The floods – it seems no part of the Cheddar Valley escaped their effect this past week.
A portion of the devastation has been summed up in pictures on pages 8 and 9 and the Cheddar Emergency Plan got to phase two on Saturday night, with halls at Kings of Wessex and Fairlands schools one step away from taking refugees. In his own words community correspondent Michael Dearden says how close Cheddar came to repeating the big flood of 1968 had one key wall given way in the gorge.
For the first time in the 12 years I have worked there, Gough’s Cave was flooded to such an extent that water came out of the cave and ran down the road.
This would put the water level in the cave at almost two metres.
At the same time both cash desks were flooded, the back office was under several feet of water as was the gorge shop. Cox’s Cave was also flooded and had to be closed, again I’ve never seen that before.
At Cox’s Mill weir there were fears that the retaining wall might give way as water started to seep through it. Had that happened the whole lower gorge would have been washed away as happened during the big flood way back in 1968.
At the peak of the rain the gorge reverted to being a river in full flood as it would have been 10,000 years ago when melt waters from the last ice age carved the gorge out of the Mendip Hills limestone. Huge quantities of boulders, stone, gravel and wood came down with the flood and this was all left in the gorge as the river subsided.
At Horseshoe Bend the torrent washed away the road edges leaving a huge crater almost a metre deep. Although the road was officially closed with signs at both ends many motorists chose to ignore the warning and many suffered punctures as a result.
The Cheddar Yeo river, which forms within the Mendips and was responsible for carving out Gough’s Cave, and was responsible for the cave flooding, turned from its usual gentle stream into a raging torrent as it comes down the gorge with its level more that ten times normal.
During Monday the water level in the caves started to recede, we could walk into the entrance, and if no further rains fall it is hoped that all the attractions can be opened again with a couple of days. However, with the land saturated and the river still in full flood it will only take a very small amount of further rain to bring the chaos back.
How were you affected by the floods? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org or The Editor, Cheddar Valley Gazette, Southover, Wells, BA5 1UH.