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Molehills, flocks and flooding 24 Feb 2024 A look at moles and molehills, birds flocking, and floods over winter. Why does Botley West want solar panels along Lower Road?

A promise of spring has prompted a reflection on the winter that has mostly passed (we hope), although

“Winter, that archetypal villain,

will not give himself up so easily.”

Early winter saw a proliferation of molehills on the way to the City Farm brook. In eight years we have hardly seen anything of the moles themselves, just two dead ones and one alive, all surprisingly small. But it is not surprising not to have seen more; they live a strange, hidden Alice-Through-the-Looking-Glass life.

The Sussex poet Andrew Young captured this topsy-turviness in his poem about ‘A Dead Mole’. Having compared moles raising mounds to us digging holes, he asks:

“What wonder now that being dead

Your body lies here stout and square

Buried within the blue vault of the air?”

In December a flock of fieldfares was back in the fields around us. They have since moved somewhere else, it seems, but now we have an ever-growing flock of goldfinches swirling about the stubble. And the starlings have started forming mini-murmurations, perhaps as a smaller rehearsal for spectacular murmurations like the ones seen in the village last year. Have these happened again?

A notable feature of this winter has been the increase in the amount and frequency of flooding up here, as elsewhere around the village. Lower Road has had its share of floods, as local drivers will have noticed, not least those whose cars have ground to a halt in the water. Since the ‘rainy season’ started in mid-October, a substantial section of the road, where it passes City Farm, has been under water at least six times: on 20 October, 13 November, 31 December, 2 January, and 8 and 18 February. (It may have flooded overnight as well on other occasions.)

The landowner has conscientiously cleared out the City Farm brook in order to make the flow more streamlined and reduce the area of floodplain, but the road has still flooded twice since then, although it is draining away faster. This is climate change.

So it is all the more surprising that Botley Wet (sorry, West) Solar Farm is proposing a sub-station as well as solar panels in the fields immediately next to Lower Road on the eastern side. As I said in my response to the latest consultation, “It seems peculiarly daft to site a sub-station, panels (and a construction compound) between a 100- to 200-metre section of Lower Road that often floods, and the confluence of the City Farm/ Hanborough brook with the Evenlode.”

Furthermore, Botley West is proposing solar panels in nearly all the fields immediately next to Lower Road, on both sides. These fields just happen to have the greatest concentration of “best and most versatile” agricultural land in the whole of the three sections of the Botley West site. Given the size of the site, this is another rather daft part of the proposal. It will be interesting to see if these uncomfortable truths make any impression on the developer in the next stage of the planning process.


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