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Great Wall of Westholme the ultimate barrier between the Hicks household and Chemainus River

Husband’s legacy ensures rising flood waters are kept at bay
Historic photo of the Hicks household shows a more direct path of the Chemainus River. (Photo by Don Bodger)

The Great Wall of Westholme stands as a testament to Clive Plumpton’s ingenuity and foresight.

The fortress around the Hicks household on the banks of the Chemainus River near the Chemainus River bridge has held its ground many times and did so again during the most extreme flooding yet on Nov. 14-15.

“I am so proud of him,” noted Roberta (Bobbin) Hicks de Plumpton of her late husband who died in July of this year. “This is the first time the flooding has breached the back wall you see with the gate. It was coming over in waves, something never seen before.”

Hicks de Plumpton vows she’ll finish the work her husband started.

“I’m going to try,” she indicated. “I’m going to try to tier it up to where he got it to.”

Clive started building the walls more than 30 years ago after Hicks, who grew up on the property, moved back for Halloween one year and they woke up to the roar of the river that December.

Clive was astounded when he heard the sound of the raging river. When his wife advised him to look out their bedroom window, that was enough to convince him to start building the Great Wall in the spring as a preventive measure for potential future floods.

With the current situation, he was right on the mark in planning ahead with the Great Wall to keep the wall of water in the Chemainus River that’s continually becoming more prevalent at bay.

“He started and went all the way around,” pointed out Hicks de Plumpton. “They knew him as a builder. He was very artistic when he built. He made it beautiful.”

Hicks de Plumpton, who just turned 60 in February, has lived all but a few years of her life on the property along the Chemainus River and has seen many floods. It’s never been enough to penetrate into the house, but came close this time.

“It was one inch below the bottom step of my porch,” she noted.

Hicks de Plumpton receives regular checks from the fire department during flood situations and this was no exception.

“The fire captain was just at the top of the driveway and I said, ‘no, I’ll be OK.’ I wasn’t worried at any point it would come in the house. Touch wood.”

When Clive was alive, they’d sit outside on a table along the wall and inside the fence line to witness the power of the river from as close as you could possibly get without being in danger.

“We would sit there and watch people taking photos and wondering why are they sitting there?” noted Hicks de Plumpton. “The water was like right beside us. It’s scary, but it is exciting. I’m sure people were looking at it and wondering why don’t they leave?”

The secure feeling comes from so many years in the same location along the river and knowing its force would only go so far. And it’s also comforting that Clive’s wall is the ultimate layer of protection as his legacy and will only need a little more reinforcement to be sure.

“I love this place and Clive did, too,” Hicks de Plumpton said.

Chemainus River Bridge can be seen near the property where Roberta Hicks de Plumpton resides along the Chemainus River and logjams formed underneath the bridge again during the latest flooding that were being cleared by the Municipality of North Cowichan. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Roberts Hicks de Plumpton’s husband Clive built the Great Wall of Westholme to protect their property from rising flood waters on the Chemainus River. (Photo by Don Bodger)
This was a favourite viewing spot for Roberta Hicks de Plumpton and her husband Clive. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Roberta Hicks de Plumpton has lived on the Chemainus River most of her life and seen many floods with the household so close to the river. (Photo by Don Bodger)