If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll know that 26th December was a pretty stressful day for us. While up feeding Samuel around 2am, I noticed that our neighbour had tagged me in a post on Facebook. It was an alert: the river Calder was forecast to burst its banks sometime that day, and the flood warning was at ‘Danger to Life.’
We were just outside of the ‘Red’ zone, on the other side of the river from Whalley village. But we moved our belongings and furniture upstairs, packed a suitcase in case of evacuation, and Tim kept popping out to check on the river levels.
Around 10am, I was upstairs in the nursery and looked out of the window. The nursery window overlooks some garages near us, and there had been some large puddles, but nothing serious. Now, the water had completely flooded the garages, and was slowly submerging a parked car. My phone buzzed with the Sky News alert: the River Calder had broken its banks at Whalley.
Tim went out again to investigate. His photos are pretty dramatic.
We were glued to the news all day. Tim walked the long way into the village to see if he could help, but was turned back by the police. We hadn’t seen or heard anything from the Environment Agency or the council, but many homes near us were badly flooded. In Whalley, the police and army were using boats to evacuate people from their homes. We were in the “forgotten village,” as it was called in the press the next day.
By the late afternoon, the rain had stopped, and we went out to have a look. Now, I’ve seen flooding before: I grew up on the Somerset Levels. But I had never seen a river in full flood like that. The force of the water had knocked over fences and walls. Streets were two or three feet under water. The flood plains were truly flooded, and the force of the river flowing through its normal course was immense.
By the following day, I could not believe how quickly the water had gone down. But those who had been flooded were just beginning to count the cost.
There was an incredible amount of public volunteer support. Local people, and local charities, gave hours of time. There was a real sense of community spirit.
But now, nearly two months on, there are many shops in Whalley village which simply didn’t re-open after Christmas. So many people are still not back in their homes. Every time I walk or drive through, there are still builders clearing properties and making them fit to be lived in.
One of the ways the flooding affected us personally was the closure of the foot bridge over the river. This had been our main route into Whalley, and our only option for walking to preschool. The bridge was damaged in the flooding, so it had been gated off since the end of December. We haven’t walked into the village nearly as much as we normally would, as it’s quite a long walk (very long for a 3 year old), up a hill and along a busy road. It was amazing how this simple footpath closure affected our lives. We drove into preschool and into the village. We chose to go to bigger towns rather than pop to the village. We stopped going for walks – and going for a run has been out of the question (the alternative route starts with a steep incline).
This week, the bridge was re-opened. It’s still very untidy, with piles of debris along the footpath, and the fences still have to be replaced, but it’s open!
We walked into the village on Tuesday afternoon. It was such a simple thing – a 10 minute walk into the village, where we went to the library and played in the park. Yet, because the bridge had been closed, we’d hardly done it.
As it’s a safe footpath, there’s no need for Ben to hold our hands as we walk – instead, he can run ahead and pretend to with the race. I don’t need to maneuver the pram along too-narrow pavements. And – best of all – it means that the delights of Whalley, with its delis, florists and coffee shops, are happily accessible again.
I really love where we live, even though we’ve only lived here 18 months, and it was so devastating to see the area so decimated. But, with the opening of the bridge, I feel that we can easily support our local community and the businesses there. That’s where the real re-building of this community will continue.
I’m linking up to The Ordinary Moments at Mummy, Daddy and Me Makes Three.