Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Great Flood of Leeds

Okay, there never was a Great Flood of Leeds, not that I know of, anyway: though the rain that washed out Children's Day the year that I was supposed to dance round the maypole when I was little was pretty bad. (Not that I'm bitter, or disappointed, or anything - sometimes nearly a whole week goes by and I don't think about it).

In the Eighties, Leeds City Council decided to remodel Waterloo Lake in Roundhay Park, just in case the Great Flood should ever happen.

At one end of the lake a stream comes in: at the other, there was a steep waterfall, which led down to the open-air swimming pool (oh yes, they got rid of that too, much to my fury).

Anyway, I think someone on Leeds City Council must have lived in a posh house on Wetherby Road, because suddenly they decided that Waterloo Lake had to be redesigned just in case there should be the kind of flood that only happens every hundred years or so. And Wetherby Road would be just where the water from the lake would end up. The rest of us didn't really care, but the council suddenly decided that this was crucial.

So they spent much of the eighties faffing about doing all this, and the lake was half-empty for years and looked a Right Mess, as they say round here.

At the time of Band Aid, I was moved to write to the local paper and suggest that what was needed round here was Pond Aid - - everyone in Leeds should take a bottle of water and empty it into the lake - - yes, they published it and lots of serious people gave Very Serious replies to it.

Anyway, eventually the waterfall was gone and instead there's a big man-made overspill-type thing at one end of the lake, and the Wetherby Road Poshos are safe from drowning, at a cost of several squillion pounds no doubt.

Nobody considered the ducks though. Many a time I've seen a whole troop of baby ducklings merrily swimming about when suddenly - - whoosh! - - over the end they all go. Luckily, they don't seem to suffer any serious damage from their twenty-foot drop - or whatever it is - into the stream at the bottom, and I've seen the mother duck trudge the long way round to collect them and bring them back.

Here's today's duck. Today's duck was asleep.

Yes, yes, I know, it's a really rubbish photo but the light was in the wrong place. Or I was. And the duck certainly was. If you look closely, you can see a pied wagtail right at the edge of the waterfall, at the bottom of the photo.

We reckoned that the duck had dozed off some time earlier, at the far end of the lake where the stream comes in:

And then, as it slept, it drifted slowly along the lake on the slight current caused by the stream - - and, if we pull back a bit from the first shot, you can see that the large dot is the sleeping duck, drifting slowly towards Duck Niagara.

After another ten minutes or so, that duck was in for a big shock. I didn't stick around to watch. I like ducks.


Blogger Kim said...

poor duck

I remember there being an outside pool at my home town, and a sandpit too :D

they shut it down, which is a shame cos one of my first memories is of that pool, I must have only been about 3 as I remember looking at my brother and he only looked about 2
btw I was trying to get over the other side of the pool (it was only about 12inches deep at the most) to get to my dad and was trying to figure out how to navigate myself over the step that was stupidly placed in the middle of the pool


11:07 pm  
Blogger CLS said...

ummmmmm ---- I thought that was "I love toast" at least I remember you writing that. but I guess there could be emough love to go around :)

11:49 pm  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

Don't jest with us down in Sheffield Daphne because here there really was a Great Flood...

The Great Sheffield Flood, also known as the Great Inundation, was a flood that devastated parts of Sheffield, England, on 11 March 1864, when the Dale Dyke Dam broke. At least 270 people died that night. Quite rightly it is sometimes referred to as "The Forgotten Flood"... It was not about ducks and ducklings but about people sleeping in their beds.

12:26 am  
Blogger Debby said...

Sighhhhh I was going to type "I like toast"....but looks like Clair beat me to the punch!

I'd have waited the 10 minutes for sure!

3:49 am  
Anonymous jay said...

I think it's the insurance companies, and our 'litigation society' which are to blame for that poor duck's misfortune. No-one can get insurance on their homes anymore if they live in an area 'likely to flood' - which is a definition apparently based on the assessor gazing at a map for a few minutes and not on any real history or likelihood. Not without huge premiums anyway.

And it's the same with those fun things like public paddling pools and sandpits.

I remember using an open air swimming pool which was formed by using diverted river water. I remember the odd accident, like cut feet (the water was murky, see, as river water is ..), and an idiot diving into it without checking how deep it was and fracturing his spine. but it was well used and accidents were actually pretty rare. It's not there now, of course, because no-one is expected to be able to assess the slightest risk for themselves anymore - or take responsibility for their own actions.

Likewise with the inches-deep toddler pool and the so-very-fun huge sandpit with bolted down diggers and a big slide that landed in the sand that we USED to have in our local city park. Gone. All gone.

What you need in that there lake, though, is the duck equivalent of a rumble strip. That'd do it!

9:09 am  
Blogger Daphne said...

Kim - yes, some of my best memories are of swimming pools and paddling pools - I think they make a big impression on small children.
Clair and Debby - yes, "I like toast" was grafitti in the same park - one of my favourite bits of grafitti ever!
YP - there was a terrible flood in Holmfirth in the 19th Century too, also just about forgotten - because both that and the Sheffield one involved ordinary people, and a dam bursting. I think it's amazing and sad that such terrible things can be forgotten so relatively soon.
Jay - you're right, I bet insurance was at the bottom of it. I totally agree with you about the risk thing - and the less people are expected to assess their own risk, the less they'll be able to of course.

9:19 am  
Blogger JD73 said...

Such a shame that waterfall went..Was there actually a proper study done to find out if the waterfall was unsafe? And it was replaced by a completely awful looking concrete overspill which doesnt fit in with the beautiful surroundings of waterloo lake. I hope one day that the waterfall will be reconstructed!!

11:36 am  
Blogger Daphne said...

JD73 - thank you for visiting and please do visit again! I bet they never did do a proper study of that waterfall. I agree, all that concrete has not helped the look of the place one little bit!

11:41 am  

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