This winter has been much wetter than normal; frequent and sometimes heavy rain has filled local streams and the River Churn to unusually high levels for an extended period. The photo shows the water flowing past Cirencester’s outdoor swimming pool on 29th October. The pipe crossing the stream is normally well above the water level, and although no longer covered now, the gap between pipe and water remains unusually small. The water meadows along the course of the Churn have been partially flooded for three months now.
Of course, some winters are wetter than others and that has always been the case. 2019/2020 has not been exceptional in the long-term record, and it’s been good to see water levels consistently high for an extended period when we’ve so often witnessed the Daglingworth Stream completely dry between Stratton and Cirencester in summertime. Will this happen in 2020? We’ll have to wait and see.
Our local watercourses are always fascinating, ever changing, and with some interesting wildlife. If you haven’t done so recently, pick a dry, sunny day and treat yourself to a stroll along the Churn and its associated streams. OpenStreetMap marks most of the smaller paths and shows the water courses clearly, all an easy walk from the Market Place.
The humble sluice gate doesn’t get a lot of attention – unless things go badly wrong. All managed water courses have sluice gates to control the flow, and the Gumstool Brook and its associated channels are no exception.
There is good news this winter. The sluice feeding Barton Mill Pound from the River Churn is open and water is flowing well along the Riverside Walk; excessive levels are prevented by the recently constructed overflow into the water meadow north of Riverside Walk. The Mill Pound and the channel past the outdoor swimming pool are now full, and consistent enough in level that they’re frequented by water voles and a kingfisher. What a delight it is to spot either of these wonderful creatures. Look out for moving, rustling leaves on the bank at dusk (water vole), or a flash of blue during the day (kingfisher).
There’s an important sluice gate from the stream past the swimming pool into the Gumstool Brook between the horse paddock and the back gardens of The Mead, and this remains closed. So despite wet weather and high water levels, the Gumstool Brook is lower than it would be if the sluice was open, and properties in and around the brook are protected from flooding. (Note: the Friends of the Gumstool Brook have no control over these sluice gates; they are managed by various authorities.)