Flat Earth? Flat St Werburghs!

I live in St Werbughs. If you live here too, or if you’ve ever visited, you’ll know that flatness is something of a state of mind. Trundling around on a bike is incredibly relaxed – no Nine Tree Hill or St Michaels Hill here!

It causes me to pause and consider how vulnerable we are as a community.

You will probably have seen the historical flood markers dotted around the place.
Photo courtesey of Bristol Culture

They mark the 1882 flood in which three inches of rain fell within 48 hours.

And as recently as 1958, there were ankle-deep floods here in St Werburghs.
Photo courtesey of Bristol Culture
These events and signposts are a reminder that before proper drainage came along, many many more communities were immediately vulnerable to the extremities and ravages of nature in Bristol.

Other than the right drainage – which thankfully we now have – how else can we build resilience into our communities?

The HighWaterLine art project is a visual way of reminding us of our vulnerability and of the imagination and creativity that is needed to combat the country’s biggest national security threat – climate change. All communities must talk about this and adapt to changed and changing circumstances.

Harnessing the power of water is one way we can build that resilience into our community’s life. The streams and gullies that run through Ashley Vale – from the Boiling Wells, to the Horfield Brook that runs through Mina Road Park – may have lost a bit of their kick, but it’s clear that hydro-electric power will be a key factor in building an economically sustainable energy system for the future.

And thinking slightly wider, we must all come to recognise the great natural resources we have in Bristol. Combining flood prevention with power generation in the City Docks, and in the Severn and Avon estuaries, is a huge possibility for us.

The UK has such vast natural renewable resources of wind, wave, water that are still largely untapped. We still need the long-sought renewables revolution to protect us from and bring us into closer contact with the planet that we are sustained by.

As we chalk and paint the line in the coming days, connecting communities across Bristol and getting to grips with each others’ views on climate change, let’s think of more ways to ensure that our beloved (and flat!) landscape is one that remains a relaxed environment, and not a torrent of problems.


Residents chalked the HighWaterLine in St Werbughs on 16th September 2014, and celebrated the watery history with local historians and artists. See: St Werburghs