Britain is being battered by storms, most of Somerset is underwater, and house flooding has caused devastation for thousands across the south-west of England. So who should we turn to in this apocalyptic hour of need?
The humble beaver is the best solution to house flooding, according to some!
It appears that the UK Mammal Society – who knew such a body existed? – has advised the Government that the best way to control our overflowing rivers is to re-introduce beavers to the countryside. Eradicated by hunters seeking precious fur, and landowners wanting to preserve their trees, most beavers disappeared from Britain back in the 16th century.
But now they could be making a comeback.
The idea is that beavers would use their river engineering skills to build natural dams. Not only would these constructions manage river flow and store water, they would reduce erosion and lead to fewer flash floods – the very phenomena that have been inundating our houses and shops.
It’s certainly a wild idea, but is it so outlandish? After all, the humans in charge of flood prevention haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory of late. The Government’s own figures show that spending on flood protection fell from £670 million in 2010/11 to £573 million in 2011/12 – with barely an increase in the following two years. Haven’t they heard of climate change? Don’t they remember the catastrophic floods that hit the country as recently as 2007?
I certainly do. My house was one of those flooded when the River Coln bursts its banks, deluging the already sodden fields nearby. One morning, my wife rang me at work to say that there were tiny fish swimming around in our sitting room – and could I come home as soon as possible!
At the time, we had no idea of the consequences. We thought that, once the water had receded, we might have a soggy carpet and sofa to throw out, but we’d get back to normal life fairly quickly. We couldn’t have been more wrong.
The fact is that water-damaged houses take forever to dry out, even with noisy, industrial-sized dehumidifiers blasting away in every room. And so for nine months we had to rent another property until our home was fit for habitation again. Nine, long, stressful months of trying to squeeze the money for repairs out of our insurance company… but that’s another story.
So what of our ancient friends, the beavers? Well, I must say that the experience of being flooded, together with the scenes of devastation that we’re currently witnessing on the news, leave me highly sympathetic to their return.
And don’t forget, when flood prevention is such a tough and costly job, these buck-toothed creatures will happily do it for free.