The Great Wraysbury Floods – 2014 (15)

June 7, 2014

(Cont…..) Part Fifteen:

“Picnic Anyone?”

Unlikely flood heroes

Unlikely heroes in a flood!?

Throughout Tuesday 18th February 2014, a number of fire engine crews from all over the country descended on Wraysbury, dropping off large containers and various pieces of equipment. One particular unit of the Chorley and Lancashire Urban Search And Rescue Services called ‘Blue Watch’ arrived late afternoon and began setting up a huge industrial pumping station right outside our house. I watched with intrigue as they began laying hundreds of yards of hoses in and out of the field opposite and all the way down to the River Thames. It didn’t take long for curiosity to get the better of me so I went across to ask them if they would like a cup of tea or coffee. I always assumed firemen must get inundated with offers of tea where ever they go, so I was surprised when they jumped at my offer with immense gratitude ordering, six teas, four white, three with two sugars and one with three sugars, one black and one white with no sugar and two white coffees, both with one sugar!!?

Despite needing my wife to help me manage such a complex and diverse order, for some reason that still escapes me today, I chose to complicate things further and introduce another component into the order. I decided to see if the boys from Chorley fancied some of my bulk-supply of Picnic bars.

As they got stuck into their Picnic bars I was a bit surprised and disappointed to hear that despite coming all the way from Lancashire to help out our little village of Wraysbury, they had not been offered a single cup of tea all day.

Picnic BarHaving broken the ice by demonstrating some good old fashioned hospitality, I asked them “So, just what exactly are you doing here?” Without hesitation, they told me “We’re going to try and empty the water from the field opposite and pump it back into the river” This sounded pretty ambitious to me, “It is a very big field, how long do you think that will take?” I asked. “Difficult to say, probably 2-3 days but we won’t know until we have the pumps up and running.” I left them to their work and told them if they don’t get inundated with offers of tea and coffee from the kind residents of Wraysbury, they should give me a shout, pointing to my house across the road.

Despite the EA’s miraculous ability a few days ago to lower the water levels by 7.5 inches (19cms), many pockets of deep water still surrounded several properties including my own. The water around our house was still about 12 inches (30cms) and had not moved over the past few days. It was clear we were in a low-lying area. I thought about asking my new friends from Chorley to come and look at my property to see if there was anything they could do to help. But decided not to, for fear of yet another refusal to help me.

I soon became familiar with the shift pattern of Blue Watch as I continued to meet their demands of tea, coffee and my precious Picnic bars! They worked tirelessly maintaining their pumps and checking the field opposite to monitor their progress. They worked round the clock with another crew, disappearing after eight hours only to return eight hours later to start another shift. Both teams kept this up for a full 72 hours.

Soon we were supplying both crews with tea, coffee and Picnic bars. One evening, we had seven firemen standing in our flooded kitchen drinking their beverages! One of the firemen commented on how deep the water was in our garden. I agreed and changed the subject saying “It must be a bit strange for you guys to have water as the enemy?” They must have heard that one before because no-one laughed.

The following day after their eight hours of rest Blue Watch returned. Once they had checked on the pumps and had consumed their first tea, coffee and Picnic bar of the shift, they came to look at the garden again.

"It will be a while before anyone wants a picnic on our lawn!"

“It will be a while before anyone wants a picnic on our lawn!”

They told me they would probably finish with the field shortly and would be returning to Chorley. One of them said that they had told their shift supervisor about our hospitality and how deep the water was around our house. “We asked if we could use our big pumps to try and drain your water out but have been told we can’t”.

Despite being disappointed at the news I thanked them for helping our village and wished them well. “We are not going yet”, one of them said, “Not until we have tried to empty your garden!” I wondered how, if they had been told not to. He continued, “I may be confused but I think our supervisor only said we couldn’t use the big pumps.” he smiled “So, we will just have to beg steal and borrow what equipment we need”. I was really touched.

Within 20 minutes all six of them returned with different pieces of machinery and piping. They had borrowed hoses from the London fire crews, a water pump (which took four of them to carry) from the Somerset team, plus a few more bits and pieces that they weren’t sure who owned.

They spent at least two hours pumping out the garden, moving the heavy equipment around as water levels dropped and new low points were revealed. By the time they finished we could see our beautiful lawn again, albeit through a layer of crap from the flood. At last our dog Bracken could go in the garden, which was something he hadn’t been able to do for nearly three weeks.

I thanked the team from Chorley and gave them their last cups of tea and coffee, leaving them to fight over the remaining three picnic bars. Seventy-two picnic bars had gone in less than seventy-two hours!

Sadly, within three hours of waving them goodbye, the water began to fill back up in the garden as high as it was before. It was fun while it lasted, although sadly it would be a long time before anyone fancied having a Picnic on our lawn again!

(to be continued……….)

Disclaimer: The content in my blog is provided for entertainment purposes only and as such is in no way reflective of any recognized sailing regulations or guidance. Whilst all the stories are factually correct, the identities of the people concerned may have been changed to protect me from any liability. Please consult a sailing book, preferably endorsed by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), before going anywhere near the River Thames. All content is copyrighted to Bracken, in the hope it might eventually pay for his chemo!

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The Great Wraysbury Floods – 2014 (13)

May 10, 2014

(Cont…..) Part Thirteen:

“If you don’t ask, you don’t get!”

"Will someone please help?!!"

“Will someone please help?!!”

Saturday 15th February 2014 brought with it some terrible winds, thankfully however the re-flood we were bracing ourselves for never appeared. The water in the garden was still quite deep though at around two feet (600cms) which meant that many of the bushes and trees resembled something out of the everglades with the ground below them just very soft mud.

I was getting increasingly concerned about two sixty feet (18m) pine trees at the bottom of the garden that over hang an outdoor hut which we had recently purchased as a Christmas present to ourselves. As the wind got stronger, I became more and more obsessed with the trees. Watching them constantly from the living room window I reassured myself  ‘Surely we do not deserve any more bad luck?’. Eventually I could stand it no longer and put on my waders to venture down to take a closer look. I was horrified to see the roots of one of them totally exposed!

I ran back to the house (well perhaps not ran exactly, the water was still a couple of feet deep plus I had put my wife’s waders on by mistake) I had no idea what to do. Reluctantly I decided to phone the bronze control centre but was yet again told there was no help available.

I found it really difficult to just stand and watch the trees get blown over towards our lovely thatched hut, partly because I was still wearing my wife’s waders and partly because I wasn’t sure if it would be covered with the house insurance. I kept trying to think of ways I could prevent them from falling any further.

After about an hour of head scratching I was delighted with the arrival of six firemen from the London Fire-brigade who had come to see if they could help. For forty-five minutes we all paced up and down the garden in our waders, trying to figure out how the trees could be restrained and be prevented from falling on the hut. Strangely I was pleased to see their concern, it was reassuring me I had not over reacted about the situation and had done the right thing asking for help.

After much deliberation over winches and pulleys they finally came up with a plan and called their watch commander on the radio to get his approval to execute it. For an agonizing fifteen minutes we waited for their commander to give the go ahead. Unfortunately the long awaited call back brought bad news, apparently for health and safety reasons it was too risky for the firemen to get involved. Besides my tree was not on a public street and so not a threat to the community!?

I was disappointed but not surprised. I think the firemen were more frustrated than I was as they repeatedly apologized and said they wished they had just gone ahead and done it without asking for permission. Nevertheless, I thanked them for their efforts and assured them we would sort something out ourselves, after all that was what we had been doing for the past month.

By now the storm had gone away, however the degree of lean of one the trees meant that the threat of it falling, had by no means gone away.

I tried to ignore the trees for the remainder of the day deciding to put on my volunteers fluorescent jacket and do my anti-looter rounds, which I had by now become accustomed to particularly when I was pissed off. Secretly I was hoping I might catch a looter to take out my aggression on.

"Can you help us, we have a blind cat and a dog on chemotherapy that need saving"

“Can you help us, we have a blind cat and a dog on chemotherapy that need saving?”

The following morning the weather was pretty good and more water had gone from the garden. However, the worst tree now looked as if it was about to take out the hut, next doors fence and a large Acer tree! But not quite a threat to the community yet, sadly.

Unexpectedly our son and his girlfriend arrived offering to help sort the problem. I watched as my son waded down the garden and produced from his arsenal of gardening tools he now stored in our barn, an implement I had never seen him use before.

With great expertise and dexterity he systematically worked his way through every single branch on the tree, cutting each one slowly with a saw attached to a pole that he gradually extended to at least sixty feet (18m). He finished the job by cutting about ten feet (3m) off the height of the tree. Despite being devastated that such a beautiful tree was now just a fifty foot (15m) log sticking up out of the ground, I was relieved and very proud of my son for helping us make it safe, God knows no-one else was willing to help.

We celebrated with a beer and spent the rest of the day chopping up the branches and joking about things we could ask for help with, which might just get a ‘yes’ response.
(to be continued……….)

Disclaimer: The content in my blog is provided for entertainment purposes only and as such is in no way reflective of any recognized sailing regulations or guidance. Whilst all the stories are factually correct, the identities of the people concerned may have been changed to protect me from any liability. Please consult a sailing book, preferably endorsed by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), before going anywhere near the River Thames. All content is copyrighted to Bracken, in the hope it might eventually pay for his chemo!

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