Water, water, everywhere...

After waving goodbye to their bright blue sky, my return from the Huntington Library California adventure to the grey-skied and sodden, rain-lashed island that is my home, brought me back to earth with a bump, or should that be a splash? Back at work, immediate thoughts were directed to the effects of the constant torrential downpours as they passed through our watercourses into the partially restored three-tiered pond system, and how our culverts, drains, and recently uncovered and resurfaced pathways were coping with such relentless inundations. Amongst the difficulties we faced from the watery onslaught there were glimmers of future sunshine. The Muirhead cascade, our surprise discovery found last year after laying buried for the previous hundred beneath a thick protective cover of accumulated silt, showed a hint of its potential future beauty with an off-white frothy torrent rolling over its stone steps, whilst following a hunch, the exploration below ground of another partially buried smaller cascade in the region of the Grotto revealed yet another beautifully built and substantial stone culvert, designed to manage and direct the storm inundations there centuries ago.

Most of all we should thank our medieval ancestors for their hydrological understanding, knowing that in order to manage a pond system effectively the first construction should always be a by-pass culvert. Ours is a huge deep stone-built drain that today drinks every drop provided by the catchment area supplying the South-eastern ravine, eventually expelling it from its lengthy subterranean route at the top edge of the dell behind the Palladian bridge. Now, each time it rains, I see it as an opportunity to understand and rather than heading for cover you’ll find me clambering through ditches, seeking springs, staring at slumps, or studying the swales cut by the floodwaters of a bygone age, observing nature, and following its lesson with an intent to learn the best way to manage future floods.

Enjoy the view.

Joe Hawkins