Worcestershire Record No. 24 April 2008 pp. 34-35
This event would appear to be one of the most severe since another documented flood in 1852. During the intervening years there have been other times when this brook badly overflowed its banks, such as the Easter flood of 1998, when a total of 81.8 mm (3.2 ins.) fell at Old Storridge, over the 8th and 9th April, but did not rise to quite the same peak as this event.
The spring had started with a glorious April with only half an inch of rain recorded, but from the second week in May something akin to monsoon conditions set in, and by the start of this event a total of 337 mm (13.25 ins.) had fallen since May 6th. This resulted in the land being completely saturated, so that all this extra heavy continuous rain went straight into the nearest streams. This extremely unusual wet spell left the countryside looking like it does in the depths of winter, with muddy conditions everywhere, and had the writer continuously wearing wellingtons, when out walking.
The fact that these three months totalled up an incredible 65% of the annual average rainfall, made it look as if the whole years rainfall would eventually be a record. This in fact did not happen, when rainfall fell back to less than normal from Aug. to Dec. and the year although a wet one at 957.5 mm, did not pass the record for Old Storridge of 978.6 mm in 2000. The 40 year average was 726.5 mm up to 2002, but with all the years included to 2007, this has changed to 731.9 mm from 1962-2007.
The Meteorological Office had for some days before July 19th, been forecasting falls of four or more inches of rain and they proved to be exactly right in their predictions. Following this major event, an enquiry to an ongoing local study into rainfall in the Malvern area run by a Mr Frank Hill, found that the upper Leigh Brook catchment had four recording sites. Each rain gauge had recorded over four inches as a total amount for the period, with one site having just less than five inches! All these sites were from Old Storridge to Colwall, and it was inevitable that these sorts of figures would cause untold damage all along the watercourse. One small relieving fact was that the brook reached its peak before darkness fell, and those having to escape inundation, were able to leave their homes in daylight.
The fact that this event was on a Friday, meant numerous people were at work and children were at school, leading to many having great difficulty returning home, and some even having to find alternative accommodation for the night. Severe road congestion took place where the brook flowed over the busy A4103 in Cradley, instead of under it, causing many motorists to be stranded for the night!
Vehicles were abandoned all over the area; some had to be left in the floodwater, when the engines died. At Stiffords Bridge, on the A4103, in Cradley one car floated up and was left suspended on a low wall. Much to everyone’s surprise this car started perfectly well after the flood and it was driven away! At Mousehole Bridge, on the Alfrick and Suckley Parish boundary, a similar thing happened when another abandoned 4x4 vehicle broke down and was later washed a hundred yards across a large field by the force of the rising waters.
In Old Storridge one kind family, when they were prevented from getting home, gave their house to the flood victims from a brookside cottage called Nightingale Bower. In 1998 at this same cottage, which is situated at the end of the Knapp and Papermill Reserve, the floodwater removed the domestic gas tank and swept it a half a mile, to eventually leave it upright on Pivany Bridge also in the reserve. It was then eventually replaced on a firmer concrete base but even this was not enough in the latest flood. It was eventually lifted including the base, and taken a shorter distance leaving it just below the old ford, but on its side this time. It was eventually removed, but the concrete base was left for future passers by to guess as to its origin, in this remote part of the valley.
This watercourse also passes through the older part of Cradley village, where it is actually called the Cradley Brook or an even older name was the River Rundle! Here it was the half timbered village shop and post office that suffered the worst with water entering the store, unheard of before in living memory. On the opposite side of the village near the end of Chapel Lane, other dwellings were badly damaged.
Numerous other buildings down the length of the brook were flooded out and also brought out the fact just how many public houses are close to the stream. These were the Cliffey Arms at Mathon, which was closed at the time, the Red Lion and the Prancing Pony at Stiffords Bridge. The Red Lion was hit very badly and was unable to be opened until after Christmas. Its nearby inn was luckier in only having eight or so inches with the cellar flooded, and was able to open much earlier. Another property opposite the Red Lion also suffered when a retaining wall collapsed affecting the structure of the building.
Although there are numerous road bridge crossings over this watercourse, only one suffered partial damage. This was an old stone bridge on a narrow lane near to Beanhouse Mill, where half the down stream parapet was flattened by the force of the water. All the other road bridges were overwhelmed but stood up to the onslaught, although none of them were passable at the height of the flood. One footbridge was lifted off its foundations and tipped into the streambed near Nightingale Bower, and another wooden footbridge was washed away at Linley Green, but this was on a swollen tributary of the Leigh Brook. A number of other footbridges down the length of this turbulent brook thankfully did survive, but had quantities of debris piled up on them.
In the Knapp and Papermill Nature Reserve in Alfrick, just a few short hours of the actual flood was enough to change many parts of the brook. In some places the bank was washed away, and in others such as just below the weir, stones were scoured from the bed by the turbulence over the weir and left as a new feature, some two to three feet higher than before. Gates along the main pathway adjacent to the stream were completely removed taking the gateposts with them, some to be left high and dry elsewhere and recovered afterwards. Pivany Bridge itself was badly damaged this time, when the force of the water peeled off the upstream parapet stones and then in places took the two arches down to the single original brick archway. A huge tree trunk had to be removed from the bridge before an inspection could take place. It was passable after the flood but pedestrians had to keep to the centre of the bridge.
Historically the watermills always got hit in floods and this time was no exception. Beanhouse Mill in Cradley suffered badly, and being rather set apart, the occupants had to struggle vainly with the rising waters. Tundridge Mill site in Suckley faired much better following the construction of a flood defence following the 1998 flood. In the 1852 flood here, a report stated “chairs were left hanging on bacon hooks in the beams!”
Bridges Stone Mill near Alfrick Pound also suffered, with water getting in the Mill itself, now converted to a dwelling. The old Mill House nearby suffered badly and its elderly lady resident had to move to the converted Clover Mill nearby, also originally part of this mill complex. Parts of the adjoining stone garden walls of the garden were demolished above the bridge, and the excess floodwater that was unable to pass under the single archway of the road bridge, poured down the drive from the Mill. This had the resulting effect of lifting very large patches of complete tarmac, leaving them as a temporary hindrance in the highway. Both the brick gate posts were flattened and the post box containing some letters, which had been posted earlier, was left at a drunken angle. The letters were not recovered!
The Brook Cottage just a little further downstream also flooded, when the low wall built to keep the waters out after the 1998 flood, was flattened. This was later reconstructed to try and minimise the force of future floodwater against it. Continuing further, Hopton Court also had an ingress of water, but suffered no major damage.
Major flooding also occurred near Leigh Church, with five houses being damaged around the road bridge area. One garden had the greenhouse swept away, and it was reported that although some properties here were flooded in the 1998 event, one property had not as far as the residents knew, been inundated since the 1852 flood.
This local flood was of course only a small part of widespread devastation, with other parts of the county and its neighbours recording similar catastrophes. This was the writer’s worst flooding event here in over sixty five years of being in the parish and wonders if this was anything to do with climate change! The only hope is it will not be witnessed again in his lifetime.
|Pivany Bridge Due for repair in Summer 2008, the bridge was badly damaged when the force of the water peeled off the upstream parapet stones and then in places took the tow arches down to the single original brick archway © Garth Lowe||Bridges Stone Mill The flood waters were
too great to go under the road bridge, so came out from the entrance to
the mill and lifted up sheets of tarmac
© Garth Lowe
|Knapp footbridge It was just usable until
© Garth Lowe
|Big Meadow on the Knapp & Papermill Reserve. This is
where the floods swept the gates open wide
© Garth Lowe
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