The River Medway - Flood Protection
30th December 1997

Gallery of pictures of flooding taken around Yalding and Teston on 3rd January 1998.

The text on the rest of this page is lifted verbatim from Roger Penn's book 'Portrait of the River Medway' (ISBN 0 7091 9434 X written in 1981), the picture comes from Howard Biggs's book 'The River Medway (ISBN 0 86138 005 3) - and is credited to the Kent & Sussex Courier. I have uploaded this material SOLELY as reference for a student doing some research - this page will be deleted shortly.
The last 2.5 miles (4 kilometres) of the Medway into Tonbridge is undergoing an important operation, to wit the River Medway Flood Relief Scheme. The Medway and the Eden rivers have a long history of flooding, especially the upper Medway with its many tributaries, as we have seen, rushing down from Ashdown Forest and the High Weald. In July 1968 the former river authority, now called Southern Water, carried out a study to consider ways and means of reducing the flood menace in both valleys. This was an ominous portent, for in September there was a disastrous flood when 9 square miles (24 square kilometres) were under water, and a lesser flood followed in February 1974.

The worst part to suffer in these floods was the middle Medway flood plain from Tonbridge to Yalding, being low lying, fertile and intensively farmed. Out of much discussion, not always in agreement, it was decided to construct a scheme that will be the largest on-river flood storage in Britain and unique in design.

The idea is to throttle back flood water in the channel behind a barrier, and to release it under control, so that the river level downstream will never rise above "bank-full" condition, and thus prevent dangerous flooding. This is achieved by having within the barrier a control sluice with three radial gates which will operate automatically according to the actual conditions.

The barrier is a 1,300-metre-long and 5.7-metre-high embankment with a core of clay supported by gravel shoulders. Schemes of this nature are rarely built without difficulty, and the problem here has been that the embankment crosses or interferes with many other river features such as the Powder Mill Cut, the river itself, the railway embankment, the Tonbridge by-pass bridge, a gravel plant, Hayesden lagoon, and finally two silt lagoons (old gravel workings). The six-arch railway bridge, for example, has had to have its foundations protected by gabions. These are wire baskets filled with stone - familiar objects throughout Europe along fast-flowing rivers that tend to flood. Here the gabions have been filled with Kentish rag and put along the arches. Leigh village has been protected by a new pumping station, and the grand result of all these works will be that in a flood of the 1968 type, or once in a hundred years, the Medway valley from Penshurst to here would become a vast temporary lake for about three days.

Environmental problems delayed the scheme for about a year, and sadly some of the present river landscape will disappear. The new river channel will mean the end of the old sluice and weir pool that was such a favourite spot for anglers and the head of "navigation" for canoes. I have walked all round the area and talked to the engineers involved, and on balance I think they have done their best in a part of the valley that had great interest to naturalists; and always in the background there is the pressure of the urban fringe, for we are fast approaching our first Medway town-Tonbridge.

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