On a Friday lunchtime at the end of January, when we thought that the bad weather may be coming to an end, I took my wife over to the Hawbridge Inn for lunch and to have a chat with Ian and Kelly Baikie, the landlords to find out how they were getting on with their Floodgates. Wadworth & Co had contacted us, via Dolmans, their surveyors, in 2013 after the pub had been flooded for a second time last year, to see what we could do. We ended up supplying a total of 9 gates in a variety of sizes to protect the key points around the building.
I hadn’t been directly involved with the project but I had seen the emails passing between us and Dolmans so I had some idea of the scale of the problem. However, nothing prepared me for what I saw when we went to visit. It is one thing seeing the television reports of flooding but when you see it up close it is something else – something shocking and not a little frightening. On the Friday when we visited, the pub itself was clear of floodwater but just the impact of driving out from the village of Tirley towards the river and seeing water on both sides of the road as far as the eye could see, felt like leaving the normal world and entering some kind of post-apocalyptic landscape.
We received a warm welcome from Ian and enjoyed a very pleasant lunch whilst seeing the river lapping over the tarmac just outside the front door. Ian told us that the river was rising and he expected to have to put the gates up later that afternoon but seemed pretty relaxed about the whole situation. The back garden and the campsite were already under water and had been since the bad weather began at Christmas, a month earlier. The gates had already been deployed on several occasions and had done their job.
On the wall by the bar was a brass plaque about 2-3 feet off the ground showing the level the flood water had reached back in July 2007 and it was hard to imagine how that must have been – especially as Ian and Kelly live upstairs. We left, full of admiration for their dedication to keeping going despite what nature had thrown at them but comfortable that the worst was over.
How wrong we were…
As we now know, the rain, storms and flooding were to get even worse over the coming fortnight and the water level just kept rising. The Hawbridge Inn page on Facebook shows the remarkable resilience of Ian and Kelly over that time. Here are some examples of Ian’s posts during that period:
11th Feb – Man vs water and man is winning today. We have floodgates up at all doors and they are working, if they weren’t we would be under at least a foot. It is coming through the walls and floors but only trickling so we only have an inch covering. 9 pumps are working constantly to stop what looks like the North Sea out there coming in here.
12th Feb – Man vs water and now wind. We are seeing 2ft waves from our window on the river and in the fields…. It feels like we are in the middle of the North Sea on a very stormy day. We have battled all week and have flood proofed the pub as much as we can it’s now time to sit tight and ride out the storm….see you all on the other side.
14th Feb – Man vs water – day (to be honest it’s been too many we have forgotten ) 10 pumps now in operation while we sit and wait for the impending rain. River levels peaked overnight to levels higher than 2012 and are dropping slowly, enough we hope to allow for the next 24 hours of weather. We are still keeping 2ft of water outside from coming in higher than a couple of inches, so let’s hope we are nearing the end.
22nd Feb – The road to Hawbridge is clear in all directions just be careful of the debris. Normal business will resume today. Mr and mrs starts at 9pm this evening, all couples welcome (you don’t have to be husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend, questions designed for everyone incl mother and daughter, friends etc)
Despite the Floodgates, water still came in through the walls and floor but because of the Floodgates, Ian was faced with managing just 2 inches of water inside the building, which he was able to keep under control with pumps rather than the 2 feet of water that was up against the outside walls of the building.
Personally, I would have given up and moved out years ago – I am full of admiration for what Ian and Kelly have done and continue to do and I look forward to going back in the spring to sit outside the pub on one of those benches with a pint in my hand as I watch the river flow gently past…
Simon Edmonds – Marketing Manager, Floodgate.