On Saturday the 24th of August 2013, the heavens well and truely opened over South Essex. On the coast of that realm, lies my little home town, the
Borough of Southend-On-Sea. This seaside town is one of the driest places in the United Kingdom, certainly the driest on the mainland, and so the
torrential downpour was a total shock to most residents and business owners alike.
The ward in which I live, Shoeburyness, was cut off from the main town centre, with both of the main routes in or out being covered in water. My
sister, who has a Facebook account, spent the evening showing pictures she had seen on peoples "walls" (as the kids call them), taken on the scene
of some of the most insane examples of the weather. For me personally, I realised the downpour was going to be damaging, when I lost sight of the
other side of our road, such was the volume of water passing before my eyes as it fell to Earth! Water from the flat roof of my home, was under such
pressure that it shot clear over the gutter hopper, and covered the balcony in front of our front door, before cascading off the balcony, and over the
stairs down to street level in a great thundering waterfall. Luckily, our property was otherwise undamaged by the deluge. However, many other
businesses and homeowners were not so lucky.
Southend and locality
The day after this "apocalyptic" rain storm, the weather was wonderfully warm and so a lady friend and I decided to go for a long walk in the
countryside, so we hopped on a bus, and traveled to Hockley woods, which is always a plesant place to stroll. The canopy of the trees was great at
keeping the sun off our backs, and allowed us to enjoy to its fullest, the gorgeous breeze, which carried the woodland smell deeper into our noses!
Even in the drier areas, the Earth had been scarred by the progress of the great volumes of water, with furrows between five millimetres and an inch
in depth, having been carved into the mud. Having toured Hockley woods, we moved off in the direction of Rochford, using the chimney of the hospital
building there as a guide to which path to take through the feilds.
Along the way, there were various points which saw our route bring us near to tributaries of, if not the main body of, the River Roach (which flows
into the River Crouch). All along the banks of the river, was evidence of the water level having risen to a vast degree, and then dropped, with
detritus and mud being deposited on fences, trees, and bushes up to thirteen feet away from the bank, even at the top of the small undulations of the
terrain. The speed of the water which was flowing through the river when we were there was still pretty damned quick, but it was obvious from the way
the grasses and reeds on the banks of the river (as well as some of the corn in surrounding fields) had been swept flat against the earth, that the
flooding around the banks of the river had been pretty severe, even in that rural, well drained setting. When downstream from anything approaching a
population centre, the washed up debris consisted of bits of rubbish, bags, bottles, assorted trash, and when downstream of agricultural land, the
predominance was deposits of hay, corn, and other vegetation, literally ripped up by the roots and smashed against trees and fences.
Upon reaching Rochford, it was clear that some of the lower lying areas had been very hard hit indeed. We passed a pub which had seen all its beer
garden furniture hurled against the fence at the back, which seperated thier beer garden from some industrial land. No one had been to rescue the
deposited benches from the two foot deep, twenty foot wide puddle which remained there against the fences.
Having seen what was to be seen there, we passed through into Stambridge, intending to visit the mill there. The route was still flooded to an
extent, only to about six inches in depth, but more than my military surplus boots were capable of withstanding, meaning that I had to leap up onto
the embankment on one side of the path, and sidle round the hundred meter pond which had formed there.
It was amazing to see the evidence for all the things I learned in my geography classes when I was a child. The only regret I have, is that I did not
take a camera so I could take photographs of some of the most interesting sedimentary deposits and detritus which showed the level of the water at its
highest, because truely it was a staggering site to see in such a traditionally dry county.