J. G. Ballards “The Drowned World”, but without heat, that's what came to mind looking out of the car window. Saturday 29th December was another torrential downpour in a months of floods, in the wettest year in UK weather records. I set out that morning for Cambridge from Hereford.
|Hereford Playing Fields|
|Wye at Hereford|
Initially, you could not see the Malvern peaks, just the roiling clouds rushing around them. But breaks in the clouds were rushing up behind me. By the time I reached the Cowleigh Road junction to Great Malvern, I turned off the main Worcester route for a deviation in anticipation of a better view coming off the hills.
Cowleigh Road (B4219) was a narrower affair, through orchards and then winding into the woods. I pulled into the drive to Cowleigh Park farm, intrigued by the Cowleigh Spring on the opposite side of the road. The rain was letting off enough to get out and take a photo.
|Walcot Lane closed|
Coming into the Vale of Evesham, the Avon had burst its banks and it was more a case of the flooded plain winding sometimes closer, sometimes further away from the road.
My objective was a stop at Stratford upon Avon as I used to live and work nearby. The rain had not deterred Saturday shoppers and tourists, so it was a crawl to the Rother Street Car Park, where I was lucky to find a space. My first stop was for food; fishcakes in the Hathaway Tea Rooms on the High Street, with a warming cup of tea. A couple on a date to my left and three tables in front taken up by a family group provided light observational entertainment before I grudgingly set out into the rain again.
|Stratford upon Avon from footbridge|
|View to Royal Shakespeare Theatre|
Turning down Sheep Street, I reached Waterside where the Avon was in full flow but still within its banks. Crossing the lock, I walked onto the pedestrian bridge to photograph the Royal Shakespeare Theatre with the swollen Avon, tinted brown by the sediment it had ripped from earlier fields, rushing by.
The colour highlight in this grey day was provided by Dawn and Garry Lloyds's shop on Sheep Street, Gifts & Forget Me Nots (http://www.facebook.com/giftsandforgetmenots?ref=stream). They are the sole local source of Annie Sloan chalk paints for the area. With Dawn's helpful and friendly advice, I left laden with 100ml pots of rich colours and shades for future chalkboard work.
Back on the road, direction Warwick, I took a turning to Hampton Lucy, drove through to Charlecote. and then on to Wellesbourne, where we used to live thirty years ago. There, left onto the A429 through Barford in direction Warwick. These villages are all in the Avon flood plain and had suffered flooding in November. The river seemed to be within its bounds now but many fields were still full of standing water. Rain kept falling.
Darkness was descending at 4pm as I bypassed Coventry and joined the last stretch of the M6 leading to the A14. Spray from the traffic on the wet roads meant the wipers were on constantly. The first part of the A1 was prone to straight sided, deep potholes, to be avoided if seen in the headlights in time. No doubt the long spells of wet weather increased road damage, especially when follwed by groundfrost that would expand and enlarge any water-filled cracks.
At Kettering, I drove off for a tea break at the Little Chef at the services. With three staff present, I was in a minority of one. It was a case of “Hello, I'm Chris and I will be your customer for the next half hour!”
|Flooded Riverbank Park in Huntingdon, 2009|
|Flooded Fen Drayton Lakes|
|Flooded footpath next to guided busway|
|Milton Floods on October 2009|
I arrived relieved at our front door in Milton after 7 hours travel. The journey had been a transect through central England both in distance and as an encapsulation of the wettest year on record. I was also extremely grateful that, when buying our property, we had checked that we were outside of any flood plain. If you are thinking of moving house or just want to check how safe you are from floods – check the environment agency's site at http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/homeandleisure/floods/31650.aspx.
Floods, waterlogged ground, damaged crops and roads, relentless rain and just grey and wet demoralising weather - these had been engrained into our psyche for most of 2012. I could only hope that the New Year would bring relief –
But that is another story
The route taken on this journey can be followed here: