When you live right on the Kennet River, (Marlborough, Wiltshire) you get to know its habits and moods. During the summer it’s generally lovely and clear, bubbling over the stones serenely and without complaint. As we are in the midst of winter, the water clouds up and the level rises further and further until the ducks, coots and moorhens can almost effortlessly scramble up onto their favourite little island. This is the island they share with the people in the retirement home; the people who in good weather enjoy a lazy little walk about in the small grassy garden midway between the two river banks.
These past weeks, anyone paying special attention to the Kennet and indeed any nearby body of water will have noticed that the level has risen. The Kennet has often risen above the usual watermarks and threatened more than once to spill right over into the concrete path of the island’s surface. Sometimes, it just looks like a disaster waiting to happen, and this morning actually saw the concrete slabs go under in a murky puddle.
Is this some very bad planning concerning the placement of the retirement community? With the tendency of the Waitrose parking lot and the nearby park area to collect excess amounts of rainwater, building on the low lying island in the middle of the river doesn’t seem like the most intelligent idea. Granted, the building rests on short stilts so that future events like this morning’s small flood will go relatively unheeded (until somebody wants to get in or out of the building, that is) but structurally speaking this is no place for a permanent dwelling -? and of all the people to have to evacuate at short notice, retired folks are going to need the most help!
No matter what the risk, people are always loath to leave their homes or indeed sell up for a disaster that might never happen, but the island is clearly destined to go under at some point. Why architects and town planners failed to reason this into their blueprints is beyond comprehension; even before the controversy over global warming and changed weather patterns it must have been clear to anyone that the island, which lies several feet below the river banks, was doomed to be underwater. It’s a let down to anyone who invested money into the project, and certainly anyone who currently resides in the stilted building.
It doesn’t look like any of the murky water crept into anyone’s home today, so let’s hope that the rain keeps to itself while the water rolls slowly away.