I don’t think I ever fully appreciated the phrase ‘chilled to the bone’ until now.
I was out with the flood wardens yesterday on what turned out to be one of the most miserable days of the year. As usual, surface water poured off the field behind Mount View, flooding Station Road, which resulted in the primary school closing early. Ottery Road was flooded. Water poured down Green Lane. Pattesons Cross was impassable. In the old part of the village, drain clearance continued to protect properties at risk of flooding.
The picture was the same across vast swathes of the country.
We battled to keep water out of homes across the village and had to close Station Road and Wells Avenue to prevent water gushing through houses.
I was astonished by how kind and helpful some people can be, but also how incredibly rude others were. Here are just a few of the comments fired at us:
“It’s all the fault of the farmers!”
That’s not particularly helpful on a day when water is swilling round your ankles. The reason so many of the houses flood is because they were built right in the path of ancient springs which swell to produce the most extraordinary amount of water. Don’t blame the farmers … it’s thanks to their guardianship of the countryside that we live in such a beautiful area.
“Your flood scheme is useless … what a joke!”
Not a very helpful comment when you can feel the rain trickle down your neck. The irony was that we were standing at the point which is the top of East Devon District Council’s £1.6M flood scheme (phase 4) and where no work has yet taken place.
“You’ve been taken for a ride by Wainhomes. Their attenuation tanks are full ‘all the time’”
I have no idea what made a resident say this, since it’s simply not possible to prove. While it’s true that yesterday there was much water coming off the Wainhomes site, the design of the attenuation tanks was approved by the relevant authorities. As for being taken for a ride by Wainhomes, had it not been for the efforts of various parties (as well as swift work by East Devon District Council’s Legal Department who slapped a Breach of Condition Notice on them), Wainhomes would not have installed the tanks at all, and matters would have been far worse.
“No-one’s been to visit us yet!”
The flood wardens are not a branch of social services. We are volunteers who do our best. While we do what we can to help, we are not miracle workers! Perhaps those who are critical would like to join the flood warden scheme and see for themselves?
“Bring me sandbags now!”
This from a lady who was nice and warm inside her cosy house. Please don’t shout at the flood wardens to bring you sandbags. Please don’t shout at all. We will find someone to bring them to you if you are elderly or disabled. Otherwise, the best thing to do is make preparations for protecting your house while the sun is shining. Again, floodwardens are volunteers and not part of the social services!
“Move that traffic bollard. I need to drive through here!”
Key floodwardens have received professional training and are now empowered to halt and divert traffic: this is not a matter of people playing at traffic cops. Yesterday a number of people were upset that they were prevented from driving their 4x4s up Station Road. They felt that the water was shallow enough for them to pass with ease. As was explained on numerous occasions, we were protecting the houses which are built below the level of the road. The slightest bow wave causes water to get into these houses. I understand that a Tesco delivery man was particularly unhelpful.
But despite all this, there were so many acts of kindness.
A very kind young boy called Fred arrived with his mother and a tray with mugs of tea and Bourbon biscuits (my favourite!). Other offers of hot drinks and biscuits were gratefully received and meant that we could work on a little longer.
I can’t list the many kind souls who braved the elements yesterday, but Jayne Blackmore, Danny Beaven and Dave Sanders deserve special mention … thank you to these volunteers.
And to some others … please have patience and don’t blame those who are doing their best to help!