Two Dutch Girls on a Road Trip to Wiltshire

Road Trip 2017 (2) - Richmond to Chawton to Salisbury.

Good afternoon! Would you like to join me for the second part of my road trip in the South-West of England? A long time wish of my daughter...

Monday, 3 February 2014

The Great Flood of 1953 - why we Dutchies have a healthy respect for water.

February 1953 is ages ago, yes. But the thought that the large body of water on our doorsteps isn't only our recreation ground or our living (if you are a sailor or a fisherman), but can be bloody menacing, is never far away in our parts.

The topmost two photos were taken in 1953, not very far from my home on the island of Voorne, as the crow flies. The bottom one was taken in 1993, more to the south.
What they have in common is water flooding the land unexpectedly, resulting in loss of life and economic disaster.

The first well documented flood is Saint Elisabeth's Flood in 1492. It swallowed almost the entire province of what is now called Zeeland (Sealand), with a massive loss of life. The motto of Zeeland is 'Luctor et Emergo' ; how well chosen!

Friends of ours, over on the next island of Goeree-OverFlakkee, have great respect as well as fear of the water that flooded their villages in 1953. They were able to flee to the scarce higher ground in their village, a dyke just above the waterline, thus staying alive. And, like real islanders, they don't like to talk about this period. 

But I know that they are always wary of storms, especially in February, when there are storm surges. And I must admit, living in a bowl more than 4 m. below sea level, I always keep an eye out for the weather forecast and a keen ear for how storms behave.

Years ago, when we were still living in our old house, and had only a dog and a cat to care for, I was relaxing on the couch, reading, when my old friend Freya jumped up on the couch with me and whined. I scolded her, but she wouldn't budge. Then I realised her paws were wet, so I looked down, only to see that there was 10 cm of water on my floors.

And only this Summer, in a freak downpour which seemed to go on forever, I saw the water level of my pond rise and rise, until the water streamed into the garden and nearly came into the house.
The cause wasn't so much the rain (which was heavy), but the fact that there are too many houses, and that the water cannot drain away anymore, and the drains cannot cope, and the land (heavy clay over here) becomes waterlogged.

We have two things to worry about: the danger from the sea ( 2 km from my house) and the danger from the big rivers. The sea we have 'tamed', by our Delta Works, massive dams and storm ramps. The rivers are less easily governed. Many of the river dykes are old, and not well kept. In 1993 the flooding came from the rivers. 

Why do you live there? People do ask this, and it is a good question. I think it is the same question you can ask someone who lives on the fertile slope of a volcano. 
Why DO we live here? Because we were born here. Because our families are here. Because our work is here. Because gathering up our entire lives and moving somewhere else (where?), is too much of an effort.
Nevertheless. Whenever there is a storm brewing, and a flood warning, I ask myself the same question.