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Wells, floods and droughts

Water - either too much of it or too little - has been a recurring theme in the history of the village. In this part of the Berks Downs there are no surface streams, and households relied entirely on wells for their water supplies into the 20th century. In fact, one of the conditions for building new council housing in the 1930s was that new water supplies and drainage were needed. The last house to be connected to mains drainage was as late as 1965.

Although there is little surface water in this part of the upper Pang valley, the water table is quite close to the surface and in particularly wet seasons comes above ground level. This usually results in the appearance of a series of ponds in the fields on the west side of Abingdon Lane in late winter/early spring. However in very wet seasons, such as the winter of 2000/2001 the water level runs so high that Abingdon Lane is flooded and the Pang flows as a stream right down through Compton (in that year , literally through Compton!).

In very dry seasons, the wells can dry up entirely - one particularly bad drought year prompted the digging of a borehole and fitting of a pump alongside the village pond in 1932.


Water welling up from the borehole during the floods of 2000/1 The ponds which formed along the Abingdon Lane during the floods of 2000/1, effectively the Pang stream above ground - that year, the Pang was above ground right up through West Ilsley

A very valuable resource has been the series of well readings made by the late Marcus Goddard from 1923 through until the late 1990s. These can be correlated with historic rainfall data from the Met Office to identify when significant floods or droughts are likely to occur in the village. Comparison of the well readings with the cumulative rainfall for the previous 6 months show a good correlation - the Abingdon Lane ponds appear when the cumulative rainfall exceeds about 500mm and Marcus's well dries up when the rainfall is less than 150mm.

There is an on-going project to identify the locations of the wells in the village - approximately 40 have been located so far. Any information on this aspect would be greatly appreciated.


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Last modified: 10/21/14