Another storm is coming. In fact, as I lie in my bed, I can hear it battering outside. Like an enormous whisk. Miserable March. Not particularly cold – just sponge wet and whistling with wind.
We live about twenty metres from the edge of the sea. The Cardigan Bay. It’s generally shallow – 20-30 metres for miles and miles – and full of Atlantic grey seals and beefy bottlenose dolphins in the summer.
In the winter? Steep, short waves. But the main flooding risk isn’t from the sea. The Welsh Government completed a reef protection scheme in Borth about three years ago. Millions of pounds. Huge rocks from Norway. European Union money. None withstanding climate change and the imminent sea level rise. That’ll be a big day in Borth.
Our current flooding risk is from lack of drainage. We’re surrounded by one of nature’s most effective drainage systems – an enormous peat bog starting from the end of our garden. A UNESCO biosphere reserve no less. Doesn’t mean our drains don’t fill up and threaten us. The highways drain on the road. The beach soak-always. The household drains.
We flooded before. It had been raining heavily for days. We didn’t think much of it at the time. It was summer 2007. I was at my father-in-law’s with the girls, who were babies – sitting, laughing, chatting. Jack was at work. The look on his face when he came in to his dad’s house.
’Has anyone checked the bungalow?’
I glanced down the driveway towards the bungalow. We walked silently down the driveway. Water above our ankles all the way into the house. The still-new laminate floor rose to the water surface in waves. I pushed the bendy planks down with my feet. The water was completely clear – backed-up rain water.
jack called the Borth fire service to pump us out. When they arrived, Jack looked at one of the crew nervously. He recognised him as a former arsonist, found responsible for a spate of local fires.
‘Do you live here now?’ the arsonist/fireman asked Jack.
Jack mumbled his answer. Not quite a yes, neither a no.
‘I didn’t want him to get any ideas,’ he said afterwards. ‘You never know.’
This is our village. I’d like to think Steinbeck would be impressed. And we still have the same floor now. Wonders what a de-humidifier can do. We’ve had recent progress with enabling drainage – the council finally dredged out a leat originally created for this purpose, but long neglected. We waited months last year for the leat to be drained while National Resources Wales carried out a vole survey in the bog. Voles! I guess they are super cute.
In the meantime, Jack bought an enormous styrofoam plug for boats to use if their hull is breached and they’re in danger of sinking. He shoves it down the overflow pipe at the back of our house when the water starts to come up and sit against our living room wall.
We’re on land but the captain is back on it. Water seems to be his destiny. In between work, he calls the council, emails our MP and texts our local councillor. The beach soak-aways were full yesterday morning even though it wasn’t raining. He called Highways and a couple of hours later, they came with their bionic suction pipe. Another Highways team were here the other day too – a truly smiley bunch. They lifted the drainage cover on the road.
‘Well, that’s not right.’ Six-inch drainage pipe with only a three-inch inlet. They drove off, promising to come back.