Don't miss a story sign up to Weston Mercury's FREE daily newsletter CLICK HERE

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

17:00
Bikes will be loved in Burnham.

Cyclists in Burnham will be ‘feeling the love’ during the summer months after new heart-shaped cycle hoops were installed on the Esplanade last week.

Read more
16:00
Kenya charity challenge

Two grandmothers from North Somerset are taking their charity efforts to the next level.

Read more
15:00
Martin Bishop with his highly modifies 1953 Ford Popular

Motoring fanatics gathered to enjoy a display of stunning cars and delicious food at an event in the North Somerset countryside last week.

Read more
14:00
Churchill diabetes care award

Churchill Academy has received an award for providing good care for children with type one diabetes.

Read more
North Somerset Council is hoping to secure up to £10million in sport funding

North Somerset Council is hoping to secure £10million in Government funding to help the 60 per cent of people in the district who are overweight.

Read more
The YMCA's Barley Wood House, in Wrington.

Bosses at the Somerset Coast branch of the YMCA say they are delighted after one of the charity’s projects was nominated for an award just eight months after it opened.

Read more
09:00
Elaine Llewellyn, Geoff Baird and Stephen Vincent.

Four brave volunteers will be eating an array of creepy crawlies to raise money for two-year-old Jacob Baird, who needs a £65,000 operation to help him walk.

Read more
Yesterday, 19:00
Riders ready to set off.

Cyclists in Congresbury turned up to enjoy a bike ride along one of Somerset’s most historic cycleways – all in aid of a worthy cause.

Read more
Yesterday, 17:30
The Watoto choir during the performance.

Destiny Church at Priory Community School hosted a performance from a Ugandan choir at the weekend.

Read more
Yesterday, 17:00
A Worle Village Primary School pupil with the cheque.

A school library system will go digital thanks to a £300 donation.

Read more

Most Read News

Read Online

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

Local Weather

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 18°C

min temp: 11°C

Great British Life

Great British Life

Useful Links

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

Newsletter Sign Up

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Local business directory

Somerset's trusted business finder

Find planning applications