20 odd years ago, when we first moved to our cottage in Gloucestershire, there was a spring in the garden. We are on the side of a hill. Our neighbours' house is a good five feet higher than ours and there is a retaining side wall (behind our house) on the boundary of the two properties. The spring emerged from under this wall, near our back door, and fed into an old culvert which eventually led to the pond at the bottom of the garden. After a few years the spring dried up, but then later re-emerged from higher up and further along the wall, closer to the road. My husband devised a 'Heath Robinson' device to carry the water into the culvert.
When we had a utility room built on that side of the house, we did away with my husband's contraption and instead had gulleys sunk into the path to catch this and any other water that decided to make its way through or under the wall. It was only ever a rapid trickle but it was just a few feet from the house. We obviously didn't want a permanent puddle or damp developing in the wall of the house. But then, annoyingly, after making these contingency plans, the spring seemed to dry up again.
After a year or so, water began to emerge through the surface, on the far side of the road outside. When investigations were carried out it was revealed that the spring had been piped under the road, but the old clay pipes had become broken and blocked; this is what had caused the water to force its way to the surface and our spring to stop flowing. So modern pipe-work was reinstated beneath the road and - long story short - we got our spring back.
On Friday afternoon water suddenly began POURING through the wall again. When I say pour, I mean gallons of the stuff, every few seconds! Fortunately the gulleys we'd installed were just about up to the task, but the water was flowing so rapidly and in such quantity, that the pond couldn't cope and the flower bed below it was turned into a bog garden.
Where was it all coming from? How were we to deal with it? Would it eventually bring the retaining wall down? If there was that much water coming through, what on earth was going on underground next door? And from past experience, springs can alter course. Where might it emerge next? Or as well?
We were flummoxed and began to blame a recent delivery lorry, which we think struck the exterior wall. We thought it might have dislodged something within the wall which had somehow re-opened the unused channel, releasing dammed up water. We hoped against hope it would settle down.
On Saturday morning, despite our prayers, water was still pouring through, undiminished. Where on earth was all this water coming from? At a time when water tables are dropping and the flow in rivers reducing and springs drying up, it defied logic that this was a natural event.
For the umpteenth time my husband went round to the neighbours to discuss the situation. He was gone a long time. When he returned he was smiling. Out on the road above us, he'd seen water erupting from the tarmac. We began to see the light. Had a water main burst? The men from the water company didn't arrive until late afternoon, but.... Hallelujah! They confiirmed our diagnosis. Water from a burst mains pipe had opportunistically found its way into the old water course.
Now we can expect roadworks and traffic lights and all hell breaking loose on our narrow lane. But am I relieved! Very relieved. Phew!
PS. In fact, the Trent Water men came first thing on Sunday morning. They didn't need to put in traffic lights. And the whole thing was done and dusted by Sunday afternoon. The deluge has ceased! Hooray!