An update on the flood risk issues which have temporarily closed the reserve;
If you have been in East Yorkshire this autumn you’ll have perhaps noticed the rain – after 18 months of very little rainfall we have had 170% of average rainfall according to the met office (or 9” of rain in Beverley in November according to resident meteorologist Mike Fishwick).
We have been in similar scenarios before such as back in 2012 as per the Tophill blog then . So the river Hull brimming is not un-precedented (John Barnard):
The river levels height shows that the river reached within 60mm of its all-time record:
The difference in these scenarios is the level dropped back again within a few days and the pressure receded. However, this year the level has been high for so many weeks. This was filmed this back in November and it has been at this level consistently for a month:
(It should be noted that the EA is currently requesting no walking on the banks). Whilst the levels on surrounding farmland and in the Barmston Drain have fallen this is because it is mechanically pumped into the river by the EA and the main channel height has not fallen. High tides at the end of last week have caused further over-topping compromising the structure of the flood defences north of the reserve:
The last time the river breached was in 1953; here is the post being delivered to neighboring Standingholme Farm:
You may be familiar with our river level board on red route – this shows the water level of the adjacent river Hull compared to the reserve:
It does not take too much imagination to consider the impacts if the river escapes so all efforts are being put in by the Environment Agency at present to sure up the defences; set in the context we still have most of winter to go.
It is easy to walk in this landscape and take it for granted as just ‘flat land’ – but in its natural form the river Hull valley was a vast wetland until the 1800’s. Much of it is at or below sea level and ‘Top hill’ was effectively an island surrounded by marshes and carr land:
And is still echoed in November's flood alert:
This was the realm of local folk legend ‘old stinker’ and why we keep him alive at Tophill Low to illustrate this past landscape:
It also exists in local place names ‘Beverley, Cranswick, Storkhill’ etc. To read more this link takes you to June Sheppard’s history of drainage in the Hull Valley. Maggie Smith from Tophill is currently working on the Tophill Low book we hope for release in mid-2020 which will explain more again. Additional good reads are Ian Rotherham’s ‘Yorkshire’s forgotten Fenlands’ and ‘Becks banks drains and Brains – the drainage history of the river Hull.’
In the immediacy though we have changeable weather this week and a spring tide on Saturday the 14th: (tide-forecast.com)
Once this has passed we hope we can re-evaluate on Monday the 16th. However, certainly until this point Tophill Low Nature Reserve will remain closed as at present we can’t assure that visitors and staff can safely be notified and leave the site if the level should suddenly rise.
The water treatment works is the main priority on site and has been protected with 1300 metres of flood barricade and high capacity pumps.
Unfortunately this Saturday’s planned mammal safari event is cancelled as a result along with group visits. We very much hope that we will be OK for the winter photography exhibiton starting on the 21st. Please hang on to your entries until the reserve is notified open again. Thank you to those whom have already brought them down (they are stored safe). The worst case is we may need to postpone.
In the interim please do not attempt to visit the reserve as the car park is closed and the engineers are currently running the show. As you can imagine for Tophill volunteers and visitors it is an ordeal as many of them call it home; we’ll work to re-open as soon as deemed safe.