Monday, 18 January 2021

Bird’s eye view of Thames in flood

Bird’s eye view of Thames in flood

A PANORAMIC photograph of the River Thames in flood at Goring has been captured from 1,500ft.

Dennis Pearson, who owns and runs the Chiltern Park Aerodrome, near Woodcote, took the image on his mobile phone as he flew over the village in a microlight on Boxing Day.

During the 50-minute pleasure trip, he followed the river upstream above Mapledurham, Whitchurch, Goring and South Stoke before heading back.

The image shows the flooded fields at Gatehampton, behind the houses in Manor Road, after the river level rose following heavy rain.

There was also minor flooding in places along the Berkshire bank and on the fields to the west of South Stoke.

The Environment Agency had warned of flooding and urged people to stay away from footpaths but there was no risk to properties in the Goring area.

The water started draining away a few days later but Mr Pearson was concerned that it had risen so sharply in the first place.

He said: “I thought. ‘Oh dear, if it’s this bad already then what’s going to happen in January or February?’

“It was only late December and in all the years I’ve been flying I can’t recall it flooding so severely in the days after Christmas.

“The view was pretty imposing all along the river — you could see all the way down to Pangbourne and Whitchurch, where the water meadow was also flooded.”

Despite Oxfordshire being placed into tier 4 of the Government’s coronavirus restrictions, pilots were still allowed to Mr Pearson’s aerodrome because flying counted as a permitted leisure activity.

They could only fly solo or in their support bubbles and couldn’t land at other airfields.

Mr Pearson, who founded the aerodrome with his wife Julie in 1988, said: “We’re running at about 10 per cent of the usual level for the time of year because many of our more mature pilots are staying put.

“They’re either concerned about the health risk or they’re living too far away when you aren’t supposed to make long journeys.

“However, the younger ones are still flying solo, which is important for safety as they could lose their skills without regular practice.”

In recent weeks, a large number of people have paid to take part in charity skydives from the airfield this year.

“We have got a backlog but hopefully we can clear that when our season starts again in March,” said Mr Pearson. “You wouldn’t think it would be popular but all these lockdowns have made people consider what’s important and they want to get on with things instead of talking about them.

“We hope the dives will go ahead because they raise money for good causes at a time when many charities are struggling and could go under.” Last summer Mr and Mrs Pearson’s landlord gave them notice to leave their current site off Icknield Road but the couple have been allowed to stay while they look for a new base.

They have had talks with nearby landowners but nothing has been agreed.

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