We are lucky that we live in an area with a 3,000 square mile catchment area so we have never yet experienced the drought conditions that so regularly affect the south of England. The water in the South Tyne takes five hours to travel from Alston to Newcastle, which is not a great deal of time to prepare for flood conditions, and the North Tyne is now partly controlled by the Keilder dam. The usual thing is overnight rain, then a swift rise in water levels that lasts for perhaps half a day and then subsides. But the December 2015 floods were something else again - sixteen feet of flood water smashed into the bridge and knocked the hell out of the scaffolding that was still in place.
The Victorian bridge between Ovingham and Prudhoe was built in 1883. It is one carriage width wide and causes traffic queues even when it is open. With eighteen months of work completed, plus eighteen months of frustration and lost business for the residents on either side of the river, everyone breathed a sigh of relief as the bridge opened on 3rd December.
When Storm Desmond hit, it was surprising that the bridge was still there when the water subsided days later. Then came the checks for damage/safety. At the peak of past floods, traffic has been forbidden, but when the waters recede the bridge has been ready for business again. This time the workmen had the dismal job of removing the scaffolding boards around the struts plus all the accumulated rubbish that comes with a flood - twigs, branches, tree trunks, doors, plastic buckets, tents, tables, picnic chairs, feed bags, and a dead sheep or two. Then they found the flood water had scoured the river bottom around the foundations. The bridge has been closed ever since - two years and three months.