Guest post: Maureen’s adventures in the flood

Maureen Brian wrote up her adventures in the Hebden Bridge flood on Facebook and I got her permission to post it here too. She notes that she’s too decrepit to join in the scrubbing but she makes damn sure to give credit to the people who do. Here’s Calderdale Flood Relief in case you want to make a donation. I’ll add some photos from the Calder Valley Flood Support group on Facebook.

To set the scene, I was in London when the flood hit on the afternoon of 26 Dec, having lured V. here to commune with the cats on the promise that this place was warm, cosy and full of books and other things to play with. Yes, I ended up feeling guilty.

The house was above the flood line – higher than ever recorded before – and was not harmed at all. We had already had several scares and one actual flood in the month. The electric power failed. The gas stayed on (so coffee) as did the landline but your bog standard phone is not as much fun as the internet. The house at the back of mine, though, is built into the hillside and had water pouring in at the back and out at the front several times. At least that was ground water and clean but still a mammoth task to get rid of!

Meanwhile, the whole of the centre of town was destroyed. The buildings are almost all of solid stone and will survive but the mess was horrendous. Most of the damage was to homes and businesses which had been gradually and painfully rebuilt after the 2012 floods – yes, that’s 2, one in June and one in July!


The majority of the buildings in the centre of town were built or had a major refurbishment from 1850 onwards when it was entirely reasonable to have cellars. Now they filled up again. We lost the use of, in no particular order, all the food shops, all 6 of the cash machines which were under water at the height, all the cigarette shops (4), our bookshops and a famous comic shop and the roads to the adjacent towns of Mytholmroyd and Todmorden were impassable. So, total boredom, cold and discomfort for poor V. The available candles and torch batteries just about held out but not the fags!


Christmas is the time for major engineering works on the railway so I arrived back on my planned date of 27 Dec, early evening, to find that the railway station had no lighting at all and exit involves use of a subway which is dim and creepy at the best of times. But there was V. wrapped in several scarves and bearing a torch. Back home in 5 minutes where we could sit in the dark and watch the lights in the houses across the valley, but gritting our teeth a little at their good fortune.

Mytholmroyd had it worse than HB and up on the top of the hill people were advised not to try to get anywhere unless they knew the route very well as wet bogs were exploding across the roads with the sheer volume of water, something which happens on unlit roads with no notice at all.

So that’s the summary of the bad bits. You will have seen the pics of shops dumping their entire ruined stock out into the streets.



The good bits are really good. After 2012 a group had got together – we do that in HB at the slightest excuse – to set up stores of basic equipment, sandbags, things to start the cleanup. Those were soon exhausted but by then the place had leapt into action. Marco at the pizza shop – just beyond the edge of the flood, still with power, was handing out free pizza and vast quantities of strong coffee to volunteers before the water had receded.

We also had the Town Hall, the 1890’s council offices recently extended to provide meeting rooms and space for small businesses plus a cafe and even more importantly working loos. It seems that supplies of cleaning materials and basic necessities – food, loo paper – poured in along with the volunteers. It was up and running as the 24 hour hub for HB in no time at all, coordinating requests for help with available muscle and liaising with police, fire brigade. It also offered specialist help and advice, all for free. All this is why I’m convinced we’ll get the town back on its feet though that may not be finished within a year. Most of the goods on offer were gifts from businesses and individuals.

We just cope. Helen at the wool shop is busy knitting up what remains of her stock and offering jumpers to friends and customers to retain her sanity until she can open as a business again in her volunteer-scrubbed shop in Market Street. Pics you may have seen taken from a balcony there are hers though any number of people are claiming credit for them! It’s become a running joke.

We went down to the Town Hall on Wednesday to charge my phone and were amazed not just by how efficient it all was but also how jolly. While we were there we bumped into members of a Muslim community group up from London to supply both muscle and curries – one of many such groups – also young soldiers coming in for their baked potato and baked beans, along with locals happy to just talk to other people. Floods and similar events isolate people terribly.


We also saw the visit of Rory Stewart, junior minister at Environment and now officially Minister for Floods. I understand that he later got a short lecture from a FoE person on retaining water in the hills rather than relying upon massive and expensive civil engineering works in the valley bottom once the flood is happening. He seems brighter than the average Tory but will he be able to convince Cameron, the very man who appointed a climate change denier as his first Secretary of State in that department?

We are fortunate not to be blessed – yet – by a visit from Cameron himself who might not have been well received, shall we say?

So where are we now? Bright sunshine and the odd shower. The Dusty Miller pub in Mytholmroyd, badly affected, is opening tonight with an impromptu party but very likely no furniture. The Picture House in HB, scrubbed clean and with the carpet and seats removed from the stalls, starts its intended programme on New Years Day, using only its rather hard 1920s seats in the balcony with no heating so the ads say “bring a blanket.” There is a crack along the length of the A646 of perhaps a kilometre where it overhangs the canal and would fall into it should we get that sort of rain again. Looks like it will be a rebuild costing the government more than it might have done to start managing the catchment area of the benefit for the ordinary mortals below. Meanwhile traffic is slow and single file.

We are still here and will remain. We could just do with a more scientifically literate government.

3 Responses to “Guest post: Maureen’s adventures in the flood”