Monday, 17 February 2014

Stockbridge and the Storms of February 2014

Stockbridge before a storm

The town of Stockbridge has been facing the risk of flooding for the past two weeks as a result of the storms and heavy rains that have swept the country. The local flood coordinators hand delivered
a guide to residents on 7th February warning them what to do to minimise the risk of flooding and sandbags were issued by the Test Valley Council to be placed in doorways and over air bricks to prevent potential water entry.

The River Test above Stockbridge on 15th February 2014
By 14th February the water meadows above the town were widely flooded and the River Test had risen to its highest point - 9ft - on the marker at the main road bridge. But as the storms passed on 15th, only two properties in the fields above the town, one at the lower end of the High St and two on the Houghton Road reported water ingress - mostly from under the floor. The main river and the subsidiary channels across the High St were in full flood but water didn't escape their banks except where this was intended - as in the water meadows. With better weather forecast this week, it looks as if the threat of flooding has somewhat receded.

Even at it's highest point, the main river was flowing three feet below the road bridge and so there was no risk of it backing up - as it had when parts of the town flooded in 1963 because the river could't get under the low narrow arches of the old bridge that the present bridge replaced. The river keepers opened sluices to allow the river to spread as widely as possible over the water meadows and they kept the channels flowing smoothly, clearing branches and other debris as soon as it fell.


View Larger Map

The Test rises at Ashe just short of Basingstoke, about 17 miles from Stockbridge, and flows over slight gradients through water meadows, chalk farmland and villages, being joined by the Bourne at Whitchurch and the River Anton at The Mayfly before reaching the town, so it can never gain the volume of a long river like the Thames. Nevertheless the water table remains extraordinarily high and the flow experienced over this weekend was impressive, so only great care taken with its management even in good weather will allowed it to continue to pass through the town without causing significant damage.


Rainfall map for January 2014

I have just seen the rainfall map above showing January rainfall for the UK and am interested to see that Hampshire is part of the area that has experienced the highest rainfall of all. It will be fascinating to see the map for February, but it does bring home how fortunate we have been in Stockbridge and how well designed and managed the river defences have been.

PS: The rainfall map for the early part of February confirms this winter to be the wettest on record, and the areas most affected are much as in January the map above   

For photos taken from 7th February to 7th March 20-14 in and around Stockbridge, click here