I live in a tiny village set in the Welsh Cambrian mountains alongside the River Wye. There are 29 homes in all – but there used to be more.
Most of the homes are clustered near the Church, a place of worship since Druidic times and once covered by sea water, with a few, like mine, in the hills above the village, near and overlooking the river, which floods from time to time. While the village has been in its present riverside position for many years, not so long ago, in terms of Earth history, it was in a different location: when I walk into the village and turn left, climbing high into rough, wild moorland where all there is, is emptiness, I enter a world of skeletal, tumbled walls of long-abandoned houses that made up this old Welsh settlement.
The community made its home here because it was safe from floods, and because the area alongside the river valley was marshy and unhealthy, unfit for raising animals or humans, and also dangerous. It is interesting that the old Church retained its ancient, low-land place on ley lines where waters cross, and it must have been a hard journey, in those times, to walk to worship along a steep mountain path in often harsh weather.
With changing agricultural practices, modernisation and attempts to change the flow of the river, the villagers, in time, moved down to the convenience of the valley. Flooding affects some properties sometimes, and this is recognised as a flood-prone area. My home, high up on a mountain, is unlikely to be much affected, in normal conditions, despite its closeness to the river, but I expect to see the water meadow beyond it – once part of the river – reclaimed by water once again.
If, last week, the Jetstream had positioned itself further south, the waters that fell so damagingly on Cumbria and the north may have fallen here instead, and the heavy rains and disruptions suffered anyway in Wales would have been magnified greatly. It may be different next time, and I am not complacent about the safety of my home area. This is a small, watery island, and no place is guaranteed to be safe from powerful weather.
It is not admitted by the government, but changing weather patterns will bring an increasing likelihood of floods that break all records, and building higher and higher conventional flood defences will not prevent the overflow of torrential water onto low-lying properties. It is time to recognise that, sometimes, man cannot control the elements, but needs to co-operate with them, working with nature to help ourselves sensibly and realistically. It may mean going back, to bring the wisdom of the old ways to become a solution for the future, through, for example, re-foresting the hills to catch the rainwater, using beavers to create natural dams in rivers, building on high ground rather than in low-lying areas, and certainly building not on flood plains.
The ancient village that lies behind my home positioned itself well at a time when the power and potential danger of water was respected. It may be, one day, the community will return to where it has its roots, and it may be, too, that some of these old ways will need to be put into practice elsewhere.
My heart goes out to the many people and creatures that suffer in the flooding now: may a workable solution to a natural problem be recognised soon.