It feels like it has been raining forever, over an unending wet and miserable winter.
Raised high in the borders, on my grandparent’s sheep farm, one thing I can say for certain is that I love my home county. Geographically described as ‘rural,’ Herefordshire nestles quietly and somewhat forgotten on the borders of the Welsh Marches. Agriculture lies at the heart of the community. We watch things grow. It is easy to fall in love with the quiet accent, rolling green hills, winding valleys and little black and white village trails.
Now I hold my hands up and acknowledge that currently living deep in Devon, unlike those in the West Midland ‘shire’ counties, I am lucky. The fire is cracking and warm in my living room. We are not currently knee deep in the murky flood waters of the Wye, Lugg, Arrow, and Severn. Wandering from the usual style, or matters usually featured on the blog, I write this from conversations with my family and friends in the worst affected areas that don’t have voices, raised with worry, louder than those that carry over next doors fence.
Arriving home, only a week back, during the arrival of Dennis (let us avoid a tedious ‘menace’ connection) roads were saturated with red tinged water from the clay filled soil.
We bought an extra-large bottle of milk in a very British expectation of bad weather.
Twenty-four hours later and most local roads were blocked with red signs, abandoned cars swallowed up. Places from my childhood submerged on the news left me shaken. My aunt’s allotment was floating. Elderly neighbours cut off. Record breaking river levels bought an unprecedented level of flooding with the defences of riverside towns buckling and breached. Yellow and red weather warnings still colour the counties.
My best friend lives by the water in Hereford. Fire engines threaded through the town and there were helicopters overhead. It was like a disaster movie without Gerrard Butler in it. Residents were anxious as nearby streets received evacuation orders.
Some were overwhelmed, others resigned at the second or third devastating flood of the year.
Neighbours stick together, pitch in, as the emergency services tried to stem rising water levels. Exhausted, spending all night trying to save her home, she was overwhelmed by people’s ignorance of the terrible impact of the floods. Pumps that were keeping families safe were being moved and faced back towards houses. Put back inside front doors.
People clambering to see the water had got irritated at residents for creating large puddles in the streets that they had to walk through.
Locals want to see what is happening in their towns and cities. I do get it. People are worried and curious. It is important to witness and take interest. Acknowledge how serious the situation is. Lives also need to move forward; people need to get to jobs and family members.
News services with presenters donning sombre faces with tales of the serious impact to lives, their vans parked, blocking roads.
People do need the countries eyes on them. But acknowledging people’s hardship is more important than taking a picture for Facebook. It is not ok to wade out into flood water and put yourself at risk for no reason, except for a selfie. Rescue services are stretched, you put them in danger too as they protect lives and homes. My gratitude goes to the 999 crews and volunteers working tirelessly.
Do you think – it will be ok; I will just drive quickly through the standing water? Your bow wave will flood roadside properties and cause yet more damage for homeowners. There may be potholes under your wheels. Six inches of fast flowing water can sweep a person off their feet. Lives have already been lost.
Towns and villages across Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire are in different stages of the crisis. The water table is already saturated and high. Warned of ongoing severe flooding I can’t image being cast from my home for weeks or months. Places like Tenbury and Hay on Wye where waters half fill living rooms. Businesses are ruined. Truly devastating. I was born in Shrewsbury which is half submerged. If it is safe families return to clean out their dirty homes and ruined things. Mud, mud and more mud will be left in the wake of sinking water.
Flood defences need improving. Agencies need to ensure that homes and people are protected.
Outside clouds are expectant with rain with the arrival of another oddly named storm. With swathes of rain and snowfall to come there will be more weather warnings. My heart and thoughts are at home, under water, with the communities I grew with and towns I grew up in.