Flooding in Newcastle

The weather in Newcastle was fine for most of the Bridges Festival, with the exception of the occasional shower. Then very, very suddenly on Sunday afternoon – just after photographing the giant print made by Northern Print and the ‘Stupendous Steamroller’ (see previous post), and just before I was due to walk back uphill from the Quayside to the station and catch a train back to London – came this. Some of the heaviest rainfall I’ve ever seen, accompanied by thunder and interspersed with hail. Really quite impressive; though somewhat less enjoyable if you happened to be standing in it.
Newcastle’s Quayside, where the festival was taking place, is – as its name implies – by the river, with steep streets leading up into the town centre. The steep streets instantly turned into sheets of water rushing down to the Quayside, where drains overflowed and the road flooded, and I took shelter under a stall selling Fairtrade wooden animals (the wrong side of the road unfortunately, since I then had to cross it to get back to the station), beside an (understandably) terrified child and a Russian woman who commented on the imminent end of the world.




I should point out that this is not typical weather for Newcastle or the northeast coast in general, which receives much less rainfall than the Lake District or the western Highlands.
Photos © Rudolf Abraham. No unauthorized use.

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Hidden Europe article on Croatia’s Lonjsko polje and Turopolje

Posavina. Croatia’s Lonjsko polje and Turopolje

Rudolf Abraham is the perfect guide to the wetlands of north-east Croatia, as we join him on a tour of the Lonjsko polje region with its distinctive wooden architecture and storks’ nests.

The villages of Lonjsko polje — Cigoc, Krapje, Lonja and others — stretch along the left bank of the Sava as it sweeps east towards its distant rendezvous with the Danube below the fortress of Kalemegdan in Belgrade. A narrow winding road separates the river from the neat rows of wooden houses, some of them over two hundred years old and representative of a style of architecture now lost in much of Croatia.

Occasionally an oxbow lake, long severed from the river’s course and now a place of motionless reed beds and chirping frogs, makes the road swing away from the river briefly, before inevitably drifting back to follow its course again. Livestock can be glimpsed in fields and among the wooden barns and other outbuildings, including the narrow, open-air feed stores, filled with multicoloured cobs of corn. Tall crops of corn stand yellowing in the alluvial rich soil of the surrounding fields, and sunflowers, blackened at the end of the season, hang their charred heads. Passing through Kratecko, a slash in the riverbank leads down to a traditional ferry, which drifts over to the opposite shore, providing the only crossing point along this stretch of the Sava between Sisak, to the northwest, and Jasenovac, far away to the south-east on Croatia’s border with Bosnia.

Lonjsko polje

Lonjsko polje constitutes the largest wetland area in Croatia, and is protected as a nature park (park prirode) as well as being inscribed on the Ramsar list of wetlands of international importance. Covering an area of more than fifty thousand hectares, this vast flood plain is home to numerous species of plants, birds and animals, and is the site of Croatia’s first ornithological reserve, created at Krapje Dol in 1963.

The wooden houses in the villages along this stretch of the Sava are built at right angles to the river, stretching back much further than their narrow facades would initially suggest. The corners clearly show the distinctive traditional joinery, the horizontal planks meeting in something which looks rather like a large dove-tail — or a vuglec, to give it its proper name. The earlier houses actually originally had square joints — and if the houses’ regular plank construction looks rather like they could all just be packed down and reassembled, that’s because they actually were. Families would simply disassemble their home and move it according to the whims of the river Sava, which like all rivers had a habit of flooding dramatically or gradually changing its course.

The houses were made by locals rather than trained builders or craftsmen (though they are nevertheless beautifully made), and the more simple joinery also reflects this. The roofs were originally thatched, but this was later replaced by tiles, and the more simple joins (Hrvatski vuglec) superseded by the more complex (and more permanent) dovetail variety (Njemški vuglec) — the latter through the influence of more highly skilled German craftsmen.

Excerpt from full text published in hidden europe 32. Click here to read the full article as a PDF.

Lonjsko polje floods

Just before my most recent visit to Lonjsko polje, Croatia’s greatest wetland landscape, in early October 2010 (for a Hidden Europe article), the area around Zagreb and Sisak and along the river Sava had recently been subjected to some of the worst floods in more than a quarter of a century. The floodplains of Lonjsko polje – into which part of the Sava’s flow is diverted as a flood defense measure – were at this time a quite spectacular, drowned world. Under such circumstances any walking route/exploration beyond the flood bank which lies north of the villages of Cigoc etc is impossible (at least, unless you happen to have a boat). The flood waters also swept away the wooden bridges on the short walking route south of Cigoc – and the remaining ones, I almost found to my camera gear’s cost, are far from stable. Check at the Lonjsko polje park information offices http://www.pp-lonjsko-polje.hr/Lonjsko_polje_english/Posjete_Info_Centar_en.htm if you’re planning a walk in the area – worth visiting even for the view from the flood barrier alone.

Lonjsko polje nature park in early October, after the floods of September 2010