Much of the Somerset Levels, an hour west of us, is still under water. This video was taken in late November down the road from Burrow Hill, where the lovely Somerset Distillery is based:
Three weeks later there’s a sorry mess of abandoned cars and floating hay bales in a scene more like a post-apocalyptic disaster movie than rural England:
It’s not making news, but that doesn’t make the plight of the folk down there any better. This is an A Road that’s flooded, between Taunton and Glastonbury, and it means a 15 mile detour around the mess that was the River Parrett. Better a mess here than in downstream Bridgwater, I suppose. The Environment Agency estimate there are 43 million tonnes of water currently lying on the levels, which sounds like a lot to me. They reckon the road will be closed until after Christmas – at least. It was closed in May as well.
What’s to be done? Of course the Levels have always been liable to flooding, but in recent history we’ve felt we’ve been able to control that. In earlier years Sumorsaete was, literally, the land of the summer people, and parts of the county abandoned to the water in winter. After hundreds of years’ work I can’t imagine there are any more flood prevention schemes that can be introduced, even if we could afford them. The more extreme weather events we are seeing are showing no signs of mitigating. Sea levels will rise. The farmers are all going bust and their fields and houses are unsaleable. When will government start to face the reality of global warming that’s staring the Burrowbridge locals in the face, and start thinking the unthinkable about land use in these areas? Could we pay for land to be added to the astonishing – and valuable – wildlife reserves already in the area, for example? Things can’t go on as they are.