Exciting times at Hedgecourt Lake
Owning our lake is a great asset and a huge advantage for Crawley Mariners, we don’t have to negotiate rental fees with a landlord, and we have the freedom to use Hedgecourt every day of the year if we wish. However, with this freedom, comes a great deal of responsibility.
The most significant is our duty to maintain the dam to ensure that lives and properties downstream from us are safe. A specialist supervising engineer, appointed by the Environment Agency, inspects the dam every year and we also have to inspect it each month, monitor the water level every week and keep accurate records.
Because of the heavy rain forecast in late December Geoff Manning had already opened the penstock valve fully a week or so earlier.
20 December last year was a very memorable day for us. You may remember we had had a great deal of heavy rainfall for some days, and monitoring the lake levels from the comfort of our living room, via the club webcam, we could see that the jetties were disappearing and the slipways were under far more water than is normal. Alarm bells were beginning to ring, so we decided to inspect the dam to be sure that it was intact.
Driving down Mill Lane we saw that there was water everywhere, and on reaching the spillway, opposite Mill Cottage, we could see a tremendous amount of water pouring over the spillway and the arches where the water goes under the road were completely covered. The view from the other side of the bridge where the stream flows past the garage of Mill Cottage was incredible.
Mr and Mrs Bryce Smith had been in touch with Tandridge District Council who arrived shortly after we did and laid sand bags around their house. Further along the road the water was beginning to flow over the lowest section. This section of road was lowered some years ago so that in the event of a situation just like this one, water could safely flow away without putting adjacent properties at risk of flood.
Mr and Mrs Bryce Smith’s garden was almost completely underwater and they said that in the forty plus years they had lived there they had never seen it so bad. We walked along the toe of the dam, that’s the part that is the other side of the road, as far as we could without the water going over the top of our wellies, and were happy that there was no sign of water coming through the dam. It was holding! After a warming cup of coffee with the Bryce Smiths we made our way up to the clubhouse end of the lake. There was a flood at the entrance to the road from the A264, due to the huge amount of water being unable to drain along the ditches and down stream fast enough. We managed to remove some rubbish that had been left by fly-tippers and some fallen branches in the ditch and this eased the flow down stream.
By the time we arrived at the clubhouse, the jetties were completely underwater, so we paddled along them and removed the goose lines before they could float away.
We are including some photographs that show the amounts of water in and around our lake that day. Fortunately the rain stopped soon after we left, and monitoring the situation, again from the comfort of our living room, we were relieved to see the jetties reappearing as the water level slowly dropped over the next few days. Geoff Manning continued to keep an eye on the levels throughout the Christmas period and was finally able to close the penstock valve in early January.
There is an Emergency Flood Plan that has to be implemented if the dam is in danger of giving way.
Fortunately because of the work undertaken by club members on Tuesdays and at other times, to replace concrete bags, maintain the top of the dam and monitor its condition, on this occasion we did not need to alert the Environment Agency of an imminent breach.
Global Warming eh!
- Caroline Fisher