Flooding to drought – a topsy turvy world!

Main image: Flooding in the fields around Old Bucks Weir, on the River Wey Navigation and the River Wey, near Bowers Lock and Burpham Court Farm (Photo by Jim Allen).

Wildfires at the Riverside Nature Reserve, Burpham in 2022 (Photo by Jim Allen).

Moira MacQuaide’s history of Burpham

Burpham was probably chosen as a suitable place to settle over two thousand years ago due to its proximity to water – the River Wey. Since then, we have seen changes in the climate and the way we use resources, that have affected water levels across the country.

At the time of writing this, there are reports in the media of proposed hosepipe bans in Southern England and there have been wildfires on common ground due to the recent very hot weather. [Note from Editor: Moira originally wrote this article for the previous issue of the magazine but this was switched with the article for our 100th issue.] July was recorded as the driest since 1911. Will 2022 be remembered in the same way as the ‘heatwave of 1976’? Do you remember queueing to use standpipes in the street that summer? We need the ‘right sort of rain’ in order to refill aquifers and reservoirs.

However, with the ground so dry and hard, any rain is likely to run off as surface water, with the risk of flash flooding. Old maps show that areas of Burpham were deemed to be ‘Liable to Flooding’, especially south of Burpham Court Farm and along Clay Lane. In 2013 there was significant flooding over the fields and roads, when Burpham was recognised by Guildford Borough Council as a flooding hotspot. More recently, in 2020 Surrey was battered by Storm Dennis. Another area prone to flooding is the stream that runs down the back of gardens in Great Oaks Park, now named Merrow Common Stream. This runs between culverts at London Road and Gosden Hill Road. According to the riverlevels.uk website, the water in the stream has been at a steady level this year, but
it reached its highest level on Christmas Eve 2013.

Old maps show that areas of Burpham were deemed to be ‘Liable to Flooding’

The ford between Dairyman’s Walk and Ladygrove Drive can fill quickly, taking drivers by surprise (Photo by M Bass).

The ford between Dairyman’s Walk and Ladygrove Drive can fill quickly, taking drivers by surprise – sometimes leading to them being swept away by the water. The cul-de-sac of Burpham Lane, in front of Burpham Primary School, used to flood regularly, due to blocked drains. Luckily that problem was resolved by making a hole in the acoustic fence to allow water to drain away! Sewers often cannot cope with heavy rainfall, and blocked drains need to be cleared. Riverside Nature Reserve has a man-made lake and ditches, as well as the towpath, both of which need maintenance in order to prevent problems.

High water levels at Bowers Lock, Burpham seen in 2021 (Photo by Jim Allen).

What will the coming months bring us?

What is the Flood Forum?

The Flood Forum had its origin in a Surface Water Management report commissioned by Guildford Borough Council around 2012 which revealed Burpham as a flooding hotspot – proved very omniscient by the floods of 2013/2014. The Burpham Community Association (BCA) formed a sub committee, the Flood Action Group, which initially became part of the Worplesdon Flood Forum. However, it soon became clear that Burpham had enough issues to form its own Flood Forum. This brings together all the relevant agencies – SCC, GBC, Thames Water, the Environment Agency and the National Trust and meets annually. Our MP, Angela Richardson chairs the Forum meetings. Members of the Flood Action Group have prepared an Action Plan which gives details of all the main concerns, who is responsible, what action is needed and when it is completed. They meet several times a year to update the Action Plan.

The Flood Risk Map can be viewed at https://burphamca.weebly.com/flood-forum.html and gives an overview of the issues.


Merrow Common Stream at Burpham

Current River Level: 0.885m, rising Within the usual range for this location

Current level recorded at 11:00am, Thursday 20th October BST
(10:00am, Thursday 20th October GMT)

Change from previous measurement: 0.001m
(recorded at 3:00am, Thursday 20th October BST)

The usual range of the Merrow Common Stream at Burpham is between 0.84m and 1.06m. It has been between these levels for 90% of the time since monitoring began.

The typical recent level of the Merrow Common Stream at Burpham over the past 12 months has been between 0.79m and 0.93m. It has been between these levels for at least 150 days in the past year.

The highest level ever recorded at the Merrow Common Stream at Burpham is 2.09m, reached on Tuesday 24th December 2013 at 10:45pm.

Note that this data may not take account of recent measurements, as we wait until a level has been verified by the Environment Agency before adding it to our records.

If you are willing to share your memories and/or photos to tell us more about Burpham then please contact Moira MacQuaide, either by e-mail (moira.macquaide@gmail.com) or by phone or text (07963 756543). My book, Burpham – A Gateway to Guildford is still available from me for £10 (free delivery locally) or on Amazon, but the History of Burpham Primary School 1908-2014 is now out of print (available to borrow at Guildford Library).