Monday, December 07, 2015

The Desmond Deluge


As I went into the Allotments' community hut on Saturday, I met the lady who keeps bees. She asked me if I was flooded, and said almost everyone else was too. As you can see in the photos, we went from a pond on Thursday to an inundation on Saturday. I was down yesterday, and it hadn't receded by more than an inch or two. On a brighter note, I was at the community hut to sign the missive and pay the rent for the whole plot. It might be under a lot of water, but it's all mine.

The thing is with water and a flood like this, it acts as a kind of giant spirit level, showing where the low points of the allotment are. Saturday and Sunday I spent some of the time just standing and looking and thinking. I've puzzled it out. It's confirming what I suspected way back in the later summer.

The North West bed is still too low. I don't mind so much if the NE bed gets flooded, that's where the pond/bog are (now) going to be. But the NW bed is going to be properly cultivated, and needs to be properly drained. Also, the area of the old fruit bushes is acting as dam. It runs right down the boundary of the NE bed, is about a foot higher, is compacted earth held solidly together by a strong mesh made of nettle and fruit bush roots.

It has to go. Water is percolating down from the big area to the west of me, (two plots joined into an area of raised beds, for people who just want a raised bed; hard compacted earth in between those beds) - I get almost all of the water from there, percolating through or, more likely, running over the top. The water then runs into my plot, but can go no further because of the dam made by the mound the fruit bushes were growing on.

My plan was to take out the front row of bushes, and leave the rest to incorporate into the hedgerow which will go along the boundary. And they might join the hedgerow one day, but they need to be grubbed up first, and replanted into the boundary, probably elsewhere, later in the winter. So I started yesterday, at the far North East end, (by the compost cage, you can see it with a white carry bag on it in the right hand photo above), with the heavy duty grubbing hoe and the spade.

Oh, lordy! Easier said than done. I'm making my way along an area about 4ft wide by 30ft long. I'm digging out the fruit bushes, and putting them to one side. And digging out colossal tangles of roots, from the bushes and from the stinging nettles which infested this area last year. Over the years, bushes have fallen and been buried, and sprouted new bushes from their trunks. Presumably leaf mould led to the build up of soil, (which appears to be very good quality).

I began to uncover a long strip of what appears to be heavy duty plastic, placed at the edge of the bed, likely to retain the bed at one time, but now just a subterranean drainage preventer. It's about 3ins below the surface, and is about 9ins wide. I don't know how long it is. I was determined to excavate it before leaving yesterday, but had dug, grubbed and rooted about 10ft along its length when night fell and I had to give it up for lack of light. Its presence explains why the fruit bushes grew on this mound. That is, effectively, the dam. I'll dig it out whole and use it for edging somewhere more sensible.

Like the NW bed. The NE bed is too high. The Old Greenhouse area is too high. The NW bed is too low. You can guess what I have to do. Move earth. Tons and tons of it. Once it re-emerges from beneath the flood waters, that is.