Portchester — the seaweed says it all.
The tell-tale signs of future flooding.
This week we have neap tides — which is fortunate with strong winds gusting straight into the harbour. Clumps of seaweed washed ashore at high tide just after the last full moon are still evident along the coast path — but, back then, the wind was not so directly onshore.
All seemed calm as I approached Hospital Lane, shielded by houses and trees. The contrast at the seaward end could not have been greater and having run out of road I was not for heading back. There is something fearsome in the full fury of wind against tide — luckily just sufficiently far away to not shower my progress, but still with more than enough force to test my walking stability. That stiff breeze also afforded a chance to check the latest clever health sensor on my new phone — though I suspect nobody really needs digital proof of walking unsteadiness when they are blown off the sea wall.
It was, however, a relief to reach the relative shelter of the park near Kendrick Drive and be glad that I’d worn my offshore jacket. The walk home, with the wind behind, was probably faster than normal with far less effort. Our travels are rarely affected by wind conditions and, for the most part, we are generally immune from flying debris. Years of sailing offshore, taking care to secure the gear, also teaches that conditions can change quite quickly. Onshore we can still be surprised. Rivers draining distant rains can easily flood when high tides block their outflow — but uncertain time delays in our river systems suggest that more of us will find it increasingly practical, less nerdish, to keep a copy of the tide tables to hand.
My son lives on relatively high ground near Rotherhithe, just downstream from Tower Bridge. He marvels at the foresight of infrastructure planners who, nearly three decades ago, pushed for the construction of the Thames Barrier. He now worries that, at the current rate of rising sea levels, this engineering marvel will soon no longer be effective. Nobody, as far as I know, is planning a similar sea defence for Portsmouth and perhaps we should be grateful that the harbour is not similarly backfilled by a major river (though, of course, the residents of Wallington may not be so complacent) and our community is usually sheltered in the lee of the Isle of Wight. These small geographic mercies may well be our saving grace — leastways for now.
The seaweed on our coast path should, however, remind us that we’ll have no greater success than King Cnut in denying the forces of nature. The stranded weed after increasingly high tides should spur us all into immediate climate action.
This article is part of a series ‘Portchester — the place I call home’ and first published as Bruno’s Blog by local Councillor Gerry Kelly.