News

    Looking back at the 2007 flooding in Worcestershire

    • 21st July 2017

    It has now been 10 years since Worcestershire, and much of the country, was hit by severe flooding. June 2007 had already been very wet, with minor flooding, and there were some additional floods early on in July too. On St Swithun’s day (15th July) it rained hard, which tradition suggests may have given some indication of what was still to come!

    On Friday 20 July it was raining hard, and there were a few warnings of flooding on the news. Most people were unaware of how bad things were until lunchtime when messages started coming in of blocked roads and delayed trains. Some Worcestershire Record Office (the old name for Worcestershire Archive Service) staff based in Malvern made their journey back early afternoon after hearing about the problems, and like many had a horrendous journey, but eventually managed to get home. Other people weren’t so fortunate, and were either stranded during journeys home or realised it wasn’t worth attempting to travel and stayed put where they were. BBC Hereford & Worcester continued broadcasting all night providing updates as the river continued to rise.

     

    The flooded river Severn, Worcester, 2007. Image taken by Paul Hudson.

     

    Saturday was a strange day. The rain had stopped and the sun was out for a while. Worcester was virtually cut off (as was many other places) and many of those people remaining in the city went down to the river to look at the situation and take photos. Our old Worcestershire History Centre branch was open, and surprisingly, was as busy as usual. Some of the customers were people stranded in Worcester using the Internet to arrange transport or to keep in touch. It was a place, like the library, people seemed to gravitate to.

    The floods affected many people, ruining homes, closing some businesses, and destroying crops on farms. On some roads cars had to be abandoned when roads flooded and drivers had nowhere to go. Others were affected in smaller ways as road closures prevented them going to work or seeing family.

     

    Severe flooding on the Cattle Market, Worcester, 2007. This is close to where The Hive is now located, though luckily we have plenty of flood defences! Image taken by Paul Hudson.

     

    Flooding is a part of Worcestershire’s story; a natural phenomenon with devastating effects but also one that can on occasion work to the advantage of residents in the county. Past generations have been known to take advantage of the regular floods, and the resulting silt it deposited on the land, to assist with their farming.

    The memories of major floods in the county stick in people’s minds and stories about former floods are often repeated. The Archive Service has previously held events where we have shown old film footage of past floods, such as the one in 1948, and they often provoke much conversation and reminiscing. The 2007 floods prompted us to capture some of the stories for the future. We asked people to send their stories and photos to keep in the archives.

     

    Here is a story shared with us by Heidi:

    “It had been raining all day, and I had sent my two-year old boy, Callum, into nursery all happy with his wellies and anorak, splashing in puddles all the way. I went to work at Worcestershire County Council, and thought nothing more of him all morning – he was inside and dry, and so was I. In the afternoon, I had to attend some computer training in a different building, so I wasn’t in the office. Although the building isn’t far by car, it is probably about twenty minutes walk. As I don’t drive, I reluctantly set off through the pouring rain, with my anorak and umbrella (but sadly no wellies as I was in smart work gear…). I had nearly reached the building and turned a corner where there was a dual carriageway and a huge puddle next to the pavement. I stopped until a few cars had passed, but saw that all of the cars were avoiding the puddle and pulling out, so I thought it was safe. Unfortunately, just as I decided to risk it and walk along the pavement, a car decided to drive straight through it…So I arrived in a much worse mood, and a bit soggy.

    At about 2.30 pm I got my first phone call from the nursery in Malvern – they had received news that it was taking people about an hour to get from Worcester to Malvern due to the weather, so could I come early to pick Callum up. I contacted my car share partner, and we set off at 3 o’clock from County Hall. Due to the weather and the traffic jams, we decided to go through the centre of Worcester, in the hope that it would be a bit quicker….how wrong we were! It wasn’t so much any flooding; simply the large volume of traffic, as everybody else had obviously had the same idea about leaving early. By about 4 o’clock we were just approaching Powick roundabout, and I got another phone call from the nursery saying that they were shutting. I told them I would get there as quickly as possible, but I was really worried and panicking about what to do. At 4.30, I had another phone call, and we had literally only just driven onto the roundabout. Luckily, one of the nursery staff, Linda, doesn’t live far away, so she said she would take Callum home and give him some tea etc. That was a huge weight off my mind, and I am eternally grateful to her!

     

    View of the flooding at Worcester Bridge, 2007. Image taken by Paul Hudson.

     

    We crawled along all the way back to Malvern. The only actual flooding we saw was in the dips in the road by the Halfway House, and by Bransford there was water pouring off the fields in droves. We saw a number of people walking along the road (many more than usual!) who had obviously just abandoned their cars and decided it was quicker to walk. However, we persevered, and eventually got back to Linda’s house in Malvern at 6.30, where she had a collection of various refugees in her living room. I had been so worried about Callum, but he was absolutely fine and in his element – sat having beans on toast and watching CBeebies. Apparently he wouldn’t let anyone else go near the remote control! He was actually quite reluctant to leave and go home that night…

    Although we weren’t actually flooded where we were in Malvern, we couldn’t have gone anywhere else, and we were pretty much stranded there all weekend. The supermarket shelves were suspiciously empty too, so I don’t think any lorries were able to get through.

    Callum is not the worse for wear after his exciting experience, and he still talks about the day he went round to Linda’s house and watched CBeebies. Think he would quite like to do it again sometime, but I certainly don’t want to repeat that experience in a hurry…”.

     

    Since 2007 a lot of work has taken place on flood defences, and thankfully more recent floods have affected fewer people. Flood alleviation schemes have taken place at a number of locations, and our archaeologists have been involved with ones at Callow End, Upton on Severn, and Bewdley.

    You can find out more about the 2007 floods in Worcester by reading the book Worcestershire Under Water by Kevin Ward, which is available in our Local Studies Reference Library on level 2 at The Hive.

     

    Worcestershire Under Water, by Kevin Ward. Available to read in the Local Studies Reference library at The Hive.

     

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