Community Flood Group – February 2020

The Weather

2019 ended with a final month of excessive rainfall which resulted in another flood event on 21.12.19 bringing the total for the year to five. An analysis of the years rainfall data at local gauging stations in Daventry, Dodford, Towcester, Pitsford and Nether Heyford showed many similar trends, namely Jan-May below average whilst every month from June to December significantly exceeded the monthly averages. In particular June and October witnessed twice their monthly averages and although there were local variations, Nether Heyford recorded the highest yearly level of 826 mm, ie.18.8% above average. In spite of this Northamptonshire remains one of the lowest rainfall Counties in the Country, possibly due to its central location and surrounding elevated terrain.

These seasonal and now annual variations in weather patterns can clearly be attributed to the erratic behaviour of the jet stream and the effect of global warming. The warming in the polar regions have effected both the northern and southern hemisphere jet streams which coupled with increased El Nino activity have contributed to extreme variations across the UK. 2019 saw record July temperature of 38.7 degrees centigrade in Cambridge whilst Scotland recorded 18.7 degrees centigrade in December. Further evidence of global warming was seen in extreme levels of flooding, forest and bush fires, hurricanes and volcanic activity.

Already January 2020 has started with moderately warm weather interrupted by cold winds from storm Brendon and local flooding on 15.1.20 due to moderate rainfall on 14.1.20 falling on an already saturated catchment area. However the longer term forecast for the remainder of January is generally dry and sunny with overnight frosts. Day time temperatures will be nearer to the January average.

In spite of this let’s hope the World’s 2020 weather settles down!

J.Arnold

PS: My thanks to Tony Clewett for Nether Heyford rainfall data.

Community Flood Group – December 2019

Rainfall
What a difference a year makes is clearly shown in local plots of monthly rainfall and accumulated rainfall. A single flood in March/April 2018 has been superceded by four in 2019, all occurring within one month period,namely 15.10.19, 27.10.19, 10.11.19 and 14/15.11.19. The latter saw extensive coverage of the floodplain and recorded the highest gauge reading of 71.9m.

FloodDecember2019

Prolonged and heavy rainfall has seen extensive flooding across the UK with Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and the East Midlands witnessing flooding of 100’s of homes. Comments from communities effected again highlighted serious problems with the management of flooding in general, namely

(a) E/A warnings too late, clearly a failure of AVM.
(b) delays in activating emergency services.
(c) new flood defences in upstream areas enhancing downstream flooding,creating
sacrificial communities.
(d) E/A misleading residents with claims of “it won’t happen again in your lifetime”.
(e) residents unable to insure properties even though Flood-Re promised affordable cover by adding a levy to everybodies insurance policies.

In this era of high technology it remains incomprehensible why advanced warnings cannot be given well in advance as there is an extensive network of real time rainfall and river level gauges. In addition satellite and ground radar provide forecasters with the ability to make 10 day forecasts and provide updates every 5 minutes.

All of this reminds me of the Bye investigations following the Northampton flooding of 1998 :-

(1) improvements in forecasting and warning systems with the use of local media and sirens to alert communities. Flood wardens with their local knowledge must form a vital link.
(2) improved communication between E/A and emergency services.
(3) in the light of the ever present risk of flooding the E/A recognised the imprudence of inappropriate development in flood risk areas and agreed to defend rigorously their advice to LPA’s to prevent such developments adding to the problems of flooding. It was agreed that the impact of climate change should be factored into any flood defences.

Currently it is forecast that over 10,000 new homes are to be built on the flood plains largely with E/A approval, contrary to their own principles in “Living on Edge”.

Building bigger flood defences is not the answer and more cost effective upstream storage and bypass diverts should be used to ensure the rivers natural capacity is never exceeded.

Clearly lessons have not been learnt, not helped by reductions in staffing levels within the E/A and emergency services.

J.Arnold

Revitalising the Allotments – December 2019

Weather
As a nation we love to talk about the weather. It’s too hot, too cold, too wet. And gardeners are even worse. However, for once it would seem as though something very odd really is going on with our weather and more particularly, our climate.

As I write this, the river is again overflowing its banks, the playing field resembles a lake and the allotments are getting soggier by the hour. The poor folk of Fishlake are trying to salvage possessions from their flooded homes and it is snowing in Gloucestershire. Just two months ago I dug down two spade depths and the ground was as dry as a bone. For two years now we have had a bumper crop of grapes, the fig tree is flourishing and we’ve just picked the last of our beefsteak tomatoes from the allotment. In the near future we are likely to reap both the benefits of a Mediterranean climate and its drawbacks (including a whole host of little beasties that do nasty things to our flora and fauna).

I guess if there is any lesson to be learnt from all this it is be ready for ‘change’ … and plant more grapes!

Trees
The community orchard goes from strength to strength and the trees we planted just a year ago are looking in good health. Several of the orchard volunteers are about to embark on pruning workshops and they will then be wielding the saw and secateurs on the trees, creating an even better, well shaped orchard for the coming Spring.

I was fascinated to read an article in the Prattler some months ago about a local resident who had successfully grown trees from fruit stones and pips. It is a fascinating thing to do but does not necessarily result in producing good ‘true’ fruit.

All named fruit trees come about as result of something called ‘grafting’. This is a process whereby a young branch from a good, productive tree is fixed onto a vigorous rootstock from the same genus i.e. apple branch to apple rootstock (you can’t mix apple and pear or plum and cherry). The two cut pieces are spliced into each other and sealed with tape during February/March. Providing the two cut surfaces meet smoothly a ‘graft’ is achieved and the result is a tree with all the fruiting characteristics of the good, productive tree and all the vigour of the rootstock. Next time you see a fruit tree, particularly a youngish one, take a look at the trunk near the ground. You’ll see a knobbly knuckle. That is the graft union. Earliest records suggest this practice has been going on for thousands of years, although it is likely that it first occurred by accident when two different trees simply rubbed against each other, wore down the bark and fused together.

Grafting isn’t really complicated and if you have the right growing material, a sharp knife and little patience you can do it yourself. Whilst the bulk of the wonderful trees in our community orchard came from specialist grower Andy Howard, several have been grafted by us. It is as cheap as chips to do … £3 to £4 for a vigorous dwarfing rootstock and the rest is free or easily available in your shed or garage. Within a year you’ll have a tree that is a metre tall!

Community Cut Flower Patch
Following on from the creation of the community orchard and jam patch, work has now started on the community flower patch. Digging was hard when it was dry and it is harder still now the ground is wet (I told you that gardeners obsess about the weather). However, the beds are starting to take shape. With the kind donation of paving slabs from our local Bowls Club we will be able to divide the beds so that flowers are easily accessible. The flowers we have on offer will be a mixture of annuals from seeds collected or donated, some perennials and both spring and summer bulbs. If you can help in any way by letting us have unwanted seed or plants you have lifted/divided, do let us know. We are keen to cover the soil; that is good for the environment and stops the weeds from having a nice bare patch to colonise.

Allotment Holders
It is so good to see that more plots on the allotments are being cultivated and that many of the new allotment holders represent the younger generation. Growing your own fruit and veg is for old and young alike and all are welcome. If you want to join us here are the usual telephone contacts: Sue Corner on 01327 342124 or Lynda Eales on 01327 341707. They’d love to hear from you.

Wildlife
Dave, Pauline, Mark and Mary, our wildlife enthusiasts, have written quite extensively in the past about the wildlife area they have created on the allotment and I have no doubt they will be keeping you all briefed about future developments. However, I must just mention the wonderful pond they are in the process of creating within this area. It is going to be a huge asset to the allotments as a whole, as good ponds encourage a host of beneficial wildlife. We look forward to our first batch of frogs, newts and toads.

Mike Langrish

“When eating a fruit, think of the person who planted the tree”
Vietnamese Proverb

Community Flood Group – November 2019

A flooding event is defined as any occasion in which river water encroaches onto the adjacent floodplain. In the case of Nether Heyford this occurs when the monitoring gauge reads 71.55m which has not occurred since March/April 2018. However with the recent changes in the weather pattern as a result of the jet stream being centered to the south of the UK, 2019 has seen increased rainfall totals per month since June .This has resulted in saturated ground and increased run off in the catchment area. This culminated in flooding on 15th October when Broad Meadow opposite Crow Lane and the fields downstream of the Bridge were flooded.

Since Easter floods of 1998 such events have occurred on average 2.5 times a year. Tracing events back to 1947 the trend has been increasing until the latest changes in weather pattern over the last 2 years. Clearly climate change is taking place with weather becoming more unpredictable as evident when comparing rainfall in June 2018 of 1mm to June 2019 of 97mm.

CommunityFloodNov2019

J.Arnold

Community Flood Group – September 2019

George Clarke’s recent Channel 4 documentary “Council House Scandal” celebrated 100 years since the Addison Act of 1919 kick started Council Estate building. Sadly since the Right to Buy was introduced properties have not been replaced, hence the current shortage of Council properties for rent. GC has launched a National campaign to encourage Government to build more Council homes and has secured land in Manchester to demonstrate how to build good standard homes at reasonable cost. The programme highlighted a problem with commercial properties being converted to rentable homes under “permitted development” which fail to meet minimum acceptable standards for room sizes. Unfortunately this type of development introduced by Government reduced the power of local Planning Offices to enforce standards and bypass the formal planning processes.

The growth in permitted development could potentially lead to problems during conveyancing on house sale/purchase when the status of each building on site is investigated whether these are new build or change of use. Ideally a Lawful Development Certificate should be produced. To avoid risk to the seller/purchaser the seller can purchase an Indemnity Policy in the name of the purchaser. Not until permitted development is scrapped and the planning process returned to conventional planning application/building control will standards return to normal.

June/July/ August weather has continued to be untypical for this time of the year with short periods of high temperature near 37 centigrade and prolonged periods of heavy rainfall. Surprisingly total annual rainfall to the end of August is only 82% of average resulting from the extremely low rainfall earlier in the year.

Anyone interested in participating in discussions with the E/A over future flood defence requirements and contributing with their own local knowledge of flooding are again invited to contact me directly.

J.Arnold

The Story of Heyford (Extra): Spirit of the Valley

Nether_Heyford_River_Nene_SpiritofValley

This mosaic artwork is situated adjacent to the River Nene road bridge and footpath as you leave Nether Heyford towards Upper Heyford.

Earlier this year I asked around about its origins but didn’t get much of a response, only educated guesses.

The heading reads “Spiritus Vallis” (Latin for “Spirit of the Valley”) and also depicted is MM (Roman Numerals for 2000)

Obviously the railway, canal and river indicate a local connection, the Roman/Mosaic connection ties in with a wealth of very significant discoveries in the village since the mid 1960’s.

The photograph above was taken in July 2019 and as you can see it has suffered from some decay on the left hand edge.

I have recently discovered more information so thought I would share in a post.

“Spirit of the Valley” 

Part of the Northamptonshire’s Millennium Festival – a South Northamptonshire Council funded arts project during 2000.

Based on the Nene Valley and the communities that live along it, the project resulted in many activities including guided walks, photography, performances, writing and visual arts.

  • One of the last elements to be completed was the siting of three mosaic-based art works made by groups in three South Northamptonshire villages.
  • Guided by Northamptonshire artist Carole Miles.
  • SNC Arts Development Officer was Anna Hayward in 2000.
  • Harpole Heritage Group, Bugbrooke Arts Society, Heyford Archaeology Group & Youth Club each produced artwork based of the Nene Valley theme.

The 3 pieces were placed at the following sites:

“Roman Way Marker” – Nether Heyford

“Mosaic benches” –  Harpole

“Giant Fossils” – Bugbrooke

 

Jez Wilson

 

The Story of Heyford: Childhood Memories V4C7

Before the second world war the village was only half the size that it is now, transport was very limited, and the modern leisure facilities that are so commonly available today simply didn’t exist. Therefore the young people made their own fun in whatever way they could. There are many people in the village, now in their eighties, with childhood memories from the pre war period.

Children and young people
Before the first world war, the children went to school up the age of 13. Life was pretty busy keeping up with the chores. Mrs Dorothy Kingston of Furnace Lane remembers taking bread and jam to her father at the Brickworks when she came home from school. There was water to fetch, pigs to feed, eggs to collect, vegetables to prepare.

At thirteen, you left school and went to work. Some worked on the farms, some learned trades in their family businesses, but some worked outside the village. Bob Browning’s first job was a Saturday job at the age of 12 for W H Smith in Weedon. He walked from Heyford to Weedon and collected papers for delivery to Litchborough and Maidford and then walked back home. The journey was done entirely on foot and took him all day.

When he left school in 1905 he went to work there full time. They gave him a bicycle and two panniers to carry the papers. His new route was from Heyford to Weedon to pick up the papers, then to Dodford, Everdon, Farthingstone, Upper Weedon, then home. He ate his packed lunch each day under one of the big Beech trees beside the road through Everdon Stubbs.  There he double checked his takings.

On one occasion he arrived home and found he was one gold sovereign short. The sovereign had come from Everdon Hall where they always had several papers. His mother was desperate because he had to give his takings in the next morning but they didn’t have as much as a sovereign in the house.

So Bob cycled back to Everdon Stubbs to where he had counted the money at lunchtime, and there he found the missing sovereign. He was delighted at finding it that he carved his initials with his pocket knife into one of the trees. The four trees are still there today. All of them have dozens of initials carved into them of which some are quite new, but others could be 100 years old. Somewhere amongst them are the initials R.B.

Walking 
With time to, spare, little transport, and few organised facilities, walking was common. People would walk miles without a second thought.

The children all walked to school, some coming from Upper Heyford and others from the Railway cottages, or from Stowe Hill. They mostly travelled in small groups, unaccompanied by adults. Nobody worried about safety. The school didn’t provide lunches then so they made four journeys each day, often dawdling along the Way. There were several brooks in those days, running either side of the Green and also alongside a number of the hedges. Here it was tempting to dally along the way, making boats out of whatever materials they could find in the hedgerows.

Families walked together on Sundays, often for miles up to Glassthorpe or Stowe. They sometimes ended up at one of the pubs where father would have a beer and the children a ‘spruce’ – a bottle of pop with a glass ball in it.

Cars were a rare sight in the village between the wars so groups of young people would walk up to the ‘Turnpike’ (the A5) and sit on the bank by the Stowe turn, Waiting to wave at the drivers as they passed at a rate of only one or two an hour.

The Railway children
Mrs Doris Lovell, now in her eighties, lived in the railway cottages because her father, Frank Denny was a signalman. Although there was never a station in Heyford, she recalls how the railway had a strong presence in the village. There were sidings in the brick yard, there was an active signal box, and there were four railway cottages occupied by signalmen, platelayers and their families.

In the days of steam, each locomotive had its own unique personality and they chuffed past at a more friendly speed than today’s diesels. The driver and fireman, whose faces were often familiar to the villagers, would wave as they passed by, and sometimes they would throw lumps of coal for the children to take home.

The children played in the fields alongside the railway, although there was a strict understanding that playing near the tracks was forbidden. Favourite play areas included the stream near the brickyard just the other side of the small foot tunnel under the embankment. Here you could make stepping stones, build dens, and fish for tiddlers.

The railway bridge and railway cottages in the 1930s

memories2.jpg

Photo lent by Judy Armitage

Box Pond and ‘the Humps’
Another favourite play area recalled by Doris Lovel was in the field where the furnaces used to be. There was a pond here called ‘box pond’ because it was near the signal box. There was another pond across the road in the brickyard where deep water had formed in the claypit. Both ponds were popular play areas with much wildlife in them, including lizards and moorhens.

Also in the furnace field were four huge clinker mountains. These had been formed out of clinker waste from when the furnaces were in operation. Each seemed as high as a house. They had set solid into various shapes, Weathered through time, and were full of interesting nooks and crannies. They, were affectionately known as ‘the humps’. Cut hands and scraped knees were common.

These ‘humps’ were eventually moved when the M1 was built in the late 1950s. The field was full of hills and hollows from where the furnaces had been, and the contractor, Dowsett, was looking for somewhere to put the topsoil from the construction of the M1. So they broke up the humps, rolled them into the hollows, and covered them with topsoil. Box Pond was also filled in.

Fishing and swimming 
As today, there were plenty of fish in the canal. With a line, a hen feather, a bent pin and some bait, you could catch gudgeon to take home to feed to the cat. Favourite places on the river were by one of the two bridges – either the bridge to Upper Heyford, or Coach Bridge (now only a footbridge beyond Manor Park). Jumping off Coach Bridge into the deep waters below was a regular summer game for the boys.

Many local people, now in their 70s and 80s remember swimming in the canal. On warm summer days the young people would take their swimming costumes, some sandwiches, a drink, and a pot to pick blackberries. This way they could would spend hours by the canal.

An article in the Mercury and Herald dated 25th May 1978 included an interview with Mrs George (nee Browning) in which she recalled how ‘we’d go up to the canal at Heyford Bridge. The boys would change one side and the girls the other. Then we’d have a swim or watch the boats, all drawn by horses of course, being pulled up the canal.’ Unlike the railway where it was firmly understood that the track was out of bounds, the canal was considered ‘safe’. This was in spite of the murky state of the water and the waste disposed of by the boat people. However it was a fun place to spend the day, and was the only way to learn how to swim.

Swimming in the canal

memories3.jpg

This photograph, taken in the 1920s shows a group of young people beside the canal.  They went up Furnace Lane and turned left at Wharf Farm where they walked along to the next bridge. They are seen here in the field opposite the tow path. Pictured from the front are: Ivy Denny, Jack Earl, Friend, Nen Blaney, Odette Punch, Friend, Friend, and Mrs Frank Denny. The little girl to the left of the group is June Denny.

Photo lent by Doris Lovell (nee Denny)

~~

Extract from “The Story of Heyford” – Local book series published in the late 1990’s

Volume 4 of 4 | Chapter 7 of 8 | Pages 28 to 30TheStoryOfHeyford_NetherHeyford_Footer

Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers