I T’S a year since the December fury of Storm Desmond and the insult added to injury the following month by Eva.

But it’s hard to start an account of the mighty River Tyne’s propensity for flooding with anything other than the catastrophe of 1771.

Then, according to Robert Forster and his History of Corbridge, published in 1881, ‘There was a great flood in the Tyne which swept away, in its furious progress, every bridge except Corbridge.

‘The river was swollen to such a wonderful height that many of the inhabitants of Corbridge washed their hands over the battlement.’

Writing a century later, Ovingham hydrologist David Archer described it as the country’s biggest flood of the past 1,000 years.

Twenty-five people died – eight in Bywell, eight in Ovingham and nine in Newcastle – and properties the length of the Tyne Valley were rendered inhabitable.

The 13 or 14 bridges that were destroyed on the North, South and main Tyne rivers that night included the medieval bridge in Newcastle that had straddled its waters for 500 years.

While that might have been one doozy of a storm, as retired geography teacher and Corbridge local historian David Waugh will sharp tell you, flooding is as integral to the history of the Tyne as the salmon that leap and spawn in its tumbling waters.

David, who wrote a series of best-selling geography books that became the staple for A-level students, remembered when he gained his first impression of the river.

“It was at the end of the Second World War, when ships were berthed five or six abreast beside huge shipyards, leaving little room for a dark, oily and seemingly slow- flowing river between them,” he said.

“Later, but still in the 1940s, I was taken several times to the South Tyne at Featherstone where a cleaner and more lively river flowed between pleasant meadows.

“But it was only when I came to Corbridge in 2001 that I began to realise that the River Tyne floods as frequently, as rapidly and with as severe consequences as any river in England and Wales.”

Indeed, the highest-ever recorded discharge (the amount of water passing a given point at a given time) in England and Wales had been recorded at the local gauging station at Bywell. The figure of 22.83 ft, recorded in 2015, had left even the Thames, Eden and Trent rivers trailing in its wake.

“The Tyne is also noted for its rapid rise in level – sometimes 10 to 12 ft within an hour,” he said, “followed by a fall that is almost as quick.

“This has resulted in 45 recorded floods somewhere along the valley since 1771, so, on average, once every five or six years.”

So why is that? Why does the Tyne flood so often?

As David points out, the fact that flooding has increased in both frequency and severity during the past 200-odd years is often attributed to human mismanagement, but there are natural factors too, of course.

For one thing, the relatively small size of its catchment, compared to those of the Thames, Severn and Trent, actually has the opposite effect to the one you’d expect. Because the run-off (rainwater rolling off the land) reaches the main river faster than it would in a large catchment, the volume of the river is bigger.

The Tyne is also a relatively short river and flood water can travel its length in under 10 hours – in stark contrast with the figures of two days on the Yorkshire Ouse and four days on the Severn and Trent.

The large areas of impermeable rock and steep gradients that characterise the upper reaches, particularly of the South Tyne, also increase the rate of run-off and ultimately the river’s velocity.

And needless to say, when there’s an unusually high level of rain and/or snowfall, the water has to go somewhere, and that ‘somewhere’ is meant to be the flood plain the river has carved out for itself over the centuries.

David said: “Whereas there was only one building on the flood plain south of the river in Corbridge in 1771, there are more than 60 today.

“Bridges both restrict the flow and increase the velocity of a river, and therefore the potential pressure and weight it can bring to bear on just such structures.

“And while embankments are constructed to keep the river within its channel, they too increase the volume and velocity of the river and should the embankments then be breached or overtopped, the effect on life and property will be all the greater.”

One reason The Stanners floods, it has been suggested, is that water flowing across the rugby pitches and The Eales meets a bottleneck between the railway line and the flood embankment.

While embankments are designed to keep the water out, once it is ‘in’, it can’t escape and in the case of The Stanners, simply backs up – towards the houses built on its flood plain.