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Towns hit by 2015 Boxing Day floods suffer again

14 February 2020

Churches across the country damaged by winds and rain of Storm Ciara


Streets of Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria are under water, as Storm Ciara hits the UK, on Sunday

Streets of Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria are under water, as Storm Ciara hits the UK, on Sunday

FEW corners of the country escaped the effects of Storm Ciara over the weekend, but in the Yorkshire Pennine village of Mytholmroyd it was an all-too-familiar experience.

A month’s rain in less than 24 hours caused the swollen waters of the River Calder to pour through gaps in flood barriers that were still only partially completed, work having begun after the town’s last serious flooding on Boxing Day 2015 (News, 30 December 2015).

The Grade II listed Parish Church of St Michaels’ which four years ago was filled with four foot of slimy water, was affected again. Restoration took almost three years and cost more than £500,000; it was August 2017 before a Sunday service was held in the church. Now, the Vicar, the Revd Cathy Reardon, faces a similar challenge.

CHURCHES CONSERVATION TRUSTThe organ in St Michael and All Angels, Edmondthorpe, Leicestershire, is damaged

“At least it’s not as bad this time,” she said. “We got some warning and were able to get everything moved to safety. So long as the church dries out properly, we’ll be OK. But it’s a church, not a home; we have not lost our furnishings, our photos, our treasured memories of loved ones no longer with us, like other people here have; we will come back. That’s life. We have to be upbeat about it. It’s either that or go sit under the dining table with a duvet over your head. We will recover; we are tough up here.

“But please hold the whole valley in your prayers because it is devastating. People are upset, sad, and frustrated. It’s the long-term effect we have to be concerned about. At the moment, everyone is pulling together, helping everyone out, but their long-term mental health is the problem. When you get heavy rain, people start worrying.”

The situation in West Yorkshire, where 400 homes, 400 businesses, eight schools, and two care homes were flooded, and two bridges were damaged, was raised in the House of Commons on Monday. The MP for Shipley, West Yorkshire, Philip Davies, said that it was “completely unacceptable” that victims of Storm Ciara were also victims of the 2015 floods. The Environment Secretary, Theresa Villiers, told him that there could be “no absolute guarantees”, but the Government was determined to continue its major investment in flood defences.

Elsewhere, the problem was high winds. The anemometer on the spire of Salisbury Cathedral recorded a gust of 92.5 miles per hour. In Norfolk, the wind was strong enough to topple a pinnacle on the tower of St Peter and St Paul, Fakenham, into the car park; at St Mary’s, Tittleshall, near by, a fallen tree blocked the road, damaging the churchyard wall. The Queen cancelled her attendance at St Mary Magdalene’s on the Sandringham estate, on Monday morning, owing to 50-mile-per-hour gusts.

In Leicestershire, at St Michael and All Angels, Edmondthorpe, a temporary cover over the roof that had been stripped by lead-thieves four years ago was ripped away. The Churches Conservation Trust, which cares for the Grade I listed building, already faced paying £200,000 for repairs; now it must fund further work after rain damaged both the organ and fittings.

SALISBURY CATHEDRALThe anemometer on the spire of Salisbury Cathedral recorded wind speeds of 92.5 miles per hour

The Guild of St Winfride’s Sunday morning prayers in Shrewsbury Abbey were disrupted when the wind ripped a ten-foot hole in the roof. The Vicar, the Revd Dr Tom Atfield, said that there was a “colossal bang” as slates were torn away. “They thought pretty instantly that it must be the roof coming off, but they continued to pray. When they went outside, they found that a lot of the south-aisle roof was now in the graveyard on the north side of the church. It was very fortunate noone was there at the time.

“The Guild were absolutely fantastic, they came to me at our sister church, St Peter’s, where I was taking the service, and suggested I get to the abbey as soon as possible. I had to give my sermon to someone else to read.

TOM ATFIELDThe wind caused a ten-foot hold in the roof of Shrewsbury Abbey

“There is a huge amount of local resilience, so much so that when there was discussion whether we should cancel the 10.45 service that day, people said they would rather come in and continue worshiping.”

Several clerics took to Twitter to record their experiences with the storm. High winds, closed roads, and flooding prevented the Suffragan Bishop of Penrith, Dr Emma Ineson, preaching at St Mary’s in Wigton, Cumbria. The Revd Rob Cook described his journey to take services in Kirkbampton and Bowness-on-Solway, also in Carlisle diocese, as “interesting” and “even more interesting” coming home.

In Essex, the Revd Caroline Beckett, Vicar of All Saints’ and St James’s, in Brightlingsea, posted a picture of beach huts wrecked by high seas. “#Sadness in my parish, surveying #storm damage to our #BeachHuts. A beach hut is so many things: a haven with joy layered into the walls, little objects, toys, collected shells & #memories of sunset drinks & beach fun. We will #rebuild & we’ll do it together. #WeAreBrightlingsea.”

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