredging simply dislodged greater amounts of water to channels that could not cope. But of course, when the powers-that-be have permitted large-scale house-building on flood plains ………

January 19, 2014 1:06 am

The MoS has an article accusing certain EU policies as responsible for some of this flooding because of tree clearances. Read & ponder.

January 19, 2014 1:08 am

@ Susan Young January 18, 2014 at 11:59 pm:
I too live in Devon, less than an hour from the Somerset levels. Although the ground is saturated, the rainfall here where I live has been fairly normal for winter. The river at the bottom of my garden has hardly risen at all this winter. Twice in the last 5 years the river level has been far far higher.

January 19, 2014 1:14 am

blah blah: “It is now called DEFRA, again the wags have a good name for it “Deathrow””
Where I lived when it was created, DEFRA was known as the Department for the Elimination of Farming and Rural Activities.

January 19, 2014 1:33 am

I don’t understand why Paul thinks it needs a month of rain to cause floods.
The fact is nearly all of the area’s December rain came in the last half, and in several intense downpours. Indeed, the thirty day period 15/12-15/1 is one of the wettest ‘months’ I’ve ever experienced in Devon. Such quantities of rain, over a short period, are going to cause floods.
Would dredging the river help? Given the quantity of rain, and looking at the vast quantities of water on the levels, I suspect the cost to the public purse of doing work that would be effective would be prohibitive.

Jo Beaumont
January 19, 2014 1:35 am

We Live in a watermill just above Taunton right on top of the River Tone. There has been considerable new house building along the river above us, and the EA have signed off a varied assortment of flood alleviation “solutions” which, surprisingly, no one ever seems to monitor.
The are, obviously, many reasons for flooding, this year, it has been constant rain, not as much in quantity as last winter, but more often, and as it has fallen on saturated ground, it has no where to go.
We took 2 years getting permission to dredge our Leat, (there are 6 houses along it) and finally were allowed to do so. The Ea still say it made no difference as the water would still be the same amount and would kill the wildlife. Last winter, the cottages didn’t flood, they would have if the leat had not been dredged.
The wildlife came back the day we refilled the leat, Kingfishers, water voles, trout, etc. we have mentioned this to them (more than once!)
The attenuation systems used seem to be designed to keep back one rainfall event. (and then only with some systems if it is a 1 in 100 event) whereas if you have almost continuous rain, day after day, with only short respites, then these systems cannot cope and the water goes down and floods the levels.
The houses that are now being flooded there are not new houses, but ones that were built when people could take the time and trouble to read the rivers, and build as safely as possible.
Blaim? Central Government’s blinkered views on new housing regardless, EA inability to understand anything not “modelled” on a computer, and the developers who have excellent people who have the expertise honed over many years of battling Parish and Local Councils. Also, as mentioned, the passing of the buck to climate change.

January 19, 2014 1:36 am

Astonishing reports.
My river, the Teign, has twice burst it’s banks in a month. It is a river that hardly ever floods. SE Devon has been utterly saturated for a month.

Ed Zuiderwijk
January 19, 2014 1:39 am

Here in East Anglia near Cambridge they are going to build a whole new town at a place called “Water Meadow”. More fun ahead that is.

January 19, 2014 1:50 am

There are many many reasons for increased risk of flooding, some points already mentioned but here’s a couple of basic ones:
1) Hardcover development upstream (or up-valley) of the floodplain. This causes more surface runoff to be directed to drainage (and thence streams/rivers) than prior to development. A big supermarket (and its car park area) can produce many cubic metres of ‘surface’ water in a very short time (minutes!) during a storm. Think of such a recent development near you – was it a field or small property beforehand? – that rain would previously have taken likely days to reach the natural watercourses – now, it will be almost instant. Modern planning rules are intended to reduce this, e.g. by insisting on SUDS, sustainable drainage systems, with holding ponds, attentuated discharge rates, etc, – but of course, it is not applied retrospectively!
2) Clearing of river channels in one area merely moves the problem downstream somewhere. Similarly, building up flood banks in an upstream area simply means that more water is channeled downstream, instead of spreading across the upstream natural floodplain. In other words, somehat bluntly put – if you speed the water through upstream somewhere – it will bugger up somewhere else downstream!
3) Generally, it appears that the EA does not consider the big picture anymore. Perhaps this is due to political type pressure placed on their masters by irate property owners who have been flooded. The kind of ”Fix my area” types – and bugger the poor sods elsewhere? In the UK, with less and less development land available, and more and more infrastructure (roads, buildings, etc) hardcover, it seems only reasonable to expect that water regimes and flooding risks will continually change/move.
4) No matter what the EA does, there will always be unusual storms, rainfall events as per history! It is simply not feasible to ‘cover’ all eventualities and flooding will continue to occur.

January 19, 2014 1:55 am

Jo Beaumont says:
January 19, 2014 at 1:35 am
well said. Most Older houses rarely flooded before – it is the water regime around them that has more likely changed. I agree, the EA are indeed very blinkered and in the ‘Computer says No’ mindset most of the time.

January 19, 2014 2:01 am

“Natural England is an Executive Non-departmental Public Body responsible to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Our purpose is to protect and improve England’s natural environment and encourage people to enjoy and get involved in their surroundings.”
“ESA management options
There were three main management options available within the Somerset Levels and Moors ESA:
Maintenance of extensive grassland by restrictions on cultivation, under-drainage and the use of inorganic fertilisers, and the maintenance of water levels, ditches, gutters, trees and pollarded willows. No features of historical interest must be damaged or destroyed.
The enhancement of wet grassland by controlling water levels, and in addition to the restrictions above there are also restrictions on stocking rates, winter sheep grazing, cultivation, mowing dates and fertiliser use.
The maintenance of grassland by raised water levels (such that splash areas are maintained during the spring) and no fertiliser input.”

January 19, 2014 2:03 am

I wonder which one of the three main management options were chosen??????????

January 19, 2014 2:13 am

There appears to be something more fundamental as the root causes of flooding, not just in Somerset but throughout the UK.
Ignore the fact that this is a reference to the Daily Mail, just read the article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2541773/Drowned-EU-millions-Thought-extreme-weather-blame-floods-Wrong-The-real-culprit-European-subsidies-pay-UK-farmers-destroy-trees-soak-storm.html#ixzz2qpqBypa4
I then researched the The Pontbren Farmers Group which confirmed the basis for the DM article:
It just highlights the fact that UK Politicians are just as ignorant and dogmatic about Environment matters as they are about Climate Science.
RE Snape

son of mulder
January 19, 2014 2:21 am

I’m not convinced that monthly rainfall averages are useful in assessing the connection with sudden flooding. Lots of rain at the end of one month and at the start of the next could cause flooding but each month could look average.

Filbert cobb
January 19, 2014 2:25 am

“environmental agencies do everything they can to impede the maintenance of lowland drainage systems, aiming to return the floodplain to “natural” wetland conditions”
Correct in this case.RSPB, Defra, EA, Natural England have all colluded to re-wet parts of the Levels and this is in part responsible for the floods. There are large parts of the catchment where sluices pen the drainage in (and keep the sea out) until low tide when advantage should be taken of the very high tidal range to allow the freshwater out. Control of the means to drain this extremely low-lying area is part of the plot to keep land saturated for the benefit of birds and their watchers – as is bribery of farmers using public money to sacrifice their land-use.

January 19, 2014 2:42 am

It is good to see that my previous comments about river maintenance have been vindicated above.
In Lincolnshire, where part of the fens are below sea level, there are local River Boards who oversee river maintenance and so far we have been free of floods, though Boston was flooded recently that town is outside the responsibility of the boards. So dredging works. EA please note.
I will add that there is no such thing as a ”former” flood plain.

January 19, 2014 2:46 am

I am surprised that the Somerset farmers have not got together to form their own River Boards and clear rivers themselves. Most farmers have some type of earth mover/JCB so get to work and help your locals.

January 19, 2014 2:57 am

Draycote’s Falcon
Margaret Beckett when I lived in Derby South had the opinion that “it may already be too late” to stop CAGW, I can’t speak for the others but I had that response when complaining to her. as my MP, about wind follies being constructed within the Derby City boundary. Unfortunately they have now been constructed, but I live in France now so am no longer directly affected.
Local newspaper report here:

Peter Miller
January 19, 2014 2:58 am

The solution?
1. A radical cull of the bureaucracy at the UK’s Environmental Agency, especially at senior levels. Start with anyone associated with Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth, as they can be guaranteed to know absolutely nothing about anything useful.
2. Return to the practices prior to the formation of this bureaucratic boondoggle by Britain’s
Labour Party, whose only political policy is/was: “if it sounds trendy and employs lots of new bureaucrats, do it.”
3. Look around the world and find someone who really knows what they are doing in the field of flood prevention and bring them in to establish sensible work practices and protocols.
Any chance of any of this happening? Absolutely not, it is much easier and trendier to blame global warming, climate change or whatever.
In the UK, where all the political parties (with the exception of UKIP) are led by card carrying ecoloons, doing the right thing on flood prevention is not considered politically expedient – there are no votes there, so these prats can be guaranteed to blame global warming etc. and then do absolutely nothing.

January 19, 2014 3:06 am

David Chappell says:
January 18, 2014 at 11:20 pm
I am slightly surprised that the Met Office only has rainfall records for Yeovilton since 1964 because it has been an active Fleet Air Arm airfield since 1941.

Stephen Potter’s “Lifesmanship Correspondence College” was (is?) headquartered in Yeovil. I hope it hasn’t been affected!

R. de Haan
January 19, 2014 3:07 am

From Fox News: Pauchari: Communism best system to fight AGW:
Communism is the McDonald of mass murder: http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/the-five/article/2014/01/17/un-climate-chief-communism-best-fight-global-warming
Now that doesn’t this all fit like a glove with UN Agenda 21 and Obama spreading the Wealth and all other “PROPAGANDA” to bring the world on the verge of another period of human disasters including mass murder on an epic scale……..!!!!!!

Jo Beaumont
January 19, 2014 3:13 am

johnmarshall says;
January 19th 2.46am
Firstly sorry, I don’t quite understand the protocol of replying to someone, so apologies if the above is wrong.
The reason why farmers have not got on and cleared the rivers themselves is that it is not allowed by the EA. You have to apply, pay, do environmental studies, impact reports, draw up plans, confer with at least 6 different managers, and then you may be allowed to do some work near or on the river. Some years ago, the EA took ownership of the rivers. The riparian owners have duties and some rights. They do not own the water, cannot do any work, or plant anything within 7 meters (I think without looking it up) unless there is approval from the EA. There is, unfortunately no longer the possibility of farmers or riparian owners taking this into their own hands. We are just told we don’t understand the ecology of the system and will do untold damage.

William Baird
January 19, 2014 3:16 am

I started my engineering career with Essex River Authority, whose area included much of the coast devestated in 1953. There priority was given to clearing weeds from rivers, mainatining embankments and making sure that gangs were out during heavy rainfall to clear blockages. Result – little or no flooding.
Much later (1990s) I was responsible for the design of town centre improvements in Kidderminster which included river improvements. My designs lead to a reduction in peak flood levels of more than a metre, effectively alleviating flooding of the town centre.
When it came to getting EA approval I came up against engineers and environmentalists. The environmentalists ruled and insisted upon all sorts of cascades, reed planters, etc, none of which probably ever got maintained. In fact keeping rivers in good condition seemed an anathema to the arrogant reed huggers who ruled.
I was a Chartered Environmentalist until retirement, but my Institution got hijacked, soviet style, about 6 years ago. Now, although they dont bother to consider what members think or believe, they peddle only climate change, biodiversity and sustainability, and wont listen to anyone who dissagrees.
Thank goodness the people in Somerset are raising their voices and telling the world the truth, that its down to simple maintenance, not CO2, or 4x4s.
William Baird

January 19, 2014 3:23 am

I wonder if the mentioned farmer is one of those who have, over the last 40 years, been pulling out hedgerows and piping and filling ditches to make larger fields allowing for larger machinery? Here in agricultural Essex the finger of blame for the large pools in the fields and floods across the roads can point straight at that.

January 19, 2014 3:31 am

@johnmarshall. Farmers could do the work themselves but they won’t because of the beaucracy and fines from the EA for doing work without permission. Everything, down to the smallest detail, is regulated.

January 19, 2014 3:39 am

I’m in north Devon. I would estimate that the peak river flow here over the last month has been no more than 10% of the peak I’ve seen twice in the last 6 years.

John Ritson
January 19, 2014 3:40 am

The village name Muchelney means ‘great island’. That might have given residents a clue.

January 19, 2014 3:44 am

The BBC has a story on what caused the floods on the Thames!

Harry Passfield
January 19, 2014 4:22 am

Like Philip Bratby, I too have a river at the bottom of my garden. Well, it’s more of a glorified stream and can hardly be dignified with the name, ‘river’, but it feeds the Avon, which can.
Although it’s a small river it can rise 15′ very quickly and this is down to flow control. Above all things, whether the river is dredged or not (and the EA have refused to dredge ours), the trick to managing flood is to have control of the flow rate.
On our river there are regularly defined flood plains; in fact, my lower garden is defined as such, and it is the control of the flooding of these up river which will decide whether down-river homes flood – as we came very close to in 1998, 2007, and not so close in 2012.
But the 2007 flood was the clincher. As it occurred in July, the rather apocryphal story has grown up that the person responsible for the flood control gates up stream from me had gone on holiday and no-one knew where the keys to the control gates were. Consequently they remained open and our village was flooded. In 2012, the gates were controlled and all that happened was the flood plains filled, as designed.
Like I said, it’s really a case of flow control. But AGW gives the powers-that-be a good reason to wring there hands and say that nothing can be done. The epitome of a commitment to failure.

January 19, 2014 4:23 am

There was a group of people, in and around 1600BC, that had a solution to this rubbish! Failed! Maybe we need to learn from the French?

dave ward
January 19, 2014 4:54 am

@ Draycote’s Falcon – I fear you (or anyone else) would have zero chance of successfully pursuing a fraud case against this lot. Author and blogger Richard North’s son Peter has been fighting his local council and their bailiffs over the corrupt practices they employ to collect parking fines. They are trying every trick in the book to avoid prosecution for fraud, and the police are simply turning a blind eye:

January 19, 2014 5:14 am

There is a pattern of bureaucrats and enviro extremists blaming the bad out comes of their policies on bogeymen to avoid accountability. “Climate” is the current favorite.

January 19, 2014 5:18 am

Does Natural England intend to return the Fens to saltmarsh, with causeways connecting the scattered islands? Even in historical times, lots of England was under water before drainage. With the south of Great Britain sinking as the north rebounds from the lost weight of ice, the flooding may get worse, but would be natural.

January 19, 2014 6:44 am

Occams Razor strikes again.
Maybe some people and councils scream ‘climate change’ so they can get some of the loverly government money, set aside for the terrible consequences caused by ‘climate change’.

The draining of the somerset levels
This is a detailed study of how the Somerset Levels, originally a large tract of marsh, were drained and reclaimed to becomes one of the most agriculturally productive areas of south-west England. The story of the draining of this region brings to light significant comparisons and contrasts with other reclaimed lowlands and extends our knowledge of one of the processes by which the British landscape has changed. This is an important book, which brings together information on an area that has until now received very little attention, it also shows just how early massive reclamation began. It will be of interest to both geographers and historians.

Ivor Ward
January 19, 2014 6:57 am

Never mind, when the ice sheets advance across Scotland in the next few years it will push it down; it will cover and stop the ruddy windmills, and save us the subsidies and Southern England will tilt majestically upwards leaving the Somerset Levels high and dry. Problem solved.

Gail Combs
January 19, 2014 6:58 am

AlecM says: @ January 18, 2014 at 11:19 pm
…The US might consider the same for its own corrupt bureaucrats and politicians.
I have considered it.
The problem is trying to recapture our judicial system when even the Supreme Court is corrupt not to mention Congress. Heck Congress just passed the “Anti-Occupy” law [that] ends American’s right to protest despite our constitutiona guarantee.
Are we now left with only the Thomas Jefferson Tree of Liberty quote?
I really really hope not because I think that is the corner they are trying to push us into as an excuse for ripping off the mask and implementing a totalitarian regime.
These are the reasons for my thinking:
Homeland Security under investigation for massive ammo buys
ACLU: The Militarization of Policing in America
Canada and the U.S. have signed an agreement that paves the way for the militaries from either nation to send troops across each other’s borders during an emergency…[it] allows the military from one nation to support the armed forces of the other nation in a civil emergency. Like during civil unrest.
The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 largely prohibited the America’s military from acting as a domestic police force. Unfortunately as of 2002 [n]ot much of the Posse Comitatus Act is left to repeal.
Obama signed an Executive on December 17, 2009 INTERPOL now has full immunity from U.S. laws. In short, a global law enforcement entity now has full law-enforcement authority in the U.S. without any check on its power afforded by U.S. law and U.S. law enforcement agencies.
For those who do not think the US government is our enemy consider that a Department of Defense document on EXTREMISM states:

As noted, an ideology is a set of political beliefs about the nature of people and society. People who are committed to an ideology seek not only to persuade but to recruit others to their belief. In U.S. history, there are many examples of extremist ideologies and movements. The colonists who sought to free themselves from British rule and the Confederate states who sought to secede from the Northern states are just two examples….
2. Ideologies
a. Nationalism – The policy of asserting that the interests of one’s own nation are separate from the interests of other nations or the common interest of all nations. Many nationalist groups take it a step further and believe that their national culture and interests are superior to any other national group….

The whole document was obtained via FOIA by Judicial Watch.
Ownership of land is the foundation of freedom… Land ownership was so cherished by our nation’s founders that they guaranteed that government could not take private property without just compensation paid to the land owner. This founding principle has eroded dramatically over time, especially since 1976″ ~ Land Use Control In short if you can not own property you ARE property. This is a major point of attack here in the USA.

In 1976, the U.S. government signed a UN document that declared:
Land … cannot be treated as an ordinary asset controlled by individuals and subject to the pressures and inefficiencies of the market. Private land ownership is also a principal instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth and therefore contributes to social injustice;
D-1. Government must control the use of land to achieve equitable distribution of resources;
D-2. Control land use through zoning and land-use planning;
D-3. Excessive profits from land use must be recaptured by government;
D-4. Public ownership of land should be used to exercise urban and rural land reform;
D-5. Owner rights should be separated from development rights, which should be held by a public authority.
This document was signed on behalf of the U.S. by Carla A. Hills, then secretary of housing and urban development, and William K. Reilly, then head of the Conservation Fund, who later became the administrator of the EPA.

Millinium Project:

“ The Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) was launched in May 1998 and adopted in June and November 2001 by ESA and the EU Councils, respectively. It is an initiative to promote sustainable development and global governance through the supporting of environmental and security policies…”
In addition, FAO provides support to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) for their field project activities as well as to the World Bank concerning guidelines on harmonization and standardization…”

Cows, pigs, sheep and poultry have been awarded the dubious honour of being among the world’s greatest environmental threats, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The report, entitled Livestock’s long shadow, says the livestock industry is degrading land, contributing to the greenhouse effect, polluting water resources, and destroying biodiversity. In summary, the sector is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems at every scale”..http://environment.newscientist.com/article/dn10786-cows-pigs-and-sheep-\

I really hate where our ‘Leaders’ are leading us.

J. Swift
January 19, 2014 6:58 am

The British have suffered a disconnect from their history and therefore from reality.
I was commenting on the floods on the Somerset levels to a young female work colleague recently and was distressed to learn that she had never heard of King Alfred much less his retreat from the Vikings through the Somerset marshes. She didn’t even know the famous story of him burning the cakes as he sat pondering his next move.
The European federalists (communists by any other name) would no doubt approve of her ignorance. They see nationhood as an abomination to be stealthily dismantled.

Gail Combs
January 19, 2014 7:16 am

blah blah says: @ January 19, 2014 at 12:06 am
My apologies… I didn’t mean to suggest that farmers have been slaughtered… This was an aside about the periodic ritual slaughter of their farm stock, when there are perfectly good vaccinations available.
A link to that whole sorry mess: NOT The Foot and Mouth Report on the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic in the UK. The report is a documentation of a royal bureaucratic Charlie Foxtrot. Anyone who thinks more bureaucracy is a good thing, especially a bureaucracy that takes its marching orders from the EU and UN should read it. A companion piece on the UN-OIE process called “Depopulation” (It is here in the USA too.) What is DEPOPULATION? KILL FIRST, ASK QUESTIONS LATER from the Arkansas Animal Producers Association.

The gloomy suspicion held by many was put forcibly into words by Mr Langrish: “The UK government no longer wishes to have anything more to do with agriculture; and thoughts of food security have, for the time being, disappeared.”
Mr Langrish feels that if livestock numbers are drastically reduced then targets being chased on greenhouse gas reduction can be met.
“It’s all part of Defra’s policy to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases. The UK government believes a reduction in livestock numbers will have a marked effect on the statistics. This is the logic of the asylum, where the lunatics are now completely in charge.”

The lunatics really are running the Asylum!

January 19, 2014 7:26 am

Reblogged this on gottadobetterthanthis and commented:
These floods in England are an example of how dangerous environmental regulatory agencies are the world over. EPA really is the most dangerous thing known to all mankind. We the people must rise up and stop the runaway regulatory agencies.

It doesn't add up...
January 19, 2014 7:27 am

Off topic:
It appears the Aurora Australis is making very good time in its voyage to Hobart. It might get there as soon as 21st Jan – just in case anyone was thinking of providing a journalistic welcome party for Turney et al.

Gail Combs
January 19, 2014 7:34 am

johnmarshall says: @ January 19, 2014 at 2:42 am
….I will add that there is no such thing as a ”former” flood plain.
If you insist on building on a flood plain you build FOR FLOODS. It is not like we do not have the engineering know how. We have had it for hundreds of years. PHOTOS

January 19, 2014 7:34 am

I live very close to the river Dordogne in the S.W. of France, fortunately there is a steep natural ‘step’ of about 10 metres and village we live in was built up on that, although there has been recent building work (as in the last 200 or so years) on the lower plains leading down to the river. Here the authorities send people around with information of what to do should flooding happen, not that that is likely at the height and distance from the water, however the ditches are always being dredged and the grass is cut regularly in the summer months, there have been floods in other parts of France recently but despite France having it’s fair share of ecoloons, the Farmers and the Govt. agencies prevail when it comes to coping with preparations for inclement weather, readily aided by the more accurate French weather forecasting.

Tom Watson
January 19, 2014 7:58 am

I used to live in Pilton (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilton,_Somerset), originally known as Poolton/Pooltown and a port in the pre and post Roman period. It is now 20 miles from the sea, separated only by the Levels that in some cases are below sea level and all of which have been ‘reclaimed’ by agriculture.
The fact that nature occasionally comes back to claim what is hers causes me no surprise at all.

January 19, 2014 8:02 am

The EA, is stuffed full of paper pushing ‘common purpose’ dumber than dumb [down] apparats who do not know very much but know very well how to toe the line and that line is, “climate change is man made – anthropomorphic and that, we are all doomed unless mankind spends $£€Trillions on useless technology”………………….. in ‘amending’ a non existent fiction.
Engineers, real doers don’t much figure in the EA’s design, which is a bog standard quango which wastes £1 billion of our taxes per annum – the EA answers primarily not to Westminster but to the environmental lunatics and Nomenklatura in Brussels.
Rivers in the Somerset levels should be regularly and deeply dredged in their lower channels, if water is pumped downstream from built up areas in the upper catchment – it ain’t rocket science but that ain’t in the EA greater scheme of things is it? Ergo, flooding is made worse by man but not actually by man made climate change.
Extreme rainfall events happen but all through our long history they’ve occurred, evidently this is not unusual and Somerset is low and wet in parts. However, the liars choose to say they are and that man is to blame via the vehicle of CAGW, there’s not much we can do about the former but we can ALL do something about the latter – at the ballot box. Though with the caveat, that, when the British public finally wake up and collectively realize they’ve been had by the great global warming swindle – is anyone’s guess.
S MacDonald says:
January 19, 2014 at 1:05 am
I think you’ll find that Glover writes in the Sunday Times, he did write for the Telegraph at one time or another. However, it must be averred that, there can be no comparison between Christopher Booker and Charles Glover, one is an intellect who champions the truth and is constantly a thorn in the side of TPTB, a man who is [in the UK] the best known journalist climate realist and scourge of the alarmist loons. The other sold his soul to the cause of obsequiousness and to the politically correct propaganda of the consensus BS of; global warming and believes that all things EU are God given ambrosia from Elysian fields.

January 19, 2014 8:24 am

A few years ago a good friend worked for the Environment Agency with some responsibility for land drainage in the Somerset Levels. In conversation he expressed some ‘concern’ about how housing developers went about getting favorable reports from the agency so that they could build on flood plains.

January 19, 2014 8:32 am

To much water in Somerset and not enough water in California. Both seem to have at least some basis in a lack of sensible planning by government. Big land and water management projects require capital and political will which we all know has been sorely inhibited by environmental shamanism.
Enjoy the posts from those with personal experience.

Silver ralph
January 19, 2014 9:17 am

But is dredging the answer??
As this daily mail article says, dredging simply makes matters worse – it passes the water to someone else downstream, and reduces the supply of water in the summer. So we get flood and drought, flood and drought.
the answer in this daily mail article, is to stop EU deforestation of farmlands, because it was the hedgerows and trees that stopped farm run-off into the rivers. if you can delay the water running into the rivers by a week, then you WILL not get river flooding.
it is an interesting take on this flooding problem. And dredging, is NOT the answer.

Solomon Green
January 19, 2014 9:18 am

Monbiot has an interesting article in the Mail on Sunday today.
Apparently land under trees soaks up water at 67 times the rate that does land under grass. He goes on to say that the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy rewards farmers for removing trees on their land. Only tree free land is classified as agricultural. Hence according to Monbiot the EU has a lot of responsibility for the floods that have been seen in Britain.

Solomon Green
January 19, 2014 9:20 am

Sorry two minds with a single thought. Beaten into second place by a single minute!

January 19, 2014 9:45 am

The farmers are slowly being strangled by the “re-wilders” – and many farmers would like to show these re-wilders what damage they’re doing but said activists aren’t green – they’re yellow and prefer lurking in the shadows.
This must sting the farmers as LAs in the levels contribute non trivial amounts of money which they see spent on new vehicles and relentlessly more “traffic cop” hiviz PPE for EA officials – but not a digger or a dredger in sight.
Chris Smith – EA chairperson of “The Wrong Type of Rain” and other stupid pronouncements is running away an about 8 weeks time to spend his ill gotten fatso pension – it’ll be interesting to see if they can dig up an even bigger boob to head this dysfunctional, expensive, ineffective monster.

Silver ralph
January 19, 2014 9:51 am

As an aside, these EU subsidies are perverse and counter-productive in many ways.
For example, the hill-sheep subsidy means that the hill near us has three times as many sheep on it as the hill will support. The farmers now take lowland feed onto the hill to feed the sheep (which defeats the whole point of hill farming). However, despite all this effort, none of the wool and none of the meat of these sheep is used. They are left with old fleeces on, and left to die a ‘natural’ death.
Why? Because the farmers are farming the subsidy and not the sheep. The sheep themselves are worthless.
Sound familiar? Yes, the large landowners are doing exactly the same with wind farming. The electricity produced is immaterial, it is the subsidy they are farming.

January 19, 2014 9:56 am

Observe recent flooding in the upper Susquehanna River basin (Google NWS BGM) in Upstate New York, USA, particularly Tioga and Broome Counties, in April 2005, June 2006, September 2011 for similar experiences as above. Flood prediction, rainfall event and flooding event frequency is woefully understood and, in my experience, understated. Since 1986 I have witnessed several NWS-declared 100 year, 500 year and 1000 year rain/flood events. Except in cases of well-documented events (last 100 years max) weather and climate people can only make an educated guess, at best. Drove us off our family home property of over 60 years.

Silver ralph
January 19, 2014 10:02 am

Paul Homewood says: January 19, 2014 at 9:36 am
Dredging will simply allow the allow the water to drain more quickly into the sea.
And then they will complain during the summer that they have never seen the ground so dry. – “Look, it is all cracked. We have never seen it like this before. We have a water shortage and a hose-pipe ban, on the Somerset Levels! It must be global Warming”.
Besides, if you dredge the rivers, are you not going to facilitate the spring-tide flood of the Levels? Remember the 17th century (1607 ?) tidal flood, that washed most of the Somerset Levels villages away. Do we really want to facilitate the ingress of these floods?
Face facts, the Levels are a historic flood plain, and should be farmed rather than settled upon.

January 19, 2014 11:17 am

Some people commenting here have already fingered the real culprits here, the Environment Agency which is chock full of incompetents and tree huggers. In fact their incompetence is so legendary a website called Inside The Environment Agency exists for employees (and outsiders) to ridicule the organisation.

January 19, 2014 11:30 am

This flooding is quite possibly one of the few things that can be legitimately blamed on global warming.
20 years ago, we were beig told it was going to get warmer and drier. Given that there’s never enough money on Government, dredging and flood protection were obvious areas that could be cut back.
Only, once cuts in public services have been made, reversing them just doesn’t happen. So, when global warming refused to play by the rules and the rains still come, the degraded (through neglect) defences can’t cope.
Ok, so maybe the blame lies with the reports of global warming rather than warming itself, but that’s cold comfort for those affected.

January 19, 2014 11:40 am

@Silver ralph
“And then they will complain during the summer that they have never seen the ground so dry. – “Look, it is all cracked”
There is a very effective network of rhynes and level boards by which the water table in the Levels can be controlled very accurately. The water may be penned in the summer to maintain soil moisture. In the winter the boards can be lowered so that the water drains out when the clyces are opened on a falling tide. There is more of a problem on the parts of the Levels drained by the Parret and Tone, which don’t have flood barriers.

January 19, 2014 12:03 pm

Where’s the Duke of Bedford and his Dutch engineers when you need ’em and why can no one ever learn anything from history? In particular, I refer to the history in England of dealing with troublesome waters. There are men now abed in the Fens who could prescribe the solution to the Zomerzet problem in a trice. I know this because thirty years ago I got a lecture and/or a field trip every time I went to the local in Feltwell and said anything about the beds of some local rivers being higher than the surrounding ground. Windmills? They came to the Fens to pump water. Sorry about DEFRA.

Syd F
January 19, 2014 2:15 pm

According to this source ( http://rainforests.mongabay.com/deforestation/2000/United_Kingdom.htm) the UK is 88% deforested. One might conclude that further local deforestation in agricultural areas such as the Somerset levels would have a significant negative effect on the ability of the land to retain rainfall and release it slowly into rivers and other drainage systems. But we have a weird attitude to forests and trees in the UK. I live in the Brecon Beacons National Park, an area which is often described to tourists as an unspoilt wilderness. In fact it is a man made and ruined landscape that has been almost totally deforested. You will read similar stuff in tourist literature about Scotland…again, ” an unspoilt wilderness” whereas most of Scotland has been completely deforested by man. There is almost no discernible national effort to reforest the UK. But you will see many UK based charities and environmental campaigners trying to prevent deforestaion in say the Amazon basin or Indonesia. It seems that environmental campaigners prefer to focus their work on exotic locations rather than work in their own backyard.

January 20, 2014 7:59 am

Previously posted, but if you are interested in first-person contemporary reports of weather, the Gutenburg Press has a few places, for instance, for Norfolk:
July 20, 1879:
20.—Owing to a heavy and continuous downpour of rain and a strong wind blowing from the north-west, the waters of the Yare were “backed up,” overflowed the banks of the river, and submerged many thousand acres of marshes between Norwich and Yarmouth. Most of the hay crop in Norfolk was ruined by the wet weather.

Rob aka Flatlander
January 20, 2014 8:54 am

One google provides evidence this is NOT new.
My parents grew up in a similar village in Holland that for some bizarre reason was nicknamed ” the island”
go figure
so timed of this “new weather/climate” crap
reminds me of Avril Lavigne lyrics in “complicated”
Chill out, what you yellin’ for?
Lay back, it’s all been done before
And if you could only let it be
You will see…

January 21, 2014 3:14 am

Jo Beaumont
i thought that this might be the case. unfortunately the EA have history against them. The ecology of the Somerset Levels was fine when the locals held the power of their own destinies. The present day continuation and increasing severity of flooding shows that the EA case is a false one and is overseeing an ecology that needs attention by those who live there not academics with their brains in the vacuum of space.

James Bull
January 21, 2014 4:10 am

I know how about the EA do to London what they are doing to other parts of the country, I’m sure the population and politicos would not mind living and working from a small group of islands in a massive swampy area that would be the Thames valley.
Many farmers used to dredge the ditches and streams on their land but now don’t because under rules from the EA(EU) all that used to be dug out and left on the banks to help build them up and allow all the beasties to crawl back to the water has to be sent to licensed land fill as “harmful waste”. So work that took a few days with machinery on the farm and was controlled on the farm now takes many weeks of prep (paperwork) and needs transport (specialist) and the risk of prosecution if an I is not dotted or a T crossed.
James Bull

January 24, 2014 3:18 am

Last night the BBC interviewed an official from the EA, actually overlooking the Somerset floods. This man claimed that dredging was not any use because it would not prevent the floods happening. That dredging only increased river capacity a little so would not help.
This man is an idiot, he failed to mention that dredging’s intention is to increase river flow thus greatly increasing a river’s capacity to drain an area. The UK EA know nothing if this moron is an example of their expertize.

Bob Lam
January 24, 2014 11:05 am

It is approximated that 1000 people, out of a population of almost 1000,000, own the majority of land in Somerset. These people are wealthy land owners, including local and national polititians and they are to blame for the flooding in Somerset as a result of the intensive farming methods used on the land. They over graze the land, causing the soil to compact so no water can drain away. They over produce crops on the land, heedlessly ploughing and causing massive quantities of soil to run off into the river systems. They fail to manage the ditch systems on their land causing blockages and backlogs which result in localised flooding after periods of heavy rain.
These landowners, the 1000 people, are those who now lobby the councils and governments to make changes, to dredge the ditches and rivers which are already over managed so as to save them from having to into their own pockets.
For any rainfall event, the majority of rain which falls down to inundate the land should be soaked away through the soil. We only ever see a fraction of the rainfall flowing into the rivers because most of it (should) simply soak away. The major issue facing the UK at present is that the majority of farmland is being so intensively farmed that the soil is compacted to a solid layer. Water will sit on top of the fields but if you dig down a ft or two you will find dry earth. Why? Because the water simply is not draining away.
The landowners are right in one sense; more needs to be done to manage flooding, but it is those 1000 people who own and manage the land that need to make the changes. They need to reduce the amount of cattle grazed per hectare and avoid using fields which are sodden so as to minimize compaction on that land. They need to allow trees to grow, particularly in areas which suffer from flooding which will help to break up the soil. They need to leave buffer strips around ditches or rivers where ploughing or grazing does not occur so as to ensure that some areas are left to drain away the excess water.
Is any of that so hard? I doubt it but it will result in diminished fiscal returns on the land. As such it is apparently easier to pass the buck and blame the government, the Environment Agency or anyone else foolish enough to get in their way so they can avoid taking responsibility for the devestation they are causing to their local communities.
If your house has flooded and you want someone to blame; look to your local farmer rather than blaming a faceless organisation. They are the ones who can actually do something about it and prevent it from happening again.

Know Too Little
January 27, 2014 5:30 am

Some interesting reading and lots of scape goats. The Environment Agency are responsible and there management of the levels and allowance of upstream construction make them responsible.
Its a fact that teams of surveyors have been out on the levels in the past years repeatedly surveying river cross sections so that the E.A can monitor silting. They have also done this with sonar boats in the deeper water near Bridgwater. The E.A trialed hydro-dynamic dredging around 2007 but it was not successful (can you imagine organising a trial in the E.A – doomed to failure).
In the olden days the pumping houses would start pumping water off the Somerset Levels when they saw heavy rain was coming. They could drain down the moor and pump into the river before it filled to allow a flooding buffer……this is no longer done/allowed.
The Environment Agency does not want to stump up the money to dredge the main channels. It would not cause flooding downstream because……it is the Bristol Channel.

January 27, 2014 2:08 pm

Thank you Paul Homewood and WUWT!
After all this time busy elsewhere, I am overjoyed to find WUWT where I never thought to see it. You are far more on the ball, regarding our local flooding fiasco, than anybody here.
I have lived around the Somerset Levels for yonks – some 40 years. Over the last few 3-4 years I’ve seen the flooding gradually getting worse. There is a simple indicator – Bog Grass aka Rushes. They only appear in fields after significant flooding, and it takes some time for the telltale tufts to mature. Familiar fields that never had any tufts, developed a few the first wet winter which lasted through the summer – one remembers. Each winter/spring, the quantity of bog grass and number of infested fields has been growing.
I hoped the local Transition Towns might be on the case, they are after all supposed to be concerned about environmental disasters. I googled “transition network culture somerset levels flooding” but it was WUWT which not only came top of the search but actually answered my questions thoroughly and competently.
I understand again why I had to stop reading WUWT completely. It took too much of my time, and in the end I needed badly to catch up on other facets of Life. But oh my God, how much precious stuff I learned here. And still apply, in my work.

January 30, 2014 10:20 am

The Silt build up is caused by people living and farming the levels!
Please remember that Glastonbury used to be used to be just islands.
Those who choose to live on the flood plan new there homes and properties would get damaged when it flooded yet they still choose to believe that it won’t happen to them (and now its happened several times now!)
***************************** Now on to the supportive bit *******************************************
This is a bad flood, I have never know the road to aller having been closed this long, I normally travel along this road to Yeovil alot but been forced to get stuck behind slow drivers crossing the hills between street and Somerton or get stuck behind crash’s on the Tauton to Illminster road!

January 30, 2014 10:44 am

A Bryant:
In your post at January 30, 2014 at 10:20 am you say

Please remember that Glastonbury used to be used to be just islands.

although I agree with the message of your post, I think your point I have quoted needs clarification.
I addressed this on another WUWT thread and I copy that post to here to save you needing to find it.
richardscourtney says:
January 27, 2014 at 10:56 am
I write to provide a reminder – especially to non-Brits – of the clear message which needs to be presented to politicians and is provided by the flooding of the Somerset Levels.
The Levels were a swamp that was completely flooded most of the year except for a few, small islands. Indeed, it was by hiding in the levels that Alfred the Great ended up burning the cakes because searching the reed-covered marsh was impossible.
The Napoleonic Wars provided a need for additional grain and one response was to drain the Levels to obtain additional farmland. This conversion of the swamp to agricultural land was conducted in the period 1770 to 1833, and this paper describes it.
The drainage and water management are relatively recent and entirely man-made. The Levels will return to being a flooded swamp in the absence of proper maintenance and operation of the drainage and water management. So, the people who live on the levels KNOW they will be flooded if that proper maintenance and operation ceases. And they know the necessary dredging of the watercourses has been stopped.
Arguments about climate change and conservation are rejected by people who know their homes will be destroyed unless the dredging is conducted to ensure operation of the man-made drainage.
People who are faced with real threats to their homes and lives will reject politicians who use political scares as an excuse to ignore the real threats.

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