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Where were you 10 years ago? Where will you be next time?

by Barry

10 years ago, the rains started to come down and the impact upon Gloucestershire was quick, brutal and long reaching.  The effects can still be seen today with Gloucestershire Tigers still not back in Gloucester after their ground was flooded, and people still nervous when buying new homes, or trying to get house insurance.  For us as a family it came when we were moving house from Coney Hill to Kingsway, and having exchanged on Both houses, we didn’t know what we were going to be left with.  Thankfully for us, it all worked out, but not everyone was quite so lucky.

The 20th July 2007 was a Friday and I was at work in Bristol.  We knew the rains had started and Amanda had rang and told me what was happening and that I shouldn’t work too late.  Working in Filton, I commuted by Train, so headed off to Filton Abbeywood station.  I remember sitting on the station and the departures board showing cancelled trains but the Gloucester ones still running.  But then as the time came, the train didn’t, nor did the next one, or the next.  Having rang the rail companies, they assured me they were going to come, but they didn’t.  And I was wet!

So, eventually I trudged off to the local Holiday Inn Express and got their last room.  They were amused that I had no bags or anything, but when I explained.  But still at this point, I was unaware of just how bad things were to become in Gloucester.  In reality, I was annoyed because I was doing the “Lighterlife” diet at the time and had none of the food with me.  How trivial in hindsight!

However, morning came and I walked to Parkway after being assured that trains were now running.  So I got back to Gloucester and Amanda picked me up and took me back to Coney Hill.  We then assessed the way forward.  We drove to see what the effects were in Kingsway and the house we had exchanged on.  Given the proximity on the map to Daniels Brook, we were somewhat nervous.  Again, in hindsight, there was no real problem, because Thatcham Avenue was on higher ground, but it was not really something we had taken notice of before (it is now).  So our house was OK, but Bodium Avenue was badly affected.  This was why the work being done by the Environment Agency on Daniels Brook in subsequent years was so welcome.

So, back at Coney Hill, we had a Bowser at the end of Naunton Road which we used.  We also would drive to the bottle water points, the biggest one being at what is now Go Outdoors.  The teams that got these going were brilliant.  But, being a Magistrate at the time too, I started to hear stories about people vandalising the bowsers and “contaminating” them.  Stories of people urinating in the bowsers and arrests being made.  Why people would do that is still beyond me.

In the end, with no water in the house, and 2 young children, we took the decision to impose on our families.  I still had to work, and some of it had me working away in Farnborough and the like so coming home I would be stopping in Supermarkets for stores of Water.  Amanda took the kids firstly to her family outside Newent for a few days, then up to my parents place in Cumbria.

We were lucky, for others it was a huge ordeal that went on for a very long time, and many valuable things were lost, not simply monetary things, but those things you pick up in life that mean a great deal.  For some, they paid the ultimate price.  On the other hand, we saw community spirit develop, people coming together in the face of a disaster, working to help friends, neighbours, colleagues and strangers.  It was certainly an inspirational time for me, to see so many people working together simply for the good of the community, perhaps we should look back on this piece of recent history more often and remember how it could be.

There is an overriding lesson here, as we take slivers, and wedges out of local services, council budgets and blue light services, they are all insurance services of one form or another.  In “day to day” working, it is somewhat easy to see where you can slice, to make services so lean that they are running at 100% efficiency pretty much all of the time.  But, when it matters, when we need the resources to deal with the bigger events, what will we do?  Some would highlight that through the next set of floods that we struggled and had to call in extra resources, and that those were not as bad.  Is Gloucester able to deal with another event like this again?  And don;t just think flooding, what could be the next event that stretches us and how do we deal and prepare for it?

But I am thankful for everyone who pulled together in 2007, for delivering the water, for making strategic decisions that saved further misery in the long term, for pulling together as a community, it showed the best of us at the worst of times.

The Citizen/Echo have done a great website to highlight the whole episode, have a look here: http://thefloods.gloucestershirelive.co.uk/index.html



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