Floods Damage and Flood Protection on Exmoor

I took a trip to my beloved Exmoor at the weekend to check out one of my favourite spots – Tarr Steps. Nearly a week ago, Storm Angus brought some serious rain (and snow) to the moor, and the resulting floods  managed to wash away part of this ancient clapper bridge.

The 50m (164ft) Grade I-listed bridge over the River Barle attracts thousands of visitors every year, and was no longer under water when I visited. However, the damage was clear to see, with giant slabs  from the bridge dislodged by the storm and shifted a good distance downstream. Some of them weighing up to two tons!


A short distance upstream, a stretch-cable flotsam barrier was clogged with broken trunks and branches, showing how much material the river was transporting when the flood was raging:


Only four years ago, £10,000 was spent to repair Tarr Steps following damage from another serious burst of flood water. In fact, the National Park Authority seems now resigned to the fact that”exceptional rainfall” could cause slabs to wash away “every few years”.

Somerset County Council intends to put the bridge back exactly as it was, but will wait for a few months until threats from further floods have diminished.

Meanwhile, in another part of Exmoor, natural flood defences, like allowing trees to fall into rivers, have helped protect buildings from Storm Angus. Success of such natural measures, like those evident near the village of  Bossington, coincided with revelation that such schemes receive no current government funding – despite ministers repeatedly backing the idea.

Holnicote Estate in Exmoor, Somerset, has several natural flood defences, which helped protect the village of Bossington.
Holnicote Estate in Exmoor, Somerset, has several natural flood defences, which helped protect the village of Bossington. Photograph: Nigel Hester/National Trust
Artificial pool part of floods defences at National Trust Holnicote Estate, Exmoor, Somerset.
Artificial pool, which is part of the floods defences at National Trust Holnicote Estate, Exmoor, Somerset. Photograph: Nigel Hester/National Trust






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BBC Earth App

If you have been enjoying the recent BBC ‘Planet Earth’ series – you need to check out the new app:


It was originally put together to celebrate presenter David Attenborough’s 90th birthday, and offers over a thousand clips – all for free – including footage from series including Zoo Quest, Planet Earth and Frozen Planet.

“Knowing and understanding the natural world is one of the greatest gifts that humans can possess, if we lose our connection with nature then we lose ourselves,” said Attenborough.

Sir David Attenborough with an iguana from Living With Dinosaurs.
Sir David Attenborough with an iguana from Living With Dinosaurs. Photograph: Simon Smith/Simon Smith/BBC
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Otto Is Here – Who Will Be Next?


Hurricane Otto has started to cause concern for a number of countries in the Caribbean and Central America. At least four people have already died in Panama in severe weather caused by the approach of the storm, which at present seems to be heading for  northern Costa Rica and southern Nicaragua.

The list below shows the names that will be used for future tropical storms in this region. I wonder what Hurricane Gert will bring in 2017?


When a hurricane arrives, instead of the Saffir Simpson scale, you may want to use this alternative to describe the event:



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Floating Topicality – Reacting To Geography In The News

One thing I really miss since retiring is last-minute planning of lessons in response to ‘geography in the news’ events – the principle of ‘floating topicality’, a term I first heard used by  Jeff Stansfield, former geography advisor for Hampshire.

CxyDIQXWIAA7r8a.jpgThe arrival over the weekend of Storm Angus had some serious impacts on the whole of the south west region, and had some direct consequences for my home town, when a mobile home site  (housing mainly elderly people) had to be evacuated due to flood risk from the river Mole.

What better stimulus for a single topical lesson or perhaps even a series of lessons on flooding and possible consequences?

My first port of call would have been the excellent ‘gaugemap’ web site, to check out some of the monitoring stations on our town river:


There is actually data available from a station right next to the mobile home park, and it revealed a really clear visual indication of the issue with this stunning graph:


Not a bad starter for a lesson – or perhaps a local news headline would get the ball rolling:


Or maybe some You Tube footage? I came across this drone footage on the Plymouth Herald web site:



Development  work could include any of the following:

  • ‘Skills’ exercises, based on hydrographs showing river discharge during the recent storm
  • Writing flood warning bulletins for newspaper, web sites, radio, and TV:

This example came from the ‘riverlevels’ web site:



And this one from the ‘environment agency’ web site:



  • ‘Green screen’ weather forecast reports, including flood warnings and advice
  • Map skills work looking at the river Mole – where does all the floodwater go?
  • Image analysis (who, what, why, where, when, how) of recent local floods

cxyx7hmwqaajylyThis photo of the riverside walk in our nearest city Exeter was taken by news reporter Simon Hall:



  • Role plays of conversations between different stakeholders (presented using comic style apps)
  • Collaborative writing of flood prevention plans, evacuation plans etc
  • Link to international flooding case studies
  • Link to climate change topics

That’s just a few minutes of planning thoughts – the list of possibilities is endless!

By keeping a watch on local (and national and international) news, it is possible to react quickly in the classroom, and focus on something that is particularly relevant for students. Teachers can keep one step ahead by gathering some ‘stock’ resources and a rough template of activities for events that are likely to arise at some stage in the year – earthquake, volcanic eruption, major flood, tropical storm, wild fire, local planning issue, and so on. Teachers should never be afraid to break off from their planned curriculum to attend to such topical issues – and prove that geography really is a living subject, with direct relevance to us all.

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Storm Angus Is First – Who Is Next?


Our first named winter storm – Storm Angus – passed through last night.

Here are the agreed names for future storms in 2016/2017 – let’s hope we don’t get too far down the list!


However, we did endure 11 named storms last year!

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Poem For The Classroom

I recently came across this delightful poem on Twitter (source: @thebradmontague).

Could it have a use in geography lessons on immigration? Perhaps it would be a good way to introduce a discussion on values, tolerance etc

Let me know if you have any ideas …..

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New Zealand Earthquake Poster For The Classroom

screenhunter_02-nov-18-11-50Further to my last blog entry, if you are teaching about the recent New Zealand earthquake –  you may want to take a look at this excellent poster  produced by the US Geological Service:


It is available as a PDF file, which you can download from the USGS web site:



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