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November 27, 2006

Seasonal tides ....

The long dry summer is obviously at an end. The last several days have seen rain, rain and more rain, heavy "bursts" as the weather office describes them, interspersed with just rain! Tonight will see some more apparently as the next front moves over our island home. This afternoon I walked out during a brief period of beautiful sunshine - at least it was over Tewkesbury, about five miles to the South East it was pouring - to take a series of pictures of the Abbey with the Swilgate sream in flood. The Swilgate is a tributary of the Severne, flowing into it near Lower Lode, although, since around 1350 it has been linked to the Mill Avon just West of the Abbey itself.

The flooded Vineyards park on the South side of the Abbey, normally the Swilgate is a lazy little trickle through the park. To the left in the picture is the Georgian frontage of the Abbots House, the interiors and North side still very much the 14th and 15th Century structure.

The Abbey stands on a raised area between the confluence of the Mill Avon (a manmade river from the Old Avon at the King John's Bridge end of town) and the Swilgate. In the days of the Abbey's functioning as a monastic community, the Swilgate provided water for the Fish Ponds and the Lavatorium via a man made diversion which brought water into the Abbey buildings (now demolished) so that the Lavatorium always had running clean water. Another diversion, upstream of the Lavatorium, diverted water into the Fish Ponds where fish were farmed for the Monk's table. Various indications of these features are still traceable, but almost everything recogniseable is now gone. The Mill Avon was cut in the 14th Century to provide water for the Abbey's Mill, recently converted into a number of flats. The barns and stables for the Mill are now all houses at the rear of the Bell Hotel, which was another piece of Abbey property, built to house visitors and pilgrims. When you look at the cut and the embankment the cutting created you are forced to marvel at the effort that must have been expended by simple muscle power.

The picture was taken from the lower edge of the mound on which there once stood the Holme Castle, a Saxon fortress built for the Earl's of Gloucster and in use, despite several fires and rebuildings until sometime in the 15th Century, after which it was "slighted" and then, probably because it was largely a timber structure with a stone curtain wall, it was quarried and destroyed. Only the mound remains.

It is good to see our tide returning, last year we had none, so this year seems to have started early. Of interest to those with a geographic bent - the Severn drains the North Wales hills and mountains and heavy rain there sends the water down the river. The rising Severn causes the Avon and the Swilgate to back up and so Tewkesbury gets a flood across our flood plains and low lying areas even if we have not had a lot of rain. This time round, as I have said, we have had the rain too, so the tide is a little higher. Just as well it is not a full moon as well, because then the High Spring Tide in the estuary, causes the flood level to rise and fall with the tide range in the lower estuary.

Its fun living next to two major rivers!

Posted by The Gray Monk at November 27, 2006 06:13 PM

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