Friday, 31 May 2013

Bridget Whelan's Blog's - flooding of our home & garden 2012, part 1

In the first of a series of articles, Bridget Whelen provides an account of her experiences of the floods.

Not Again!
27th November 2012

I first came to live in our little house in 1971, as a child, when I came to stay with my grand parents after my parents divorced.  It was a place of all encompassing love and safety and remained that way for more than 35 years.  But that all changed on 20th July 2007. But we need to go back just a little earlier to start.

As a child I remember the River Severn flooding on a regular basis and in the winter months we would walk down to the local ford, or the Rocky as it is known round here, just to see how deep it was and could we still cycle over the foot bridge.  But it wasn't just round here, Worcester’s waterside area would also be flooded and having lived in the St.Johns area previously can often remember New Road being under water (that was when the traffic still flowed two ways along it! I suspect that there are not that many of you that can actually remember that).  People living in these areas coped and were prepared because it was a regular event and they usually knew exactly where the water was going to go.

As time went on, I noticed as a teenager in the mid 70’s each time it flooded it seemed to come a little further up Church street in the village and the ford was deeper. Gradually as time went on people up stream began to campaign for the flood defences and I can completely understand this, but what I couldn't and still don’t understand are the people that buy a property by the river and then seem to be totally surprised when it floods.  Ask a local if you are unsure, it may be beautiful in the summer and an ideal place to relax and watch the boats going by, but will it be quite the same in the winter when you have all the debris rushing passed from upstream or worse still sitting in your garden or home.  I do understand that not everyone can be choosy about where they live and I have the greatest sympathy for them and yes they do need these flood defences to protect their homes, however, this displaced water has to go somewhere.

Each year more and more places have defences but each year the water has to go somewhere else, and as I say gradually over the years more properties in the village were being flooded, some more than once a year. This takes us to July 2007, a little more than the typical British summer, it had rained continuously for days or was it weeks because it seemed like it, we had forgotten what the sun looked like and on that fateful afternoon of the 20th July the inevitable happened. Kempsey was underwater yet again but not just the usual victims, many more.  The main Road had become impassable and was under several feet of water and by 7 o’clock that evening so was our little house.  When friends said,
“I didn't know you lived that close to the River?” I had to reply
“I don’t, it’s about half a mile away, but the force of the Severn had pushed back up the little brook running through the village because it had nowhere else to go.”

When I was younger the car park at the Crown Inn, just along the road would be underwater as would the skittle alley but it rarely got any higher. But this time the whole of the area suffered, but we thought it’s just a one off, fluke of nature , the older villagers stating “ We've never seen it like this before” , so we thought it was just a once in a lifetime occurrence.  But then it became obvious that each time the Severn flooded that perhaps that was not the case, a local Action Committee was formed, FLAG, and thanks to their tireless campaigning it was agreed we too could have flood defences. Then back in the so called summer of this year they were unveiled.  Now we were confident it couldn't possibly happen again, WE WERE SAFE.

So on the evening of Saturday 24th November we went to bed safe in the knowledge that we would be dry in the morning and with one last look at twenty past midnight off to bed we went.  At 6 am Sunday morning we woke to that ever so familiar sound of lapping and bubbling water and no electricity.  It couldn't possibly be, but one look out of the bedroom window our worst nightmares were confirmed, we were an island again.  We could hear voices in the distance, which we later discovered were the emergency services evacuating people from Church Street, but here we are again on the Main Road underwater.  When we managed to get the lights back on, it was to find that we had about a foot of water in the house, but this wasn’t possible we are protected! As it got light and more people were around it had become apparent our wonderful, shiny new flood defences had failed us, but once they had been turned on the water disappeared as if by magic, but it was too late, the damage had been done.

So here we are, furniture ruined, sentimental items lost, back to where we were five and a half years ago, only this time it’s cold, no summer sun to help dry things out, no heating because our electric night storage heaters have been under water, and that familiar smell of wet and damp.  All these things were put into perspective though, when at my daughter’s, where we had gone for some respite and hot food and drink, we saw the news. 100 had lost their lives in a factory fire in Bangladesh trying to earn a living to support their families, we had only lost possessions, our family, friends, neighbours and pets were all safe, things can be replaced, people can’t.

Yes, I am upset, but more than that I am angry, this was preventable and should not have happened, but I have to spare a though for those now living downstream, as our defences will obviously push the water somewhere else and now they will be fighting for there own barriers, pumps etc.  I also would like people to think of the farmers that now have land covered in flood water, this is their livelihoods being ruined, but please remember when you are complaining about the price of your fresh vegetables and bread next year, especially if you are one of the lucky ones that has had your property saved by flood defences, that we have to pay the price one way or another.  My Gran having been a farmer’s wife and used to say, “You can’t beat Mother Nature”, she was right and if you push her, she will push back a damned sight harder.

So that is where we are now and why I am sat in bed at 6.30 on Tuesday morning writing this.  We are awaiting the insurance assessor to come, and today we will be moving as much as we can, but I have to say thank you to our wonderful children and their partners and for their help and the hot meals and to our beautiful grandchildren for making us smile and actually making me laugh so much last night my stomach hurt. We would also like to thank our friends for the numerous offers of help and rest assured we will be taking you up on them in the not so distant future.

Things are going to be difficult over the next few months with my health not being great, I know we will be relying on friends and family a lot and I thank them in advance, and although I may not be 100% physically ( and have to say I’m not so sure mentally, but that’s been a case for debate for many years) I am happy to say I should still be around to annoy and interfere in my kids lives for the foreseeable future!

Over the next few weeks I shall keep everyone updated about the state of our home and how the work is going, but I will have to go now and put my rubber gloves on for another day, love to all that know me and will speak to you again soon.

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