I'm writing this February blog with a sunken heart.
Not only has Covid pulled people apart, making many feel anxious, lonely and unwell and resulting in lost jobs and loved ones – but to add to all of this, my village has been hit by another devastating flood. Some families had literally only just moved back in to their homes after last year’s flood, only to find the nightmare happening all over again.
The river Liddle bursts its banks on the evening of Tuesday 23rd February, after persistent heavy rain fell onto saturated ground. The Newcastleton Resilience team worked right through the night, offering support and advice to those in need, and desperately doing all they could in a bid to protect homes. Our fire brigade were also out in force and Scottish Borders Council delivered more supplies of sandbags. I live north of the village and as the river swelled I soon realised we were once again isolated as the Newcastleton to Hawick road was impassable as was the Newcastleton to Jedburgh road. I'm truly heart broken for those who have to go through this again, losing many of their possessions and left with flooded homes. Some were flooded by water coming up through the floor boards and some were flooded right through their homes. Of course you can replace material things and I understand that, but to have to do this again just a year later?
How would you mentally cope with this?
Would you live in fear every time heavy rain is forecast?
Could it get worse every year?
Consider a village where everyone is feeling fragile already with all that Covid brings, and now having to cope with a flood.
You just want to reach out and hug someone and tell them it'll be alright. But Covid says you can’t even do that. Which makes it all the harder. This community is strong and utterly amazing. As it was all happening, I messaged my sister in law to check she was okay, as I knew the water was approaching her street. She replied that wasn't sure – she’d placed sandbags at her door but she was out helping others who were more in need.
Our road was badly flooded and my other half Clive went to help rescue a neighbour’s sheep, but in a dark, wild and frightening night, as the water reached his waist, he was forced to accept it was just too strong to fight. It had come up so quickly it was unreal. They just couldn't get to the sheep and the animals drowned.
It's difficult to find any kind of positive thinking in such horrid times. Newcastleton needs a solution, action is required. Everyone should feel safe in their own home. So how does wildlife cope with a flood?
On the night of the flood we spotted a badger marooned on a small piece of dry land with water all around it, running in a panic back and forth. Thankfully it worked out how to get up the banking and off it went to safety. The following morning my son and I walked or I should say waded along a flooded path to check on a neighbour. Debris was strewn along the top of beech hedges taller than me, and I'm 5ft.
We found larvae, insects and small fish that had been left in small puddles as the water levels dropped.
I wondered where the otters were and if they’d been flushed out of their holts. Oyster catchers newly returned to reclaim their nesting spots had been calling thnrough the night. Then the wee mice and bank voles - where are they? Some may have escaped but many more will be now gone.
Many local people are now calling for the river to be dredged. Yes, that would cause disruption to wildlife, but has the flood itself not caused detrimental environmental damage?
So many questions need to be asked and answered now.
Should ponds be made higher up the river to slow the water volume to the village? But then how does that help heal the damage already done to the river bed by the last two floods?
Should flood walls be installed? But then how would that help north of the village? And if the water did get over the wall, how would it get back out when river levels?
As the river bed has changed shape and direction it’s pushing the water in some places to bankings near homes, roads and livestock. Surely we need action to protect our homes, roads and land. Wildlife is incredibly adaptable. Maybe the solution isn't just one action but many.
So let’s end this difficult month by turning our thoughts to happier times. I'm hoping for sunshine, lighter nights and the glorious life-enhancing sight of lambs bouncing about the fields. A real sign of new life and Spring.
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR ● catkins (lambs tails) ● witch hazel in flower now ●daffodils ( shoots are up, so flowers soon) ●new shoots on shrubs and trees ●birds building their nests Remember nature is always there, enjoy a walk, choose to sit outside to have a coffee perhaps, sketch a bird in your garden, or maybe chat to a neighbour over the fence.