When Truth is Flooded by Imagination:
writer Sarah Hymas on the walk ‘Colne Rising’
With this winter’s flooding, you might be wary of a walk that tells a story of a seismic tidal surge rolling 75 miles inland to burst the River Colne’s banks. On the other hand, with the increasing evidence of the effects of climate change, you might appreciate the space to hear and imagine how rising sea levels and warming temperatures may affect a seemingly ‘safe’ area in the West Pennines.
Marsden has already flooded. In 1810, the ‘Black Flood’ came down Butterley Clough breaking the reservoir’s banks, another in 1868 and in 1895, again in 1946. All these were caused by water from the hills. I live on the west coast and regularly see the devastating power of a high tide hammered higher and harder by strong onshore winds. Many of us who live near the sea, rivers, or in areas of high rainfall, know all too well how quickly water changes from something benign, restful, beautiful even, to being insidious, overwhelming and calamitous. It is an extraordinary quality to be both fluid and solid. I think it’s water’s indeterminate nature I find so fascinating, that compels me to write about it, again and again.
Last year the Met Office and Met Éireann decided to name storms – http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/uk-storm-centre – to aid the communication of them, raising awareness of severe weather before it strikes. I didn’t name the storm that causes the seismic surge in Colne Rising, but I did discuss tidal modelling and early warning systems with the National Oceanography Centre. I wanted, for all its rather fanciful potential, the story to have authenticity.
I also wanted to incorporate the village’s history, to root the story in the valley, exploring key characters and the industrial backdrop of Marsden to thread connections with past and future, to play with the scenario becoming a possibility rather than a bonkers flight of fancy. You can hear the story by downloading it to your device and taking the two-hour walk yourself
The walk follows a circular route from Marsden Park, up Holme Moor, along Deer Hill Conduit, to Binn Moor, past Butterley Reservoir, down to Bank Bottom Mill, ending back at Marsden, West Yorkshire. It begins and ends just 10 minutes from Marsden train station.