Here is a picture of the floods afflicting the central English town of Tewkesbury this weekend (and continuing today). I couldn’t help but be struck by one overriding idea(aside that is from the very sad tragedy that has struck the townspeople…).
Do you see anything unusual about the picture? (Click on it to see it full size). See any clue to what might be going on in this medieval town of Tewkesbury?
Do you notice how most of the central, older part of town, is above water? It is barely above water, but nevertheless, you have to admit that it is sitting proudly amid the incredible flood carnage all around. Look at the church. The water laps up to the side chapel, but mostly it is dry. Look at the left hand side, at what looks like a graveyard. Entirely dry. Look to the right, at what I presume is the older parts of town: dry! (Or, at least, it appears to be dry).
This is not coincidence. It is because the medieval builders of Tewkesbury knew what they were doing. They paid attention to the flood patterns locally. They didn’t expect to build a house on a flood plain and get away with it. Nor were they arrogant enough to think they could fight the floods with barriers and human engineering.
I remember as a child visiting my grandfather’s birthplace in Roscommon, in a place called, appropriately enough, Newtownflood. The thing is, the land around it flooded every year, like clockwork, hence the name. But the house itself never did. Never. It was build on a slight rise, a tiny hillock, probably no more than six feet above the water, but nevertheless, enough.
We have something important to learn from previous generations.