COMMUNITIES are rallying around in the aftermath of flooding across Gloucestershire.
It was a case of all hands on deck yesterday for flood warden volunteers in Tirley who set out to remove sandbag flood defences from the village after waters subsided.
Meanwhile residents in nearby Haw Bridge were picking up the pieces after weeks of battling with one foot of water in their homes. It comes as the Haw Bridge Inn reopened its doors for the first time.
Cancer patient Adam Russell, owner of neighbouring restaurant The Riverside Inn, was helped by villagers and even the military during the height of the floods.
Mr Russell, who rescued his sheep PJ and AJ from his field by putting them in a makeshift pen at the side of the pub, said: “The village has been so supportive. It is good to know that help is there. In turn, I have been looking after all the residents’ cars as I am on higher ground than them.
“I receive five and half hours of chemotherapy a week and the volunteers tried to get me out but there were no beds at the hospital so I stayed here in the end.”
Flood volunteer Hugh Mundy, who has lived in Tirley for 13 years, said: “It is in time likes this when the community really comes together. We have been taking it in turns to keep watch every two hours. We created a wall of sandbags which we are now able to take down.”
Parish councillor Tim Adey is arguing for Tewkesbury Borough Council to act upon the flood reduction plan put in place for Tirley and for flood drainage to be cleared after some 50 years of inaction.
Three miles away in Sandhurst, fears grew that some people are using the floods to commit crimes. Only a week ago there were concerns of ‘pirates’ using boats to target abandoned homes.
At the weekend there were reports of a Landrover having been broken into and ‘deliberately’ pushed into floodwaters.
One resident who did not want to be named said: “Now the floods have receded, crime is the issue again. The car is now full of water and manure. A non-emergency call was made to the police by the owner and again no police have visited the scene. This comes after a 999 call made to the police to report ‘pirates’ in boats was not responded to.
“The police need to start paying attention and not turning a blind eye to goings on down here.”
A police spokesman previously said: “There have been several reports of suspicious incidents but we would like to reassure people that officers did attend and have patrolled the area and nothing untoward was discovered.
“We are of course determined to ensure no one takes criminal advantage of these extraordinary circumstances.”
They added that extra patrols had been carried out in flood-hit areas.
CASE STUDY: RESPONDING TO THE FLOODS
WHEN your home is just metres away from the banks of the River Severn you have to be prepared for the worst.
Shaun and Alma O’Boyle have lived at Haw Bridge for 17 years.
In 2007 the ground floor was under a foot of water and their kitchen had to be replaced, but thanks to three pumps they minimised flooding to just a couple of inches in recent weeks. The pumps diverted some 532,000 litres of water per day – that’s equivalent to an Olympic sized swimming pool in five days.
Floors are tiled, the fridge is on stilts, table legs are wrapped, furniture is moved upstairs – and there are no sofas, just easy to move chairs.
Mrs O’Boyle said: “If I did not need to leave the house, I didn’t. It was simply too dangerous.”
Keep the power on is the most important way they can defend themselves. It powers the pumps that keep water levels down.
“If we had a power cut that would be the deal breaker,” added Mrs O’Boyle.
The couple know that when the Haw Bridge gauge reaches 5.3metres their property will begin to flood. Recent flooding peaked at 5.6metres which should have resulted in 30cms of floodwater in their home, but the pumps kept this right down.
FLOOD WARDEN TIM ADEY ON ACTION TAKEN IN TIRLEY:
Feedback from residents about the 2007 floods was that “they were alone and left to fend for themselves”.
Getting the authorities to reduce flooding in Tirley is taking longer than it should, but Tirley Parish Council felt it could better support residents during flood events and in 2012 established an Emergency Action Group (EAG).
Residents readily volunteered, all with full time jobs, some from outside the village, but all with a common wish to help others in Tirley during times of flood.
We set up a community action plan containing contact numbers of all volunteers, details of residents at risk of flooding, authority and services contacts and what action to take during floods.
We’ve also used aerial photographs and labelled them with house names to assist rescue services in finding the most remote properties.
These were heavily relied upon during the 2014 floods.
During the autumn, the group clears leaves and debris from drainage channels to minimize the impact of flooding.
Not necessarily on a sunny Sunday morning though, we’ve been out in the rain at 1.30am clearing blocked drains to maintain water flows through the village. When flood warnings are issued, group members are put on standby and flood information pages are activated on the village website. The flood website has received more than 7,500 hits since it was established and is used to report on river levels, roads in the village that are closed, temporary bus timetables and to provide important information circulated by the Parish Council.
We also capture who is staying in their houses during floods and make regular contact to check their welfare. We close roads, get food to stranded residents and act as a central point of contact for the authorities.
SARA, the military and local authorities say that the plans and actions taken by Tirley have helped to obtain a clear picture of our situation, and the Prime Minister requested to meet us to learn about what we’ve done and to thank us for our efforts. Our fight for flood alleviation goes on but is hopefully aided by our hand delivered letter at our meeting with Mr Cameron to request his support.