December 2013, and at Strand Quay late one night the water crept higher and higher…. men from the Environment Agency closed the flood gates at the public slipway… soon water was lapping against the protective wall…would its advance, could its advance, be stopped? Then around 1am the tide slowed, stopped and started to recede. The Quay and lower town with its shops, houses and restaurants were, for the moment, safe.
Sadly the story was not the same down river: premises at Rock Channel were flooded and further down the road from Rye Harbour to the river mouth was destroyed in places and the cottage belonging to the nature reserve was badly flooded. Other areas and property, too, were damaged.
At the beginning of this week we had the first of the autumn high tides, augmented by a small surge up channel. At full height the water spilled over the edge of the Quay and covered the grass but, on this occasion, advanced no further. We know that global warming is a fact (even if the reasons for it are debatable) and it is inevitable, therefore, that, at some time, spring tides in conjunction with the right (or possibly one should say, wrong) weather conditions will produce a surge that will not be controllable by flood gates or walls, and similar scenes to those shown most winters on television news, of distressed householders forced from their waterlogged homes and local shop and restaurant owners surveying their ruined businesses will be seen here. We must not forget that most of the lower town together with part of the new Valley Park development, New Winchelsea Road, Rock Channel, New Road and Military Road are all on or below sea level and are at particular risk given the right (or wrong) conditions.
REACT (Rye Emergency Action Community Team) is aware of the danger and has been liaising with the Environment Agency (EA). REACT Chairman, Anthony Kimber was actually with the EA team watching, King Canute-like as the tide came in the other day. So what has the Agency done to protect us and our properties and businesses against the inevitable? Very little, it would appear. There are major works going on at Jury’s Gap and there has been plenty of gravel shifting at the river mouth, but further inland? Not a lot. REACT has promised us a report on the EA’s intentions and we look forward to seeing that, but, in the meantime, get ready with those sandbags….just in case.
Photos: John Minter