The competitors raced teams of huskies pulling lightweight wheeled ‘sleds’, and some had a single husky running alongside their mountain bike. All were competing for places in this World Championship event.
Dryland was something of a misnomer considering the conditions. The competitors returned coated in mud and soaked to the skin, much like their four footed friends who reached the finishing line covered in Firle’s chalky mud.
It was quite obvious that these lean and athletic huskies enjoyed every minute. They could not get started quickly enough as they pulled at their traces eager to be on their way.
The event was an amazing spectacle and certainly differed from the usual events held in Firle Park. A huge international crowd turned out to watch this exciting sport which, due to the exceptionally wet conditions, has left the park looking as if Firle had hosted a re-enactment of the Battle of the Somme, but proved hugely popular.
The relentless rain has been difficult to cope with here in Sussex but compared to the devastating floods affecting parts of Yorkshire, we have been let off very lightly.
Driving north last week it was sad to see the flooded fields alongside the motorways. Fortunately my route did not take me near Doncaster where the floods have overwhelmed villages, farms and businesses.
The rain which has not stopped for almost two months, has been exceptional. A ‘once in a hundred years’ occurrence? - Not any more.
There has been extreme rainfall in 2007, 2012, 2016, 2017 and now in 2019. The floods rarely occur in the same area, but have to date, affected Somerset, Devon, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and now Yorkshire.
Over the years billions of pounds have been spent on flood defences, but by its very nature can never be enough. The eye of the storm is indiscriminate, taking neighbourhoods and communities by surprise.
Fortunately for some districts and business hubs, the improved flood defences have been effective, but for those currently having to cope with the life changing floods, the relentless rain is catastrophic.
There are many theories on how best to proceed and why floods are increasingly common.
Homes and business centres have been built on flood panes and the Environment Agency has not, as in the past, dredge rivers and coastlines. There are far more arable crops, including maize, which unlike grass pasture which acts like a sponge, does not hold back the excess water. Perhaps after all livestock farming is a better choice where the environment is concerned.
The original 32 River Boards set up in England and Wales in 1948 were designed to manage land drainage, fisheries and river pollution. The Boards worked closely with the farming community, often with centuries of family knowledge and understanding of how to manage the rivers and land structure in their area.
These boards were replaced by 27 River Authorities in 1965, which in turn were replaced by the Environment Agency in 1995, then becoming part of DEFRA, and employing over 11,200 staff within 8 directorates.
The EA’s principle concern has been the protection and enhancement of the environment. The practical requirement to maintain and improve land drainage and prevent flooding does not appear to have been a priority. Nor has this organisation worked with the farming community, gaining valuable local knowledge. Nature is important but so are people’s lives and businesses.