Somerset Levels, Not Just Soggy Carpets

I interrupt my usual schedule of travel posts to write a little bit about where I live.

I live in a small village in Dorset, where we're really lucky. It's quiet, we're surrounded by farms, and we're not overcrowded in fact less than 1,000 people live in my village. Four miles up the road from me is another village, where I work (and I pass through another village and hamlet- appropriately named 'Hamlet'- on my way there), in that village there are less than 300 people. The village I work in has a river running smack-bang through the middle of it, lanes are named Mill Lane and Deep Ford Lane- to give you an idea that water is a big deal here. The village can often look like Venice, with roads flooded all across, often not too deep, but enough to upset routines- like getting to work, or getting your children to & from school.

And again, I say we're lucky.

taken from @dredgetherivers on twitter

Mulcheney, Somerset Levels

We're lucky because only 20 miles up the road from us is Muchelney, Burrowbridge and Moorland. People have been fighting against floods higher than I stand tall for two months. They've not been able to live in their homes (though I am aware that some brave souls have stayed in Muchelney to fight), and down here, a lot of us don't work in a cosy office. We work on the land, we farm, and forage, and raise cattle, for beef, for milk, cheese and butter. For things that you all take for granted every single day.

People aren't worried about their soggy carpets, mostly because this isn't first time the Levels have flooded. In fact most people have got used to getting soggy feet, and know exactly how to stack up their furniture- and which pieces to move upstairs so they aren't destroyed by flood water. They know where to put their freezer so the electrics don't short in the water. They know how to drive down those roads that are flooded in a Ford Ka. Now, though, people are getting around by boat, and tractors, and trying damn hard not hit cars that are below the flood waters- it was actually one of the first hazards of getting to the villages.

The Flood

Muchelney, Somerset Levels

This time it's different. The rivers Tone and Parrett haven't been dredged nearly 25 years (AKA my entire life), the £4 million price tag was "too high" for the Environment Agency, preferring instead to spend £30 million on a nature reserve- for animals who have more than likely drowned in these recent floods. Finally, 6 weeks after the floods first came up, the Environment Agency came to "take a look around", along with the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister & the leader of the opposition. Flood Tourists, essentially. People coming to have a look and not really doing anything, then going back up London and arguing like their in a Sixth Form common room.

People here, though, they are worried. Worried because their livelihoods are on the line. Farm land is being destroyed, did you know grass can live under water for 21 days before it starts rotting? Did you know that the amount of bacteria in the water is 60 times higher than is thought to be safe? Did you realise that, this isn't just the rivers overflowing, this is sewerage floating around, too. Even where I live, 20 miles up the road with very little in the way of flooding, our toilets are struggling to cope and rising much higher than usual.

So, what's happening down here?

Community is an amazing thing. On twitter there is FLAG & there is Facebook page, also. Where you can read more about the myths, and relief effort. So far, though, it's been the community coming together. People from Dorset organising vans to go down to the Somerset Levels in convoy full of blankets, and food, and socks. People donating their things, their time, and their money. There are local stores making up packed lunches for the volunteers helping people living on the levels. A friend of mine runs a market stall and sent some of her fruit up to the relief centres. I also saw her tweet that she would be happy to go and cook jacket potatoes and baked beans so people could eat hot food. Air BnB have a place listed offering free accommodation to displaced flood victims. There are camp sites donating shower and toilet facilities to those without access to those at the moment.

So this is just a note to anyone who thinks that we're just struggling with soggy carpets, it's a LOT more than that, and according to the forecasts, this isn't the end.

PS- Did you see these pictures of the Somerset Levels?

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  1. WAAA that first picture is ridiculous. What a shitty situation...but good that the community is coming together. Also, I did NOT know what grass could surivive for 21 days underwater...that's pretty impressive.


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