Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 57

Exodus 14 v 21 – 29

Water Power

Recently I have enjoyed watching a programme in BBC 4 television where the entertainer,  Griff Rhys Jones, has been renovating a 200 year old farm in Wales. The working farm aspect he has left to the farming experts, but the process of renovating and converting the various buildings has been the real subject of his involvement. He has been assisted by various advisers including his son who is a trainee architect.

The buildings  consisted of a farm house, cow sheds, barns and a disused water mill, all of which are seriously dilapidated and in need of extensive repair and restoration. One particular building which is to be converted into a house was so wet and damp that green moss was growing on the walls and floor, which was curious as there was no apparent reason for such a bad state. It was after the first spell of heavy rain, yes it does have heavy rain in Wales, that the reason for the damp became apparent. The small stream, that in the past served the water mill, actually ran through the middle of the proposed house, in fact the small stream manifested itself as a torrent by the time it had passed through the property.

It is not the first time that I have come across this phenomenon and it is quite common when converting old farm buildings. Friends of mine bought a farm in Yorkshire which was in a hillside location. When heavy rain fell they opened the back door of the farm house and the front door and simply let the water flow through the house, it was less disruptive.

Another common occurrence when converting farm buildings is to discover a deep well under the floor and I know of several that have been retained and made a feature by placing a reinforced glass floor over the well to enable a view down to the centre of the earth. 

Often the topography of the terrain around the farm and the historical purpose of the buildings can give a clue. The Welsh farm for instance had a water mill and was located in the bottom of Welsh valley, signs that could suggest the possibility of water. Subsequent investigation also disclosed the presence of a bridge.

In Derby City Centre the Silk Mill Museum, sits on top of a long since filled in mill race, (or millrun or mill leat if you come from the South West) which was a series of channels that diverted water from the river under the Silk Mill to drive a water wheel.

I have also been told that Buxton Opera House also straddles a water course which in times of heavy rain runs directly through the building under the floor. I am also told that legend has it that the musicians in the orchestra pit need to wear wellington boots and stand their chairs on boxes especially when playing Handle’s Water Music.

Experience has proved that the worst course of action in such cases is to attempt to stop the flow of the water with some kind of barricade. Water has a very determined nature and a power that’s demands respect. I have witnessed brick walls, erected in an attempt to divert a water course, and totally destroyed by the force of the water fighting to retain its natural original course. 

When I first came to Derby in 1973, my office overlooked the River Gardens and the River Derwent weir, a view that was often entertaining particularly after prolonged stormy weather. To observe someone’s garden shed sailing gracefully past my office window was not unusual or the large tree and occasionally a dead animal.

Despite the powerful and potentially destructive nature of water, we read in the Bible of several instances when God has shown his almighty power in taming this wildest of nature’s characters. The Red Sea can be the most unpredictable stretch of water, with dark depths, and sudden violent storms generated by the ever-changing direction of the wind.

It is not surprising that the Hebrew people in Exodus 14 looked upon their predicament with trepidation. Before them they faced the turbulent water of the Red Sea, and behind them they felt the hot angry breath of the king’s army with their fearsome weaponry horses and chariots. We could sympathise with the Hebrews as in fear they contemplated which death was the least painful, the murky waters of the sea or the piercing blade of the soldier’s sword.

They started to have regrets in leaving their slavery but memories tend to distort the truth of the past. In their distress they underestimated the power of God, he would never desert them or give up on them after bringing them this far. God’s authority reaches out even into the depths of the sea and in obedience to the word of God the waters part and allows the nation to pass from slavery and death into freedom. For the Egyptians, the price of persecuting the Hebrews and the years of disobeying God had to be paid and as the waters returned to their normal levels the army perished beneath the waves.Griff Rhys Jones overcame the problem of the river running through the house by the introduction of underground pipes and culverts but he had another problem even more difficult and from an even more powerful source. It took him two years to obtain Town Planning permission. Who said that the pen is mightier than the sword, (or in this case mightier than the JCB)

Derek T.