Wednesday, 09 March 2016 by Fiona Mackenzie
Even if flooding is under control at the park, there is still work to do to make it safe for visitors who do want a muddy boots walk in the park.
Yesterday, 9 March 2016, Coventry was hit with the wettest March day in nearly a century! Motorists are had a miserable time across the region, as are some home and business owners who have found their properties flooded. Here at Coombe Country Park we were open and the weather hasn't caused us too many problems, however when there is any flooding there is always work to do in the park to make the site as safe and usable as possible.
Waterways at Coombe
The main lake, known as Coombe Pool, is is a man-made reservoir. It was created by damning the Smite Brook and excavating the earth in the late 18th century under the instruction of the famous landscape gardener Lancelot "Capability" Brown. The Smite Brook is the main watercourse that runs through the park and it enters the site just upstream of the weir down to the lake and then continues at the very west of the park to join the River Sowe, near Tesco on the Clifford Bridge Road. The exceptional rainfall saw nearly all of the water bodies in the park flooded most notably the weir, the duck decoy and the causeway.
First image: Weir to the north of the park at 11.30am, Second image: Weir to the north of the park 3.30pm
What we do when it floods?
During times of flooding the main priority of park staff is to make it as safe as possible by reducing water levels. We can open the sluices at Top Pool to help relieve some of the pressure on Smite coming into the park and preventing the dam from bursting. While this helps to reduce the water levels further upstream there is limited scope for these adjustments due to the high levels of rainfall across the region.
The most effective way to reduce levels in areas of flooding ( like the causeway across the lake - aka the duck feeding area) is to remove blockages in the waterways. Staff work from the land with big rakes to remove everything that is clogging them up which includes branches, silt, leaves and, sadly, a lot of litter. This ensures as much water as possible stays in the watercourses and off the paths.
Business as usual for the education team
Smiling faces and muddy boots: Some of the Year 6 students from Mount Nod Primary School enjoyed a field trip in the park during the flooding.
Despite the wet weather 90 children from Mount Nod Primary School joined us yesterday for a their field trip which included river study and pond dipping with the education team. And what a river study! Students could see how the river works to channel water from the land and how awesome the power of nature is,dramatically changing the normal state of the rivers in the park. One example of the dynamic state of the park yesterday was a damp path they had trodded along in the morning had turned into a brand new (temporary!) water course.
Some of the pond dipping platforms were a bit flooded by the afternoon but we still managed to find a safe spot to search for underwater creatures. We are often asked what provisions we have for adverse weather conditions as we very rarely cancel education trips, unless extremely high winds or storms are forecast. If the students are dressed for the weather, supposed "adverse" weather conditions can work to our favour giving students an experience they won't forget.
Some of the flooded field study sites at the park including the pond dipping platforms
Obvious maintenance work, now that the levels are down, is repairing some of the paths that have been badly damaged by flood water. We must also look for potential hazards after a heavy rainfall and this is why keeping an eye on the forecast for heavy winds is important. With the water table ( the level below which the ground is saturated with water) being so high this makes it easy for a strong gust of wind to topple over a tree.
Water levels on the open grass areas of the park are also monitored as this affects whether we can open the overflow grass car parks for additional parking during the Easter holidays. It also affects vehicle access to the park which can mean we have to look at alternate routes for work vehicles ( like the tractors and quad bikes) and it can mean we have to make contingency plans for events scheduled to take place in the park.
If you are coming to the park, please bring your wellies and avoid the grass if you can - extra traffic on wet grass areas can really churn them up and cause damage.