IN TERMS of rainfall, I’ve never seen a winter like it in recent times, with the persistence of the torrential downpours causing the River Devon to spill over and burst its banks on numerous occasions.

As I walked along the river last week, it was like picking over the remains of a battlefield, scattered debris and damage everywhere, including tumbled tree trunks, crushed fences and eroded banksides.

I moved onto the flood meadow, the ground was scarred and pitted from the torrential flow of the burst river.

This was nature at its most powerful, the rising current sweeping all before it in a watery maelstrom.

Clad in chest waders so that I could explore the resultant mosaic of pools, I splashed my way over the haugh; the nearby river was still high and menacing, but slowly on the retreat.

The footprints of a heron pockmarked silt deposited by flood, and in a nearby pool a pair of mute swans glided across the water, serene in their white-cloaked elegance and emanating a calmness that belied the fury of the previous day’s torrent.

Sunshine dappled across the water, causing it to shimmer and dance, almost as if in celebration that tranquillity had once more returned to the landscape.

In another pool, a pair of Canada geese had taken up temporary residence, attracted by the new-found feeding opportunities.

So, while some wildlife such as mice, voles and moles had undoubtedly suffered from the continuing flooding, many others had benefited, with the rising waters having replenished natural ponds and oxbow lakes.

Flood plains also bring immense benefit to humankind as they are natural relief valves that accommodate rising waters, before slowly releasing such inundations back into the river again, thus protecting our towns and villages.

This is why building houses upon, or even near, flood plains is extreme folly.

Our precious flood meadows have belonged to nature since the dawn of time and that is the way it should always be.