What would you do if your home, your business and your allotment were deluged by water? I’ve been incredibly lucky to never experience this kind of flooding, so I can only imagine how devastating it would be to hear the sirens signalling the imminent threat of flooding, to watch as streets became rivers and to see the flood waters rise. On Christmas Day night and Boxing Day this is what many in the north of England were faced with as the rain kept on falling. There had been floods earlier in December in Cumbria and there have been more since, particularly in Scotland, but when it hits somewhere you know and love, when it threatens family and friends, it takes on another dimension.
The Calder Valley sits below a stretch of the Pennines in West Yorkshire. Wellyman grew up here, we were married here and it’s somewhere I’ve come to think of as my adopted home. I love its stunning, rugged beauty, the fantastic market towns and great community spirit. Then the rain came, the rivers swelled and the flood waters rose. This is an area accustomed to a degree of flooding; the topography, a steep-sided valley with rivers running through it, makes it somewhat inevitable, but what happened this Christmas was beyond anything that had been seen before. At one point, in the main streets of Mytholmroyd the water was as high as the shop signs above doors and windows. It inundated homes and businesses, damaged bridges and lifted road surfaces. It would be one thing if this was clean water but it isn’t, it’s full of whatever it has swept with it – debris, mud and, worst of all, sewage from the overwhelmed sewers. It has been heart-breaking to see the footage of the destruction the floods have caused.
For some time now the market town of Hebden Bridge has been a beacon for independent shops and has gained a reputation for its quirkiness, profusion of organic shops and ethically sourced products. We make a bee-line for the town whenever we’re in the area. Many of us decry the loss of the nation’s high streets and the homogenisation of shopping due to out-of-town developments and massive superstores. Hebden has been a model for what a town can be, a thriving community with an eclectic mix of small businesses supporting the local economy. Whether it’s the food shops which supply local produce, the independent bookshop, the art and crafts supplier and the whole host of galleries, clothes and gift shops, this is a place where shopping is a pleasurable experience. I normally can’t stand the prospect of having to go shopping, the thought of fighting through the crowds and being blasted by loud music mean I spend as little time in shopping centres as possible. Hebden is so different. I could happily spend a whole day pottering around here, having a delicious lunch and then a wander by the canal or up to Hardcastle Craggs, a local beauty spot. Then there’s the Hebden Bridge Picture House one of the last surviving civic-owned cinemas in Britain and the Little Theatre Company formed in 1924. This is a town which celebrates creativity and community.
One of these businesses is the Snug Gallery run by Ed Chadwick. Ed is a photographer who has created a highly regarded gallery which showcases incredibly talented artists from across the country, including his partner Jill Shaddock’s beautiful ceramics. On Boxing Day Ed and his partner Jill faced the triple whammy of having their home and their business deluged, and their allotment washed away.
What do you say to people who have had their world turned upside?
Wellyman and I met Ed last summer; I think it might have been raining then too. A mutual friend, Sarah, knew we were in town and said we should pop by the gallery and say hello. Her text went something like, ‘He has an incredible allotment, you’ll have lots to talk about’. And we did. Ed showed us photos of his plot on Instagram, we chatted about potato varieties and our dahlia obsessions. Later that day, after a walk by the canal we took a wander past Ed and Jill’s allotment. It was stunning, not just an allotment but their garden. Now it’s all washed away.
Hebden Bridge has come back to life after previous, albeit less damaging floods, it has also survived the decline of manufacturing and the mills to reinvent itself. But this flood has really knocked the stuffing out of people. Many businesses haven’t been able to get insurance against flooding for some time now. There’s a fear that people will leave, that businesses won’t reopen and what will happen to the town then?
Flooding isn’t going to go away. Perhaps there are ways to alleviate the ferocity of future floods. There has been talk of damage to the moorland above the town caused by possible over management of a grouse shoot. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/29/deluge-farmers-flood-grouse-moor-drain-land. Possibly Hebden Bridge and the surrounding areas can look to other places which have come up with ingenious ways to limit any damage. But what about the here and now?
I’ve felt really useless over the last couple of weeks not knowing how I could help, so I thought the least I could do was to write about what has happened and to tell you about the appeal Sarah, the friend who introduced us to Ed, has set up. The idea is to raise £10,000 to keep the Snug Gallery alive. Although they managed to salvage their stock and reopen, there is a bigger problem. The town has been decimated and it will take quite a while to recover. Without visitors over the coming months shops like the Snug will find it difficult to keep going. By supporting Ed and his business you’re also supporting a community of craftspeople and this fabulous town. Ed has devised a tiered system of rewards to show his gratitude to all those who pledge their help which include Snug Gallery seeds, a limited edition print of Hebden taken by Ed, a vase created by Jill, a photographic walk around the town with Ed, or the ultimate bespoke Snug Gallery Experience. For more details of how to pledge and how you’ll be helping go to https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/sarah-statham-4.
To see more about the Snug Gallery http://www.snug-gallery.com/ and to find out more about the fantastic rewards go to https://www.instagram.com/snug_gallery/.
I’m sure normality will return to the area soon and Hebden Bridge will be ready to welcome visitors once again. If you get a chance do go. Hopefully you’ll get a taste of why this is such a fabulous place.
I live in Ripponden, thankfully on a hill. Sowerby Bridge was also badly flooded that day and many of those businesses were hit too. I often shop in Hebden and we go to the cinema every couple of months. It is so sad, and well done for sharing their plight, I fear many businesses will never re open but I will go and shop there again and try to help in any small way I can. Xxx
Thanks Lyn. I really hope that doesn’t happen to such a vibrant place. Fingers crossed, everything crossed the town and area recover. x
The Frustrated Gardener said:
I haven’t been to Hebden Bridge but have heard lots of good things about it. What’s happened there is just devastating. Sadly it seems floods are becoming a regular part of early winter which makes me thankful I live on a riverless island of chalk, but very sad for all the people who have had their homes and businesses so badly damaged.
You should definitely visit. 🙂 It will be a fantastic place once again. Yes, I count ourselves very lucky we have managed to escape flooding.
The best thing people can do is vote. Get rid of the useless people in government. Make sure that local ministers get it in the ear until they do things to help the people rather than their own pockets.
The local councillors here in Wakefield got a bit of a drilling because of the fact that the Calder no longer gets dredged. The Calder blew it’s banks here in Wakefield too. Made a real mess and totally flooded the open area just under the M1 (Google Pugneys country park)
At least some people managed to avoid it to a degree.
I hope your friends get back on their feet. B-(
I saw that link too. I think we need to be much more imaginative in the way we deal with flooding, rather than seeing huge, expensive concrete walls as the answer. Thank you for your kind wishes. 🙂
It’s a crying shame, Hebden Bridge sounds like a wonderful place, the sort of place I wish there were more of. I do hope the gallery is saved, and I hope the allotment will arise from the floods to be beautiful once again. And most of all I hope there is no more flooding. It’s been so very grim. CJ xx
It is, CJ. Thank you for your good wishes. Let’s hope this rain stops soon. xx
Floods are so devastating. Not just the damage and financial cost, but also the emotional journey when you start cleaning up and repairing the damage.
I, too, have friends in Northern England that have been impacted by these floods, and it breaks my heart to even think about it. After all, my personal flooding experience was “just” a weekend home, not my full-time home. And still it nearly broke me. In fact, just over two years after the flooding of the Summer House I’m only beginning to realise just how traumatic it really was – and how it still affects me.
I remember how devastating it was when your summer house flooded. They’re a spirited lot in Hebden and I’m sure the town will come through it all, but I know that it makes such a difference knowing people elsewhere care.
Thanks for sharing this Louise, seeing the devastating flooding on news programmes over the Christmas period brought home to me how lucky I have always been where I have lived; Climate change obviously has a lot to do with all the flooding in recent years but some is due even more directly to ‘us’ building on flood plains and meadows and also to some degree (but probably not directly in this case, to concreting over front gardens to use as standing for cars.
Thanks Christina. Yes, there are all manner of ways we’re contributing to the flooding risk. It’s going to be a tricky one for us to solve. Let’s hope we can.
A good, and heartfelt, post. Friends of mine were flooded out many years ago and I well remember what it was like as I helped with the aftermath. It took them over a year to get back to a redecorated home and a normal life. xx
Thanks Flighty. It’s surprising how long it takes to get homes and businesses back to normal. xx
Judy @ NewEnglandGardenAndThread said:
Mother nature has been on a rampage – water, fire, wind. I think she’s trying to tell us something. I hope we are listening. 🙂
I don’t think we are, unfortunately. I wish I could feel more positive.
Backlane Notebook said:
Gosh thank you so much for this personal appraisal of such a ghastly environmental tragedy. It’s all too easy to watch the news in the warm at home and to despair and then to forget all about it. But when you know the area as you do and can picture the people and properties that are effected then it’s essential to pass that on. I tweeted the link to grouse moors contributing to floods last week and hope it’s heeded by the government.
Hi Sue, Thank you! Hebden is such a great place, it would be dreadful if it was left to go into decline. Who knows what we can do about flooding, but I hope the people who can do something about it start to focus their attention on the issue before it’s too late for places like Hebden.
It must be so awful to have everything you have created under water. Watching the news on TV doesn’t bring the devastation home like your post has done. When I first started out doing craft work, many years ago now, I relied upon galleries like Snug, to buy my wares, so that I could keep producing the paintings of wildlife that I loved doing. I do hope that they manage to turn this tragedy around and continue their business. Thank you for bringing it to our attention.
Hi Pauline, I love my home, so I can only imagine how awful it must be to see it flooded but your allotment and business too. The news reporters hang around whilst the floods are there but then something else comes along and it’s the locals who are left dealing with the mess. I know there are so many demands on people at t his time of year financially and there are so many people in need, but I hope people will see it’s more than just one shop. Thank you. 🙂
My inlaws live in Hebden Bridge and have suffered from the floods too. We’ve had to help muck out and dig through the mud in the past. The last ones (not these recent ones) completely decimated their kitchen for the 4th time so they had to rethink their home and relocated the kitchen upstairs in the dining room – it took it’s toll on my mother in law and she aged overnight with the worry. These latest floods (which despite all the flood defences) came over a 6 foot wall and straight into their house again…. they were away at the time, they had only just got over their last deluge.
I’m so sorry to hear that. It must have been dreadful for them. I don’t know what can be done but it would be terrible if people left the town and businesses didn’t continue. Hope your in-laws are OK.
The floods have been devastating, haven’t they? My heart goes out to all those who’ve been affected, it just doesn’t bear thinking about. Leeds hasn’t seen floods like these before and the Ouse in York is still breaking its banks, we passed just yesterday. It’s terrible that businesses are unable to get insurance for these type of events, it can mean make or break for small businesses. Just terrible.
The floods have been terrible, haven’t they? Leeds has never seen floods like them before and the Ouse is still breaking its banks in York, we passed just yesterday. My heart goes out to all those affected. It’s terrible that businesses are unable to get insurance for events such as these, it can mean make or break to the small business, just terrible.
Hi Jo, Yes, it has been awful. We used to visit York a lot when I was a child and i do remember it flooding but I’ve never seen it so bad in Leeds. Hopefully places like Hebden Bridge will recover and we can think of ways to alleviate future flooding.
It’s been most depressing reading/seeing the news about all the floods but I can’t begin to imagine how devastating it must be for individuals, families and businesses experiencing it. Like you say Lou it hits harder when it’s an area you know and love. We’ve visited Cumbria regularly over the years but more so during the last couple of years since we bought a caravan in the area. The nearest pub to us where we walked to and sat by the river last summer flooded in December. It is now closed for the forseeable future 😦 That’s just just one instance but it impacts greatly on the local community and people’s incomes. Multiply that by hundreds and the consequences are impossible to get your head round. I do hope that your friend’s business and allotment come through this tragedy.
Isn’t it so sad? Like you say, the impact is felt far and wide. There’s a fabulous spirit in Hebden Bridge, so I do think it will fabulous once again. Let’s hope their spirit isn’t tested again and something can be done to prevent future floods.
The weather changes world wide are so drastic…I do feel very sorry for the people caught in these floods. Years ago we had severe fires in Canberra and it takes the community a long time to recover from natural disasters. Best wishes for Snug gallery, the pottery looks wonderful…also love that last photo with the rainbow.
Thank you! Yes, the problems caused by changing weather do seem to be getting worse. The cameras are there for the drama of the fire or high water but then they go and we forget all too quickly that people will be dealing with the aftermath for months to come. Thanks for your best wishes. The pottery is gorgeous, isn’t it, as are Ed’s photos. 🙂
And to think that the RHS was promoting drought-resistant gardens and plants for such a long time…only goes to show that the weather remains something out of our control. In Ireland parts of our garden were regularly flooded but thankfully we lived on a hill. Actually we always choose hills to live on, much better view too. I think gardening will become more of a challenge as only few plants are fond of extremes. I wish you all the best for 2016, happy gardening and plenty of inspiration for your work, Louise 🙂
Yes, I know. It seems climate change means we need to be prepared for pretty much every possibility. Living on a hill is a good plan. Not sure there’s space for us all to do it. 😉
Belated good wishes for 2016, Annette. 🙂
Thank you for the ‘inside’ picture of nature and humans in your neighborhood.
Oh its so heartbreaking Louise. I’m not far away in Huddersfield and know how much rain we have had, but for it to affect so many people in that lovely town its awful. So good of you to highlight such a terrible situation. I really hope they can rebuild as soon as possible.
Hi Annie, An old friend from uni lived on the outskirts of Huddersfield and I used to visit quite a bit. I remember a great night out in Halifax. 😉 I loved the whole area and thought I might live there one day. I still hanker after moving back to the north.
There’s a remarkable spirit in Hebden Bridge and businesses are reopening, so I hope it’ll be back to it’s best soon.
I just wanted to do something to help. Others have been doing the proper dirty work and cleaning up.
Jayne on Weed Street said:
What a sad sight. Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with, and living in the low country now, I am aware of how easily water can devastate.