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From floods in February to joy in July
Published 07/07/14



THIS year, Henley was hit by worst floods in a decade.

In January and February, when they would normally be looking forward to the start of building work, the organisers of the royal regatta found were faced with the consequences.

Days of torrential rain caused the River Thames to reach some of the highest levels in years and there was widespread flooding across low-lying land in and around the town.

Some streets were flooded, residents had to be evacuated from their homes and there was disruption to transport.

A large area of land on the Berkshire bank next to the 2,112m regatta course was waterlogged and Lion Meadow, which is used as a car park during the event, was submerged.


At regatta headquarters, just upstream from Henley Bridge, staff had to wait weeks for the waters to recede.

Edward Warner, assistant secretary, says: “It was obvious that there was going to be an impact on the infrastructure of the site.

“We recognise we are in a flood plain and are going to have problems from time to time — it is pretty normal in winter — but the level of flooding we experienced this year, and particularly the time we had to wait for the water to recede, made life very difficult.

“The water levels went up and down for about a month. They receded a bit and then came up again much higher than before.

“We went to Remenham Lane a couple of times to check on things and we had to use lifejackets and wading sticks.

“We weren’t going to go anywhere near the water that’s for sure. The force of it was scary.”

At regatta headquarters three umpire launches stored underneath had to be rescued from the rising water.

Mr Warner says: “The launches are stacked up on railway sleepers 2ft off the ground. This year the water came up so much that they started to float.”

He, along with regatta chairman Mike Sweeney and secretary Daniel Grist, had to put up special brackets to lift the launches off the water.

Mr Warner says: “We all went down there wearing waders and strapped the launches to the ceiling. Luckily, they survived.

“We also have a little mess room that was flooded and we had to wash it all down because the water was pretty grotty.”

Elsewhere, a landing stage at Leander Club nearly became detached before being secured by staff and rowers had to train indoors and at Dorney Lake because of strong river currents.

On the opposite bank, the riverside seating area at the Angel on the Bridge was flooded, as was the area outside Hobbs of Henley in Station Road.

Meadow Road was flooded, cutting off access to the River and Rowing Museum, which was forced close for several days

Back at the regatta site, the land where the enclosures are set up was under about 2ft of water and the regatta team had to wait for it to recede.

Mr Warner says: “The main problem was breaking up the silt. We have a tractor with harrows and brushes which breaks it up but this year we had to wait for the grass to dry.”

Grass sewn after last year’s regatta had been underwater for so long that it had died by the time the waters receded.

Mr Warner says: “We reseed the ground after each regatta because when we have people walking all over it during the week it gets pretty damaged.

“After last year’s regatta, the grass was looking about as good as I have ever seen it but with all the new seed being underwater for so long it had all died and we had to start from scratch.

“The team we had on site worked very hard to reseed it all and there wasn’t any long-term damage.”

Permanent electrical pillars at the site suffered water damage and needed to be safety checked and some parts replaced.

The flooding also caused problems for the regatta’s conservation and tree planting programme.

Each year, it plants more trees, mainly on the downstream part of Temple Island and upstream on the Buckinghamshire bank. This area of water meadow has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and provides a managed sanctuary for flora and fauna.

Mr Warner said: “We have planted a lot of new trees recently and we lost about three of those. The roots were sitting in the water without any oxygen for some time and that can kill trees, especially if they are young.”

Luckily, with the bulk of the flooding taking place in January and February, the regatta’s building schedule did not have to be pushed back.

Mr Warner said: “The build timetable follows a set pattern which starts about 13 weeks before the regatta.

“At the beginning of April we normally start to get things moving and then it follows a very set routine in terms of putting the tents up and connecting water and electricity. It takes a long time to bring it all together and during the floods the thought did goes through our minds, ‘how long is this going to go on for?’

During May and June, the grounds team carried out over-seeding to maintain the grass on site.

Mr Warner said: “The last few weeks of preparation for the regatta have gone very well. The land has recovered extremely well through a lot of hard work by the with lots of care being take during the build. We have been doing some extra over-seeding but that is about it other than the normal build routine.”

THIS year, Henley was hit by the worst floods seen in a decade.

In January and February, when they would normally be looking forward to the start of building work, the organisers of the royal regatta found they were faced with the consequences.

Days of torrential rain caused the River Thames to reach some of the highest levels in years and there was widespread flooding across low-lying land in and around the town.

Some streets were flooded, residents had to be evacuated from their homes and there was disruption to transport.

A large area of land on the Berkshire bank next to the 2,112m regatta course was waterlogged and Lion Meadow, which is used as a car park during the event, was submerged.

At regatta headquarters, just upstream from Henley Bridge, staff had to wait weeks for the water to recede.

Edward Warner, assistant secretary, says: “It was obvious that there was going to be an impact on the infrastructure of the site.

“We recognise we are in a flood plain and are going to have problems from time to time — it is pretty normal in winter — but the level of flooding we experienced this year, and particularly the time we had to wait for the water to recede, made life very difficult.

“The water levels went up and down for about a month. They receded a bit and then came up again much higher than before.

“We went to Remenham Lane a couple of times to check on things and we had to use lifejackets and wading sticks.

“We weren’t going to go anywhere near the water, that’s for sure. The force of it was scary.”

At regatta headquarters three umpire launches stored underneath had to be rescued from the rising water.

Mr Warner says: “The launches are stacked up on railway sleepers 2ft off the ground. This year the water came up so much that they started to float.”

He, along with regatta chairman Mike Sweeney and secretary Daniel Grist, had to put up special brackets to lift the launches off the water.

Mr Warner says: “We all went down there wearing waders and strapped the launches to the ceiling. Luckily, they survived.

“We also have a little mess room that was flooded and we had to wash it all down because the water was pretty grotty.”

Elsewhere, a landing stage at Leander Club nearly became detached before being secured by staff and rowers had to train indoors and at Dorney Lake because of strong river currents.

On the opposite bank, the riverside seating area at the Angel on the Bridge was flooded, as was the area outside Hobbs of Henley in Station Road.

Meadow Road was flooded, cutting off access to the River and Rowing Museum, which was forced to close for several days.

Back at the regatta site, the land where the enclosures are set up was under about 2ft of water and the regatta team had to wait for it to recede.

Mr Warner says: “The main problem was breaking up the silt. We have a tractor with harrows and brushes which breaks it up but this year we had to wait for the grass to dry.”

Grass sewn after last year’s regatta had been underwater for so long that it had died by the time the water receded.

Mr Warner says: “We reseed the ground after each regatta because when we have people walking all over it during the week it gets pretty damaged.

“After last year’s regatta, the grass was looking about as good as I have ever seen it but with all the new seed being underwater for so long it had all died and we had to start from scratch.

“The team we had on site worked very hard to reseed it all and there wasn’t any long-term damage.”

Permanent electrical pillars at the site suffered water damage and needed to be safety checked and some parts replaced.

The flooding also caused problems for the regatta’s conservation and tree planting programme.

Each year, it plants more trees, mainly on the downstream part of Temple Island and upstream on the Buckinghamshire bank. This area of water meadow has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and provides a managed sanctuary for flora and fauna.

Mr Warner said: “We have planted a lot of new trees recently and we lost about three of those. The roots were sitting in the water without any oxygen for some time and that can kill trees, especially if they are young.”

Luckily, with the bulk of the flooding taking place in January and February, the regatta’s building schedule did not have to be pushed back.

Mr Warner said: “The build timetable follows a set pattern which starts about 13 weeks before the regatta.

“At the beginning of April we normally start to get things moving and then it follows a very set routine in terms of putting the tents up and connecting water and electricity. It takes a long time to bring it all together and during the floods the thought did go through our minds, ‘how long is this going to go on for?’

During May and June, the grounds team carried out over-seeding to maintain the grass on site.

Mr Warner said: “The last few weeks of preparation for the regatta have gone very well. The land has recovered extremely well through a lot of hard work by the grounds team with lots of care being taken during the build. We have been doing some extra over-seeding but that is about it other than the normal build routine.”

Published 07/07/14

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