Ministers McLaughlin and Stewart on wrong side of collapsed bridge

With the flood defence blame game set to kick off in the Commons this week, spare a thought for the residents of Pooley Bridge, Cumbria.

Sodden locals recently turned out to meet a delegation from two government departments — only to discover the hapless group had arrived on the wrong side of their village’s collapsed bridge.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin breached safety barriers to gawp across the now impassible River Eamont. He was accompanied by ministerial colleague Rory Stewart would should have known better given that he is also the, errrrr, local MP.

A local man claimed on Facebook:

“So the whole village turned out yesterday afternoon to attend a meeting with our member of parliament Rory Stewart and the Secretary of State along with the British Transport minister …

“They turned up 20 minutes late on the wrong side of our washed away bridge. A local farmer had to make a 30 minute journey via quad bike to get them here whilst the entourage made the 20 mile journey via road to get to where this picture was taken. You couldn’t make it up.”

This confusion might dismissed as understandable given the quickly evolving situation — if the bridge in question had not collapsed three weeks prior on 6 December.

Good to see the government knows which bridges have collapsed and which have not.

  1. Some people need a SatNav to find a route from their arse to their elbow.
    Unfortunalely, some of these people are in government.

  2. The official line….’We travel all the way here from London and the locals don’t even have the decency to come and meet us’.

  3. An omnishambles worthy of ‘the thick of it’. None of these people nor their hangers on nor drivers or representatives of the county council managed to figure out that with the bridge gone, they wouldn’t get across the river. Its almost too commical to be real!

  4. Michelle Symmons says:

    That is my local bridge, and the place where they are standing beyond the safety barriers has nothing underneath it to hold the Tarmac up. Shame they didn’t all bloody fall in!! What a bunch of moronic twats!

  5. The locals aren’t much brighter. Just look at the way people in Glenridding are blaming the government/EA for what happened there. They claim a landslide of material fell into the beck and that the EA hadn’t ‘dredged’ the beck for years. However, the initial flood had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the channel not being ‘cleared out’. The large volume of material that was washed down came from the bed of the beck upstream – that’s obvious from looking at the rounded shape of the boulders – that’s what mountain streams do in flood – it had nothing to do with a ‘landslide’ of material from elsewhere. The river naturally created a gravel bar and diverted around it, along the streets and through the houses. The very same thing would have happened to exactly the same extent regardless of whether the bed had been dug deeper below the bridge.

    To avoid the same thing happening again they need to slow the river down upstream of the village. A straightened river is shorter and has a steeper hydraulic gradient than a meandering river, meaning those boulders are transported much quicker into the village during a flash flood. Nothing will happen though, because the locals are too busy blaming the EA, the EU and crayfish.

  6. Steve says “slow the river down upstream of the village” – have you ever visited Glenridding and gone up the valley the river runs down? Nothing there to ‘meander’ through, it’s a deep V shape with nothing but steep slopes either side. No scope for holding the water back in a dam either. Maybe deepening the river won’t prevent all floods but it would go a long way towards lessening their impact!

  7. Hope there’ll be a lot of slapped wrists, if not more serious charges of endangering life, for the one(s) who decided to breach those safety barriers and have the group stand over a gaping hole! Barriers aren’t just there to keep the plebs out!

  8. Have to agree Steve and the unfortunate thing is that the meanders – now gone – allow the water to spread so it takes a greater volume to cause serous flooding.

  9. Malcolm Prior says:

    Barry, when rainfall of this magnitude occurs the volume increased in the river by dredging is miniscule by comparison and will make no measurable difference except that unless the river is dredged as much or more all the way to the estuary it will cause more flooding downstream.

  10. Been there quite a few times. The river tried to meander back through the floodplain at the campsite during the recent floods.

  11. Rivers can only meander on flat ground when the flow is reduced. You can’t artificially put in meanders on a steep river such as the one at Glenridding to slow them down, they would just cut straight through again due to the force of water. Problem this time was caused by an excessive amount of water and build up of river bed coupled with loose scree washed down from the top. Not sure that *anything* would have prevented some flooding this time but deepening the river channel can only help, along with regularly keeping it clear. Same with most of the rivers that broke their banks, build up of the river bed due to a moratorium on dredging imposed by EU.

  12. The meanders have been artificially removed. The flood arrives in a shorter, sharper pulse as a result and the bed material is transported faster. The material that was deposited in the village causing the obstruction came from the river bed not the scree – you can see the rocks have been smoothed by water flow over their surfaces. Straightening and deepening the channel increases the gradient and encourages bed transport that just helps to fill the bit that’s been dug out whilst denuding the bed upstream. What happened in Glenridding had absolutely nothing to do with a moratorium on dredging imposed by the EU. It was caused by an enormous amount of water and poor upstream management.

  13. Given the poor management, that goes nationwide. However do you have evidence that the river ever meandered and when it was straightened? There’s one hell of a drop from the top to Glenridding itself with very little flat ground for it to meander. As for the scree and boulders – a large amount of scree washing down scours the river bed to loosen those stones that had been there many years to be worn smooth, like an avalanche it builds momentum as it travels picking up larger and larger stones. Maybe it’s time to think about clearing the debris from the old mine workings up there?

  14. The boulders in the river ARE the bed – they’re transported by the flow of the water. That rate of transport increases dramatically with increased flow – e.g. during a flood or when a river has been straightened – or both. The bed is not scoured by scree falling into the river and forcing other rocks downstream! Glenridding itself is built on an alluvial fan-delta. The natural tendency of the river in such a delta during a flood is to abandon old channels and create new ones (avulsions) and split (bifurcate) and spread out in a fan shape. That’s what it did to spectacular effect as can be seen so dramatically in some of the aerial photos. It wouldn’t have done this to such an extent if the flow upstream was slower. To slow it down you need those boulders there, you need to stop sheep from compacting what little is left of the soil structure and you need more vegetation. What you don’t do is keep digging it out upstream of the village or digging it too deep in the village which has the same effect.

  15. Ulls Water is a very short river with high altitude steep hills at its head. You aren’t going to get enough vegetation growing up there to make much of a difference. All you can do is try to enable the river to cope with higher volumes of water to prevent it spilling over the banks. If the rainfalls we’ve seen this winter are going to become the norm then there will have to be a serious rethink on how the increased water is managed or the town will become uninhabitable (there are already some who have had enough and are moving out) until the river cuts itself a better route, which will take decades if not hundreds of years.

  16. The moritorium on dredging IS I think a major factor regarding these damn floods, please Mr ‘Steve’, do not denigrate the good people of Glenridding, not only are they my neighbours, they are also my friends

  17. OK, I’ll stop, as long as the people of Glenridding stop denigrating experts in river catchment management. They are also my friends.

  18. Oh, and the ‘moratorium’ on dredging has absolutely nothing whatsoever to doo with these floods. There isn’t a single expert in the country that thinks that they do, so please stop denigrating them.

  19. What have the scots to do with cumbria. Last i heard cumbria was in england.
    As for who voted them in, it was the majority of people in the uk, and not the moaning masses that did not vote.
    All well and good pointing fingers at blame but who is going to pay for all the flood defences, remember governments can only spend money they take from us in tax.
    A lot of flooding could be avoided by not building on flood plains, not so in this case granted, and in better maintenance of our waterways. But it all costs our money.

  20. Is it just me, or is dredging the mountain streams which run into glenridding a crazy idea born from ignorance of the forces of nature? Dredge boulders out of the river, cut into the bedrock, or rip out the water retaining peat and create a perfect u shaped channel for water to fly down like the log flume ride at Blackpool? Time we realised what nature is and learnt to work with it. I’m sorry for those who have suffered from flooding but move to the upstairs floor, re route your electric wires from downstairs, use permeable wall plastering. Get some good advice instead of ripping into politicians. If you who live there didn’t know what nature could do to you how can you expect others to know better?

  21. Mrs Christine Craghill says:

    Rory Stewart has been doing a valiant job in horrendous circumstances, trying to be in about 20 different places at once, it’s a wonder he knows what day of the week it is let alone be exactly on time for a meeting. He and the Environment Minister and entourage had just come from viewing the collapsed A 591, which is the main N/S route through the Lakes and vitally important to the local economy and I’m guessing Rory thought the Pooley Bridge meeting would on the main village side of the washed away bridge. At least the current devastating situation for local residents in that area will have been brought home well and truly to the minister when he realised the length of the diversion that has to be taken just to go a few hundred yards on a major tourist route, as on that diversion route there is another diversion, as the bridge at Eamont Bridge, on the A6 route, is now closed and likely to be for months due to cracks appearing in the structure. Even so it seems as if the minister was talking about getting only a foot bridge, at Pooley Bridge, up and running by Easter, when a car bridge is desperately needed if the local businesses stand a chance of surviving. Rory Stewart will be doing his darnedest to get the best outcome for his local constituents whilst at the same time working to get the best outcome in dreadful circumstances for other areas acting as the newly appointed Floods Minster for the whole country.

  22. Have the Royal Engineers been disbanded? Whatever happened to their expertise in putting in temporary bridges at short notice? Does it really take the British three months to build a footbridge? Or is that the earliest date that Dave C can fit the opening ceremony into his diary?

  23. There’s always a ‘Steve’ offering an “expert” opinion on matters like this without any knowledge of the topography of the area or anything else bearing on the matter.

  24. There’s always someone called Mal E on the internet offering their ill-informed, ignorant opinions to everyone. I’m a post-doctoral a research scientist in fluvial geomorphology. I’ve also climbed Helvellyn several times and spent several happy weekends of my life staying on either side at Dunmail Raise and Side Farm. Tell me about yourself, oh wise one.

  25. Steve seems to know a lot, though I’ve been looking to find out if the glenridding beck has been artificially modified. There have certainly been years of human activity and the natural ecological balance is out of kilter, due to past quarrying, sheep and hydro electric dam schemes. Wouldn’t harm it to have water retention schemes such as tree planting / peat restoration up there.
    There’s a lot of people offering opinions without any expertise at all for that matter

  26. “As for who voted them in, it was the majority of people in the uk” Not true! It was 25% of the UK electorate voted them in. That is NOT a majority. All to do with our ridiculous first-past-the-post system.

  27. Frances Powell says:

    There are at least 3 ways forward.. upstream and downstream

    Slow down the hydrograph, ie the rate at which run-off gets down to a certain point. This can be done by planting upstream, trees preferable, creating numerous ‘leaking dams’ on the catchment, encourage bogs and wet-lands (do not drain them), reduce grazing .. there are numerous examples of how this has worked around the world but also in UK.. see WWF ‘s web-site for a scheme in a place called Devon, in Scotland, and in Pickering North Yorkshire. Locals need to take an interest and explore the options in co-ordination with local councils, businesses.

    The rapid flow of water carries more debris.. if there is insufficiant vegetation upstream to hold on to the soil, then it is washed downstream to silt up the channels and drainage downstream.. In the urban areas, the gullies, drains and channels do need to be cleared, but be aware, the more water is encourage to flow downstream, the more chance of flooding even further downstream.. Flood defences in Todmorden, W. Yorkshire dramatically reduced flooding in Todmorden, but more water as a result flowed down to Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd.. every scheme has a knock on effect downstream..

    Do not build in flood-plains, and do not move into a house in a flood-plain… all too easy to say after the events, as the rainfall we have had is apparently unprecedented.. some of the residents in Yorkshire floods, having been flooded at least twice, are realising they may have to stay put, but re-design the houses to cope with flooding eg, as some one else said, move the electric, ‘tanking’ the lower floors to ease the post-flood clean-ups..

    My house in Bradley, North Yorkshire, was flooded in 2008.. I thought it was a one-off, practical solutions put in place, but this year ( I did sell the house 18 months ago) I hear the run-off was even worse.. we can ‘blame’ the ‘experts’, but as a trained hydrologist and civil engineer myself, I really thought we had found a solution

    We all need to focus on solutions.. research schemes which have worked and take responsibility on a very local level.. with land-owners, property owners, Water compaies, EA and local politicians..

  28. According to the media the decision not to dredge rivers and canals any more is an EEC Directive. Heaven help the EEC Low Lands, Belgium, Holland etc. Did they really vote for this directive?

    We had a lot of trouble with flooding from the M6 motorway until the Highways Agency was forced to change the drainage.

  29. The only way to help prevent flooding is to replant the fells with trees, so slow down the flow of water off the fells, and remove all drainage channels. It is a long term strategy, but would help future generations, as well as absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. Unfortunately governments cannot see beyond the next election.

  30. Downstream of the buildings the river diverted itself across the fan via a shorter route to the lake during the first, major, flood with a new set of channels. It would have been advantageous to the flooding situation if it had been left to follow its new route as, with a shorter distance and steeper gradient, the river would have had a faster flow away from the village and transported sediment/gravel to the lake more quickly. Oh well. The place where the river did this has now had several thousand tonnes of bed material dumped on it and the river has been diverted back into the old, long, slow channel.

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