Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mixed emotions

Don't you just hate those weirs!

There is no better time to assess external impacts on a watercourse than when it begins to be re-charged after a long period of drought. It is possible to wait in the dry river bed of the upper Lathkill, often aided by a head-torch in the middle of the night, and follow the thread of water as it slowly wets the dry bed like an eel, waiting to fill up holes and gaps under stones before racing on a little more. This is the time when you realise the bed is like a colander, with the water not only leaving, but coming back in an upwelling too. The ground is becoming drenched as the water table rises to meet the river.
The longest we have had to wait for this re-birth is December tenth. Today is the seventh, three days from the sad record and far, far too long for the rivers inhabitants to hold their breath, but the rivers are running again.

There is though, an imbalance.

The Lathkill is sprinting like a train and can be heard from the office window above the howling wind in wood beyond. It is cleaning itself, lifting the autumn leaves from its bed and shifting tons of silt making it run the colour of tea so thick that water shrews might dance upon it.

The Bradford though, is not.

The same rain fell on each rivers catchment. Sweeping out of Buxton across Longnor and Monyash the North West wind brought nearly 4 inches in as many days. Water stands in puddles and ground is drenched from Gratton to Over Haddon but the Bradford does not tell that story. Heading down past the Church and looking over the bridge this morning I expected to see a river returned but was disappointed.

One of the residents from nearby sums up my thoughts as he wanders past. ‘Not much watter Surrie; fit more in me holla tooth’.

The good old reliable stream from New Dam joins the Bradford a little way down. It has kept its flow through the summer and the crayfish are grateful being able still to scurry and scavenge through the night rather than the drought turning their shells to power. It runs with the more water than the main river, and yet all its catchment can be seen in these few fields and this Mitten Wood.

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Derby Uni LL.B.yr4 Birmingham Uni (field lecturer)