Through Cox’s Meadow
past ancient mills, farms and fairs,
The River Chelt flowed.
Many years ago, when my children were young, I decided to follow the River Chelt from its source near Dowdeswell to its mouth at the River Severn near Wainlodes. I took my long suffering children with me on what I considered to be a great adventure ~ and very educational! They had differing opinions, but as it was a good summer and they were too young to argue, they came along anyway.
The history of places has always fascinated me; how things came to be the way they are; and how they were before. The changes just in my lifetime are breathtaking, but the further back you go the more interesting it gets. Features like buildings, placenames and rivers are great starting points for research I find.
Now the River Chelt is only small but it has always been very unpredictable. There are so many springs up in the Cotswolds that after a heavy rainfall there can be flash flooding without any warning. The river used to run from the high ground down through the meadow named after the farmer, Mr Cox, then straight down the High Street in Cheltenham. People had to use stepping stones to cross. That all changed when the mill owner, a Mr Barrett, diverted the river in order to power his corn mill in the centre of town. The course of the river has been tweaked several times over the years and various culverts have been put in, but it still floods occasionally. The worst floods I can remember were in 2007. On July 20th the heavens opened and the rivers burst their banks all over Gloucestershire. The power station was affected and the water supply was cut off. For weeks we had bottled water delivered to central depots where residents went to collect it. Homes, pubs, abbeys, churches and schools were flooded; and traffic on some roads was restricted to boats!
Some years before that the local council in their wisdom did major work on Cox’s meadow. The meadow had been a wonderful community facility and a natural floodplain for centuries. Annual fairs were held there and community games, charity events and circuses. But it was transformed into a barren wasteland and designated a “balancing pond” or “overflow reservoir”. There is nothing in it now apart from a path which the dog walkers enjoy, and a scultpture over the drain cover. And, sadly when the floods came, it was worse than useless. Whereas previously the river overflowed freely into the meadow, now it was channelled along a route behind houses resulting in those houses being flooded!
Goodness, these Haiku prompts really do stir up the memories ~ all that from the word ‘meadow’!