40 years since the Great Gorge Flood

12:01 10 July 2008

TODAY (Thurs) marks 40 years since the Cheddar Gorge Flood of 1968.

TODAY (Thurs) marks 40 years since the Cheddar Gorge Flood of 1968.

To mark the occasion, the Somerset Mercury managed to speak to one of the survivors about his experience. He recalled the heavy rains that turned the gorge into a river of destruction.

Richard O'Connor was working in the Cave Man snack bar in the gorge during the summer of 1968.

On the morning of the flood he remembers it was a hot and humid day and at about midday it started to rain.

He said: "It was the heaviest rain I have ever seen and within minutes the pavements were overflowing and the road had become a minor river. As the afternoon progressed the water on the road became deeper and stones started to wash down."

The Cave Man faced up the gorge and staff became concerned about rocks bashing the door in.

Richard, who now lives in Ireland, said: "My friend Peter and I decided to place an old door outside to buffer the rocks but, in the attempt, Peter was washed away by a wave. He managed to grab a building further down the road and clamber back over the roofs.

"After that the attempt to barricade the door was abandoned."

Large boulders were hurling down from the gorge and the buildings below were been battered by them. The water was a few feet deep by that point and getting faster.

Richard, who was 18 years old at the time, said: "The Cave Man was bounded by a river on one side and the sheer overhanging cliff and by the road, which was now a raging torrent of mud, boulders and water. We were trapped."

Staff spent the night in darkness apart from the flashes of lightening over the cliffs. The downstairs part of the bar was flooded in several feet of water and the people trapped inside became worried about the rocks crashing down on the roof.

Richard said: "My overriding memory of the night was the noise of the boulders grinding around downstairs, the rocks bouncing off the roof and, of course, the constant thunder."

By morning, the rain had stopped but the underground river in Gough's Cave had overflowed and was pouring out of the cave entrance. Richard and his friends managed to escape by climbing over the entrance to the cave and down to the village by climbing over the hillside.

Richard added: "Later we went back to explore the gorge and the devastation was incredible. Huge boulders blocked the road and massive pieces of road were missing.

"As the Cave Man acted as a buffer for the rest of the village, it sustained the worst damage but the sheer volume of the floods was incredible.

"My motorbike had been caught in the storm and was completely buried under water and rubble. I found it because the wing mirror was sticking up out of a pile.

"When I dug it out, it worked on the second kick. That must say something for Japanese technology of the day."

Flood Facts

* One person is thought to have died from the floods. Blackford pensioner Ernest Duckett was told to leave his cottage but didn't. His body was found in the churchyard hours later.

* Cheddar, Blackford and Wedmore were the worst affected areas but the floods raged through Locking, Congresbury, Winscombe and Weston.

* Power supplies were only lost for 6mins in Cheddar.

* 15 residents were forced to leave Blackford, but many residents in Cheddar remained trapped in their own homes.

* Cheddar farmer Anthony Cooper lost 25,000 seven-week chicks that drowned when his coops flooded. The farm suffered about £8,000 worth of damage.

* 19,000 telephone lines were out in the district.

* A 14ft water fall raged down Shute Shelve in Axbridge while Blackford was hit by a 13ft wall of rainwater.

How many inches fell? On July 10 alone, Somerset River Authority recorded:

* 5.17ins at Shipham

* 5ins at Winscombe

* 5.6ins at Blagdon

* 3.44ins at Priddy

* In Cheddar, 5.5ins at Kings of Wessex School and 6ins at Cheddar First School.

0 comments

Other News Stories

Yesterday, 20:00
Ribbon cutting by the Home Office's head of alcohol Andy Johnson and Cllr Felicity Baker.

ANYONE in need of help during a night out in Weston-super-Mare will be able to rely on North Somerset Council’s new Streetsafe bus for support.

Read more
Yesterday, 19:25
Banksy exhibition press call.

A NEW Banksy work has been added to the Dismaland exhibition in Weston-super-Mare.

Read more
Yesterday, 18:00
Weston Pride revellers parade through High Street.

TICKETS have already sold out for Dismaland in Weston-super-Mare. But if you were not lucky enough to get tickets, there is still a lot you can do this bank holiday weekend. Here is a taste of some of the events you can enjoy.

Read more
Yesterday, 17:00
Tropicana view of pool and slides with Weston in the background.

THE Tropicana was once a buzzing swimming pool on Weston-super-Mare’s sea front before it closed and lay derelict for 15 years. Now street-artist Banksy has brought it back to life with his exhibition Dismaland, but what did it look like in its heyday? See our gallery here...

Read more
Yesterday, 16:00
Barefoot Wine's beach clean in Weston-super-Mare.

A BEACH clean-up on Weston-super-Mare seafront ended with a drink at a bar built out of sand on Saturday.

Read more
Yesterday, 15:00
Leia-Mai has had 13 inches of her hair cut off to donate to charity

A kind-hearted girl has raised hundreds of pounds by donating some of her hair to a national charity.

Read more
Yesterday, 14:36
Banksy exhibition press call.

THE date for the when the next wave of tickets for Banksy’s Dismaland will go on sale has been announced.

Read more
Yesterday, 14:31
Russell Brand, who has been spotted at Weston-super-Mare's Dismaland exhibition.

RUSSELL Brand, renowned comedian-cum-political activist, is the latest big name to be spotted at Dismaland in Weston-super-Mare after he visited this afternoon (Friday).

Read more
Yesterday, 14:00
BBC Countryfile presenter Ellie Harrison with Secret World's Sam A'Court.

SOME of Secret World Wildlife Rescue’s smallest animals are set to become stars when they feature in BBC programme Countryfile on Sunday.

Read more
Yesterday, 13:00
Home

VILLAGERS say they are worried a large scale housing development on a greenfield site could threaten the area’s bat population.

Read more

Dismaland

Dismaland
All the latest news on Dismaland and Banksy here


Local Weather

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 17°C

min temp: 14°C

Most Read News

Great British Life


Great British Life

Advertise in the paper
Submit a Story
Subscribe to the paper
Competitions
Send Your Letters
Order Photos
Family notices
iwitness24
Facebook
Twitter
Reader Travel

Family Notices 24

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Weston Worle and Somerset Mercury e-edition today E-edition


Somerset's trusted business finder