Last week’s flooding in The Strand and St. Mary Street brings to mind how RD Morris, our Borough Surveyor, cured much of it in the late ‘60s. When I lived at the Catholic Church in the Strand - from January 1962 until our new church opened in June 1970 - I was surrounded by water no less than 52 times. Though it never entered the house or church, it rose to within 7 inches of floor level. Sometimes, after Sunday Mass, I had to carry small children through the water. The house was unhealthy, being built on a slab of concrete permanently saturated with water, and without a damp course.
But after some years the floods almost disappeared, because RD Morris noticed that the water never overflowed the river bank but came up through the drains. To prevent this he put valves in the drains. They worked very well. But it is now nearly fifty years since they were installed; and I wonder whether, when the surveyors clear the drains, they also check that the valves are in place and in good condition, or whether by now they are corroded or malfunctioning. I think it is worth while to look into it. We cannot fight the forces of nature, but new valves might alleviate much of our problem.
The floods remind us that in the Middle Ages the Teifi lapped the castle walls, and the way to the bridge was along High Street.
Fifty years ago the late Captain Walter Evans told me that we get big floods when three conditions combine: a) if the Teifi is in spate, b) a spring tide and c) a northwest gale. Last week, low atmospheric pressure brought abnormally high seas and violent storms, but at least the gales were not from the northwest. This time the water entered my old house, which means it was about eight or nine inches higher than ever before.
We cannot eliminate the floods in St. Mary Street, but we may be able to alleviate them by copying RD Morris. My research on the town’s history tells me the source of the problem. Speed’s Map of 1610 shows a small bridge at the bend in St. Mary Street, spanning a rivulet running from Pwllhai. (Pwllhai was always wet and soggy, and as such provided an additional defence to the mediaeval walls of Cardigan; I am not certain how its name originated; one theory is that it derives from Pwll y Llaid). The rivulet was culverted centuries ago. But it still runs under the street and its nearby houses, exiting into the Teifi just below Gloster Row; and in flood conditions a reflux of water comes from the Teifi to where the bridge once stood. Could our water experts offer a solution?
P.S. I have now examined the flood sites and add the following:
1. A householder said the drains were to blame; the first sign of trouble came at 6.30pm a drain by her door began bubbling up water.
2. The Teifi did not overflow its banks, yet the storm and the tide forced surges of water up the slipways, and some surges from Gloster Row reached as far as St. Mary Street. On their own they did not cause the flood, as they were intermittent, but they added to it. The flood came chiefly from the drains and from the reflux travelling back towards Pwllhai from the Teifi.
3. A man asserted he had seen a drain where the valve had been left open. Was it the only one? And even if other valves were closed, can we be sure they were still working well after about 46 years’ use? Otherwise how can we say we were well prepared for the flood?
Ceredigion responded well during the flood, but an official report should tell us whether the drains were prepared for it, or whether they added to the problem.