See the 1960's floods for more Exwick flood photos.
Exwick was prone to flooding and for many years suffered - water gathered on Exmoor and came down the Exe and Yeo rivers. I was told it took several hours, as many as eight, for the water to reach Exwick. You knew it was getting serious when both rivers met somewhere near Cowley. I Remember PC Dunne would go around the village, waking everyone telling them to get their furniture upstairs and how long they had to do it. His only method of communication was the Police box at the end of the Villas. The floodwater would burst through the banks near the park in station road. At the same time water would flow up Exwick villas and into the fields near the bus terminus. You knew it was serious when the water started to seep into the area under the floorboards of the houses along the Villas. I remember our house had about a 3-4 ft drop under the floorboards.
Obviously the most serious flooding was in the early 60's. 1960 was the worst - I was 13 at the time. I remember looking out of the bedroom window into the back gardens and seeing lumps of coke and logs from peoples coal bunkers floating around. Many people had their bunkers in the back gardens. Oddly enough, I never remembered Hill, Palmer and Edwards getting flooded. Maybe it was because it was on a higher level. There were times when the water would hang about for hours. Locals would keep furniture up on blocks or upstairs, playing safe even though water was subsiding there was always the threat of further flooding due to the rains on Exmoor. On one occasion, after a bad flood, residents were offered the use of drying machines to help dry the houses out. It turned out they were aircraft hanger heaters, powerful, blown air type. They dried things out ok, bit too quick though, it caused the doors to warp and plaster to drop off walls. Still, it was the thought that counted.
I remember my father going missing one night when the floods were up; he returned some hours later, much to the disgust of my mother. It turned out that he and some friends went to the Lamb pub to help move beer barrels and bottles to a higher level - well they had to test the stock, didn't they!
Then there was the time, I think during the bad 1960 flood that the wooden cricket pavilion sited in the field nearest Hill, Palmer and Edward was washed away by the torrent of water. The pavilion was never found, but some equipment was located on the mudflats at Lympstone. The only way we knew it was from Exwick was by the name Exwick CC inside some cricket pads.
As time progressed, residents were seeking a cure to stop the flooding. My Grandfather Charlie Ewings was the councillor for Exwick at the time. He spent some time with the council to seek a solution. The first attempt was a failure - from the start of the fields by the bus terminus in Exwick Road a bank was built from boulders and earth. It ran along the houses, around the back of Mildmay Close, along the edge of the allotments as far as Beech Bros (Beach Bros. editor). It was not a very solid construction because when the next flood came, some was washed away, including the boulders. The next bank was of more solid construction and lasted for years. My Grandfather used to talk about a bold plan to 'change the course of the river'. I did see some plans he had back in the mid 60's and understood it to be the first draft of what is there today. Alas, he never saw the final result as he died in 1968, a few days after I got married.
It was not only the flooded rivers that caused problems. There was once a stream which ran from the valley opposite the bus terminal. Near the gate was a culvert which used to get blocked and overflow into the Villas and shops. More than once, local residents including myself and father would clear the debris away to allow water to flow. Its course was under and across the road, re-entering by the public toilets behind the bus shelter. Then alongside the field and into the leat at the end of a path which ran behind the bakery.
These are just a few of my childhood memories of my years at Exwick. I loved the place and in many ways still have a soft spot for it. I visit quite often and from time to time walk the old 'stomping ground'. BUT.... when I look around and see the changes over the years, I can't see me returning to live there. I left Exwick in 1973 and moved onto pastures new. But that's another story with different memories..
© 2006 Mike Ewing/David Cornforth
Floodwaters lap Exwick Stores. The view up Exwick Road from Exwick Stores. The floodwaters flow past Buller Cottages. Boating down Station Road. Washing still hangs in the back gardens facing Exwick playing fields during flooding.
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