Riverwatch - October
It all happened a long while ago near the small village of Pickering where an unassuming trickle of water comes out of the ground. Within a hundred yards or so the flow becomes a riverlet and then eventually forms the beginning of a much larger water course. Few people would have known about this water feature as it is in the middle of fields. One day the water level just rose and rose. The trickle was no more but instead there was gushing water. Soon the the whole meadow became water logged and not surprisingly the happening went unnoticed!
Eventually a farmer did realise that something was amiss but nothing was done and so the build up of water continued. This spring of water is the very source of our own river Wissey and, days or weeks later, the level of the whole river Wissey system got noticeably higher and higher. Only then was the alarm raised!
The River Board (now the Enviromental Agency) were involved and the field in question was soon busy with officals and machinery. Public interest became aroused and newspaper reporters appeared but were given no information. The general public were told to stay away and the village policeman instructed to stand on guard! Speculation and gossip became rife.
We assume the extreme flow could not be stopped and anyway to stop the water would mean an end to the river Wissey itself. Then one day a large surge swept down the entire river. At first it was just a series of waves but they increased in size as they progressed along. The waves had crests on the top just like those at the seaside before they crash onto the beach. The largest wave was supposedly over two feet high but it was night time when it travelled down the river so only a few people would have witnessed the happening. As it progressed along water washed over the banks but after its passing all became calm again and the normal water levels returned. The next day the only signs of anything untoward were the flattened weed beds and lots of mud.
Rumours were such that minor damage had been caused to the road bridges at Wissington and Hilgay. The River Board workmen with their diggers disappeared and nothing official was ever heard. There were no reports in the newspapers except for a single paragraph in a fishing paper back in the late 1950's reporting a mystery of no fish at all being caught in the river Wissey for two weeks before fishing then returned to normal.
Thus the matter has been left and ignored for the last 60 years or so!
Now this account has merely joined up pieces of disjointed recollections of long ago provided by a Northwold man who passed away a few years ago who loved relating the past. Lots of the information he obtained was always exaggerated as is often found from one pub bar to another. We also know that any story can anyway become innocently distorted and exaggerated but that the very essence is often true! Quite possibly the underground strata of rocks at the very beginning of our river was disturbed by an earth tremor or similar. It is all supposition but other local rivers do have infrequent surges and strange things do happen! It is now for you to decide if this story is true or false. If the subject merely prompts conversation and further speculation this column will have served its purpose well!
By Ivor Hook