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The Tigris and the Euphrates

Newshounds perplexed as to why Aberystwyth is called that (Aber is Welsh for the mouth or confluence of a river) when the flooded river that did all the damage this summer is called the Rheidol might care to know the following.

Like Nineveh, the town is watered by two rivers, the Rheidol and the Ystwyth, the Tigris and the Euphrates. The Ystwyth happens to be in the next valley over. The old port sits low in the saddle, two ranges of hills rise on either side, up which the town has spread, capped on one side by the magnificent 1920s brutalist monument to Welsh linguistic sensibilities, the National Library of Wales; and on the other, lines of grey barracks for those, mostly Anglophones, on benefits; foremost among which is the magnificent sea view.

The natural urge then is to develop outwards along the flat, lush valley of the Rheidol. This expansionary drive has led to the construction of various amenities — the sewage farm, the community recycling centre, the council depot — and a weedy retail park, whose owners impose such stringent conditions on companies enquiring about leasing one or other of their empty premises that they have remained empty for years. Only Morrison’s supermarket, Curry’s, Halford’s and, inexplicably, Carpetland survived until the arrival last week of B&Q, complete with PR totty handing out Welsh cakes, whatever, which promptly closed a week later under nine inches of water.

These developments sit plum in the flood plain of the Rheidol, a river that floods naturally every year, although rarely as much as it has done in 2012. We know it must flood, because in their wisdom the ancients dug a series of broad pits (no, not Brad Pitts… search engines note) with embankments to contain and divert the overflow away from the town. It is within these catchments that modern developers have sought to wrest their profits, as the land is cheap, and are now hopefully hoist on their own petard. For, where there are no tarmac acres, no broad avenues, no undersized ‘superstores’ offering NOW 50% OFF! every dismal item, the defences have worked well.

Only where money changed hands have the water nymphs arisen to point bony fingers at Mankind’s all-consuming greed and stupidity. Householders dragging their pathetic piles of soggy furnishings out into the sunshine for the loss adjusters to inspect have paid the price, as will we all when the premiums rise through the roof.


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