diamond geezer

 Tuesday, December 01, 2009

One day London will flood. Geologically speaking London floods quite regularly, although our lifetime is brief enough that most people rarely notice. The Thames Barrier is meant to reduce the probability of a catastrophic tidal surge inundating the centre of town, but one day it won't be enough. The river's walls will overtop and water will start to spill into areas where people live, travel and work. And it'll carry on overspilling until it reaches higher ground, which in some cases may be a surprising distance away. When the Big One comes, London will be a hell of a mess.

London flood riskSo all this rain we've been having lately has made me wonder. Where, exactly, is the River Thames's flood plain? Which London neighbourhoods will one day realise they've been built on the equivalent of a water meadow, but only when it's too late and all the insurance documents are soaking wet? It's possible to find this out by logging on to the Environment Agency's Flood map, on which areas at risk of flooding are shaded blue. You can either enter your own postcode on the homepage, or else leap directly to the overall map for London. To check the approximate risk at street-by-street level, zoom in. Or you can take a look at my (extremely approximate) handy summary map, which shows the extent of the Thames and Lea valley floodplains. Click to view it larger. If you live in a low-lying blue bit, prepare (one day) to evacuate.

London's flood risk zone is divided up into "embayments", which are separate and distinct floodable basins of land. If water breaches the barriers around an embayment, be they artificial or natural, then the entire embayment is at risk. Meanwhile the embayment nextdoor could still stay dry - it's all a matter of precisely where the river gets through. If North Greenwich goes under, Bermondsey might not. Or vice versa. So below I've knocked up a rough list of London's Thames embayments, ordered from east to west. Be warned that it's only approximate, but there may be some surprising "at risk" places therein.
Dartford embayment: Slade Green
Barking embayment: Rainham Marshes, Ford at Dagenham, Creekmouth, Barking (roughly south of the A13).
Thamesmead embayment: Crossness, Thamesmead, Abbey Wood, Belmarsh, Woolwich Arsenal
Roding embayment: Beckton Sewage Works
Isle of Dogs & Royal Docks embayment: Beckton, North Woolwich, Silvertown, City Airport, Custom House, Plaistow, West Ham, Canning Town (all in an area roughly south of the Greenway); Stratford (south); Poplar, the entire Isle of Dogs
Greenwich embayment: Maritime Greenwich, The entire North Greenwich peninsula, New Charlton (all roughly north of the A206)
Bermondsey embayment: Deptford, Rotherhithe, Canada Water, Bermondsey, London Bridge, Camberwell (roughly north of the Peckham Road), Walworth, Elephant & Castle, Waterloo, Lambeth, Kennington, Vauxhall, Nine Elms, Battersea
City embayment: A tiny bit of the City riverside, Wapping.
Westminster embayment: Victoria Embankment, Whitehall, Westminster, Houses of Parliament, St James's Park, Victoria, Pimlico
Hammersmith embayment: Chelsea Harbour, Sands End, Parsons Green, Fulham, West Kensington, Brook Green, Shepherd's Bush (roughly south of the Uxbridge Road), Hammersmith, Turnham Green
Other (smaller) western embayments: Wandsworth, Barnes, Chiswick, Mortlake, Kew Gardens, Syon Park, Isleworth
There are, to me, three unexpectedly large potential flood zones in this list. The bottom half of Newham is one, the northern chunk of Southwark is another, and then there are the well-to-do neighbourhoods of Hammersmith and Fulham where residents might have hoped to be far enough upriver to be safe. Not so. Meanwhile most of the Lea Valley's flood plain remains free from housing, but do think twice before buying a ground floor flat in the new Olympic Park.

For more details, and to discover more about emergency planning, you might want to flick through the London Flood Response Strategic Plan (a thick and meaty 53-page pdf). You'll find a map of the flood plain on page 45, a map of the various embayments on page 46, and a detailed close up of East London on page 50. A very approximate flood map of central London can be found here (Buckingham Palace safe, 10 Downing Street drowned). If you'd prefer tales of a fictional London inundation, here's the website for Richard Doyle's not-bad book "Flood", and here's the website for the ridiculously laughable film that was based on it. Watch the skies. But, more importantly, watch that gap under your front door, just in case.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream