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Now residents count cost of floods
Published 20/01/14

HOMES have been damaged by the floods that swept through the area last week.

Properties in Wargrave, Shiplake and Whitchurch as well as some on Rod Eyot, opposite Mill Meadows in Henley, were submerged after the River Thames reached levels only 3in lower than the infamous floods of 2003.

Residents in Wargrave, evacuated their homes as the water came in, causing tens of thousands of pounds of damage. Many villagers parked their vehicles in the station car park to keep them safe.

Christine Hopcroft’s entire garden in Loddon Drive was under 4ft of water but her home escaped being flooded by half an inch.

It took her 45 minutes to wade and then paddle in a canoe several hundred yards to reach the station so she could travel to Peapods Nursery School in Peppard, where she is deputy manager.

She said: “We have to abide by staff ratios in the nursery and the children depend on you so it was important for me to be there every day.

“We start at 8am so it meant leaving in the dark, making it a precarious start to the day. The water got up to chest height when I was wading in the deepest part and I was worried about it going over the top of the waders.”

Mrs Hopcroft and her partner Luke, a carpenter, decided to leave the house for two days and stayed with her daughter-in-law Louisa, who also lives in Wargrave.

She said: “I was just really lucky that the water didn’t go into the house. I put things on top of cupboards and on the sofa because I was sure it was going to get in. One more shower of rain and it would have done. I was very worried throughout the week.

“As we watched the water rise more and more each day we lifted up more things. I can’t afford to insure anything because it’s so expensive and that’s why I was so worried.

“We eventually had to turn the electricity off because it was getting dangerously close to the electrics underneath the house. We pump the water up from a borehole so we had to turn off the water as well.”

Mrs Hopcroft added: “The benefits of living by the river in the summer are so wonderful that they outweigh this.During the winter you do feel ‘maybe this will be my last one’ but then the summer comes and you just change your mind again.”

Philip and Jill Meadowcroft’s entire rear lawn in Watermans Way was covered in more than a foot of water.

The couple said it was the worst they had seen the flooding in the five-and-a-half years they have lived there.

Mr Meadowcroft, 69, who managed to paddle in the garden using a tub, said they had been away for the weekend and returned to find the water level rising.

He placed sandbags against the front and back doors as a precaution.

“I’ve not seen it this high before,” said Mr Meadowcroft. “There’s not much point in being worried but there’s a good point in being cautious. We knew about it when we came to live here.

“This is an act of God and it happens. The impact is more of irritation and inconvenience. We’re not impeded greatly — it’s rather nice to have a riverside home temporarily.”

Mrs Meadowcroft said: “It was like it was in 2003. In Loddon Drive it got to the stage where the only way in and out of houses was by boat.”

Tom Burman, 77, of Wargrave Road, saw the bottom half of his garden flooded by the Hennerton Backwater. He had to move a bench he was given by his two children and four grandchildren to mark his and wife Janet’s 50th wedding anniversary in November.

Water also appeared between his garden and boathouse, where he stores a motorised Indian canoe and a flat-bottomed punt called Eleanor.

Mr Burman, a retired company owner, said: “The punt is on rollers but there was a massive downpour and it came shooting out. With another minute it would have come round the corner and I would have lost it so I had to put on my waders and go after it.”

He said the River Loddon was the cause of much of the flooding in Wargrave because there are no locks to control the water level. “If there’s a lot of rain at the other end of the Loddon it shoots straight into the Thames at Wargrave and there’s nothing to stop it,” he said.

“We’ve had a lot of heavy rain in the Loddon area, which has made this stretch particularly bad. We always get this in January or February but not usually quite as high as this.

“We’ve lived here for 35 years and it has been worse than this just once in my experience, which was in 2003.”

Radio presenter Mike Read, who lives in Mill Lane, Henley, left his home on Thursday because it was “uninhabitable” without heating or a working toilet.

He said: “There was swirling floodwater every side of the house but luckily it didn’t come in because I have a concrete floor. It went right up to the sandbags. They saved the day because it would have got in if it wasn’t for them.”

Ed Simons, who lives opposite Mill Lane, said his house was built over the river so he had an “incredible” view of the floodwater.

He said: “It’s a little daunting as it’s the highest it has been since we’ve been there and we’ve had to watch it grow day by day but we haven’t flooded, which is very good news.”

The floodwater in Bolney Road, Shiplake, was up to 2ft deep in parts and gardens were covered in at least another foot. Most of the houses remained dry because they are built on stilts but the interior of a converted boathouse was reported to be flooded.

Many residents had to park cars away from their homes as driveways were submerged. One man got his Range Rover stuck in a ditch while trying to take it out of his drive.

A portable toilet for builders working on another house fell over into the water.

John Cordrey, 71, who has lived in the street all his life, said the floods had only been worse twice — in 1947 and 11 years ago. He said: “It’s not as high as it has been but it’s pretty high. As soon as we get a push of water all these gardens on the riverside start to go under.

“It has happened more in the last 10 years than it had for the previous 30 but when you look at the Saxon chronicles, which date back to the 1600s, it was flooding virtually every year so things haven’t really changed.”

Mr Cordrey, a retired builder, added: “A lot of the newer residents just think it’s very nice by the river and don’t expect it to flood, whereas older residents have come to expect it to flood over the years.”

Hurley high street was closed due to flooding. Resident Cindy Burrowes, 48, said it was the worst she had seen it in the eight years she has lived there.

“I’m lucky that the water hasn’t come into the house but the river has broken through the bottom of my garden, covering about half of it. People who live next to the cricket pitch have it next to their front doors. There were two sandbag drops and they’ve all been used across the village.

“I have to say it has brought out the community spirit because everyone is looking out for each other, whether it’s getting sandbags or getting food and medicine for those who need it.”

Mrs Burrowes, who lives with her husband Patrick and two sons, said she watched an episode of Midsomer Murders on Wednesday last week that had been filmed in the summer and included a fictional flood.

“As it was dry when they were filming they had to use a rain machine but we were all watching it while the water was rising, which was quite ironic,” she said.

Published 20/01/14

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