“Water, water everywhere …”

The Christmas 2020 Floods.

At around midnight on Christmas Eve the banks were breached on the Geldeston Dyke near the old railway bridge. There were further breaches along the River Waveney nearer Dunburgh. Floods greeted us all on Christmas Day. One home on Station Road, the road itself, and a couple of houses near the boatyard in the centre of Geldeston were flooded. In one case untreated sewage spilled across a garden from the mains backing up.

Flooded marshland, Geldeston (photo Catherine Bickmore)

Water levels reached 150 mm inside a house on Big Row, and about 300 mm in the lower-lying boatyard workshops. Extensive flooding of the marshes and agricultural land formed sheets of water standing on the land for several weeks with implications for livestock and crops.  Other properties in Geldeston and Ellingham were reported to be dangerously near to being flooded with a “only few inches to go”.

Subsidence holes in the riverbank at Dunburgh increase vulnerability to future flooding of the adjacent land. Fortunately, “Storm Bella” did not make the situation worse.

How Water Levels are Regulated

The regulation of water levels in our tidal section of the Waveney is complex. The weather affects surface water runoff upstream and combined with high tides downstream the result is that water becomes ‘trapped’ around Geldeston. Levels are affected by the sluices upriver at Ellingham and Wainford.  From Gillingham downstream the levels of the surrounding land are lower with the release of flood waters dependent on pumping.

On 25-26 December 2020, the water rose particularly fast. Perhaps this was due to the Wainford and Ellingham Mill Sluices releasing upstream flood waters so as to relieve the pressure on places such as  Bungay (where many homes were flooded). Other possible reasons were the failure of pumps, insufficient maintenance of flood defences over preceding months (or years), etc. We do not have the full picture and further investigation is required.

Flooding was discussed at Geldeston Parish Council on 13 January 2021. South Norfolk District Council has set up a Scrutiny Committee to examine local flooding issues and propose solutions. Geldeston Parish Council wants to draw together people’s experiences of the flooding. Please pass your information (and photos if you took any) to the clerk, Mrs Tina Pagegeldestonclerk@hotmail.co.uk