After a month’s heavy rain across northern England, rivers have risen to record levels. Following 100mm of downpour in one night in Lancashire, the river Ribble (from Gallo-Brythonic Riga Belisama ‘Most Shining’ or ‘Most Mighty Queen’) burst her banks at Ribchester and Whalley, forcing people from their homes.
Yesterday the Ribble ran high between Penwortham and Preston swelling under Penwortham Bridge carrying trees, branches, tyres and other debris out to the sea with an urgent roar.
A playground in Middleforth with an overflowing storm drain was underwater.
Several riverside footpaths were submerged.
The Ribble had flooded the bottom of Miller Park completely, almost covering the fountain and pagoda.
The Pavillion Cafe was cut off like a stranded lake dwelling.
As dusk approached, Victorian lamps illuminated the submerged pathway.
Luckily at the most dangerous point: high tide at around 11pm, the Ribble did not break over the flood walls. Avenham and Miller Parks and the flood plains of Central Park managed the rest and no-one was evacuated.
It would have been a very different story if the Riverworks project, which intended to create a barrage on the Ribble and build on its floodplains had gone ahead. We have Jane Brunning and other ‘Save the Ribble‘ campaigners to thank that we have Central Park instead.
This morning, I walked along the old railway track to see Central Park’s flooded fields.
The floods had receded from Avenham and Miller Park and the Ribble sunk back to her normal course.
Last night Belisama heard our apologies, songs and prayers. Today she received gratitude and thanks. This was the highest I have ever seen the Ribble rise. It was really quite terrifying and gave me a fuller understanding of why, before flood-walls, our ancestors revered and feared her as a Mighty Queen.
With temperatures increasing ten times faster than in known history and water levels rising globally I fear this will not be the last time the Ribble bursts her banks. It is a clear message everything possible must be done to slow climate change and adjustments must be made to accomodate rising rivers and returning wetlands.
Having Central Park saved us here. My thoughts are with those not so lucky in Ribchester, Whalley and in York from where 2,200 people have been evacuated.