We’ve had two weekends of storms, Ciara and Dennis, with serious flooding in parts. The River Ribble hit the headlines with yet more flooding of Ribchester. I didn’t venture out last weekend when local roads were impassible but today things had settled a little and Storm Dennis was petering out. I always regret not going down to the river whilst it is in flood, the usual excuse is bad weather.

Not today. I parked up at Marles Wood, there were some dodgy looking cars and individuals around so I photographed their plates for evidence later if my car had been trashed. Putting that aside I strolled off down the path to the Ribble where it cuts through a sandstone ridge and into an open stretch of water. This is the Sales Wheel. There seems to be a fault line in the rocks as the water flows through into an enormous whirlpool and then a right-angled bend to the river. Today the force of the flow took the turbulent waters off down the valley with little regard to the pool. Last week the flow would have taken the river onto the fields at the bend.

I was satisfied with what I saw and set off upriver. There was evidence of the height of the water last week when most of today’s path would have been impassable. Dog walkers, a common sight on this stretch, were keeping their pets on a close lead – any splashing about in the river would lead to tragedy.

As you approach the Dinkley footbridge there is normally a bit of a shingle beach and shallows in the river – not today, the mighty Ribble just flowed past.

Compare with a summer’s day…

The new bridge is substantial but I wonder about the stability of the abutments on this side of the river, there already seems to have been some damage and undermining of them as the flow of the river curves into the bank..

Across the bridge, I picked up the Ribble Way markers for the stretch back to Ribchester Bridge. The way leaves the river through fields, today very boggy, and up to an elevated area where there are superb views back up the Ribble Valley to Pendle Hill and Dinkley.

I took an illicit detour into the woods to view the Sales Wheel from this side and the river was equally exciting. Where the rocks dip erosion shows the bands of gritstone alternating with mudstones. Both were laid down in a massive delta, the grits when the water was moving fast and deep and the mudstones when slow and shallow. Here the strata have been faulted to almost vertical.

The way onwards through the woods , normally a pleasant path,  was difficult because of all the debris from the floods. The couple I met coming the other way were from Merseyside having a couple of days in Hurst Green, The Shireburn Arms, exploring this part of the Ribble Valley – tomorrow The Tolkien Trail.

The Ribble rolled on……to Ribchester Bridge.

I took the lane back on the south side of the river. The day had stayed fine, the wind only increasing towards the end of the afternoon, the last of Dennis.

Seeing the power of a river close up and imagining it a few metres higher one has to have every sympathy with those whose houses have been inudated these last two storms. Unfortunately it appears that these floods will become the norm, whether from climate change or our mismanagement of our immediate environment. I look out at fields opposite me which are completely saturated, they are due for housing development so where will the water go then? I think I know, better order some sandbags.



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