AN ANGRY RIVER BEANE

Watton at Stone - The Flood of 1968

By Terry Askew

The floodwaters pasing through the remains of the mill
Anon.
Looking across Mill Lane - then a through road to Aston
Anon.
Showing debris carried by the Beane
Anon.
Close to the War Memorial
Anon.
The bridge parapet just showing at the height of the flood
Anon.
Shjowing the extensive damage to the bridge and roadway, after the flood has subsided
Anon.
The centre of the mill, after the flood
Anon.
The 'scout hut' building, showing damage
Anon.
Tractor being used to demolish a wall by a sluice to increase discharge of water.
Anon.
Rivershill
Anon.
Rivershill
Anon.
The flooded road
Anon.
The War Memorial - in its earlier location
Anon.
Brick boundary of the road, broken by the flood water
Anon.

Having lived in the Village since the early 1990’s I have been well aware that the River Beane is now just a shadow of the chalk stream which it once was. Reading accounts that the Beane once supported trout fishing, and listening to a resident who claimed to have been able to canoe from Walkern to Hertford during his boyhood, I found it rather sad, a year or so ago, to join a band of concerned residents in their demonstration walk for a mile along the dried up river-bed in Aston. 

The River Beane has its source south west of Sandon and joins the River Lea at Hartham Common. Its misfortune is that water for Stevenage has been greedily abstracted below ground near Aston over the years, resulting in only seasonal flow to there from Walkern. Fortunately, further down-river, some water enters and allows Watton at Stone to have a modest semblance of the river which once provided power for a mill in the centre of the village. 

Very occasionally, heavy and sustained rainfall in the locality will increase the flow and the sound of gushing under the two bridges and over the artificial cills can be heard.

September 1968, however, was a very different story, when the effects of a heavy head of water were magnified many times by a chicken shed being carried downstream and wedged against the bridge at the mill. Over the years I have heard accounts of the flood and the resultant damage, but only very recently some forgotten photographs have been copied to me, which I reproduce here.

In one of them, the image of the flood water surging through where the centre of the watermill had previously existed is strangly reminiscent of the Moehne Dam after the ‘Dambusters’ raid.

The latest information seems to be that abstraction of water at Aston is to be gradually reduced over a period which should do much to restore this natural amenity for the locality. Who knows, in time the odd fish may be caught again in the Beane – be it trout or stickleback ?

 

 

This page was added on 26/11/2013.

Comments about this page

  • i live on the River Beane in Watton at Stone. This morning all the trees opposite my back garden have been sawn down. No thought for birds that nest in those trees every year, so many. Or The fish that like to pool under the shade of those trees. The Moorehens that make nests under the camouflage of the trees. Just all of these gone. What for so walkers can see the river. ┬áI have taken photos but unable to add them here.

    By Maureen Mellish (30/03/2015)
  • Hi, I lived at 16 Rivershill, shown in the 5th from last image, to the left of the house with ladder against it, having been the first occupiers from 1967 to 1974. I was 6 at the time! Only the back garden was flooded at 8:30am but when the then headmaster of the primary school (Mr Smith) sent us home early at 2pm ish the water was lapping at the steps of houses on the other side of the road. nearly everyone affected by the flooding moved over the road into ┬áneighbours’ home for a couple of days. I have press clippings with photos taken from the same vantage point as the mentioned image with my father pushing a rowing boat with 2 boys and my 4 year old sister when the water level was at its highest. I only discovered the clippings in 2005! there are a few other stories I remember that day involving rabbits, a tool box, neighbours breaking into number 12 to rescue a BBC producers furniture as he was away…… and the great dam busters raid on “the wall” with a truck.

    Good to see the other images. I only saw the flooding from my end of the village and didn’t know about the structural damage up river.

    Regards

    Eian Nelson

    By Eian Nelson (31/07/2014)

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