Sunday 22 July 2007

Blimey, what a week

The weather here has gone really silly over the past week and our town has been flooded. We only have a tiny river running through Cheltenham but it's fed by streams coming down off the Cotswolds and after heavy rain it can swell to flood levels within a couple of hours. Not helped by the fact that it mostly runs through narrow hidden culverts underneath the streets. And being a spa town, with underground streams and springs all over the place already, there's not really anywhere for the surplus water to go.

I'm rather disturbed to hear that the 200-year-old Playhouse Theatre (which I know and love intimately because I used to work in it) has been inundated. They've had to cancel two shows, and have lost loads of precious irreplaceable costumes. I really feel for them, because the place is run almost entirely by volunteers and they put so much love and hard work into it. Before the building was a theatre it was a swimming pool ... the stage is built over the deep end and the auditorium seating rakes up towards the shallow end. The deep part of the pool under the stage is used as a props and furniture store and I always used to love going down there because it still has its full compliment of colourful Art Nouveau ceramic tiles ... a beautifully preserved 1890s swimming bath completely hidden from public view below a hidden trapdoor. Well now the pool once again has water in it. There's a lot more of the building even below that; it was originally built in 1807 as a laboratory for extracting the salts from mineral waters (to be flogged off in little jars at an inflated price for medicinal purposes) and there was an elaborate system of underground channels in place to pipe the healing waters directly from various spas in the vicinity. This network of channels apparently still exists and runs for some considerable distance under the town. I'm not sure what happens if they get filled up with floodwater. I wouldn't want to be living on top of one of the old closed-up spas.

We're lucky that we live far enough away from the river that it didn't directly affect us when it burst its banks on Friday. But we had some flooding from the incredibly heavy rain, hopefully nothing too serious. It leaked through the roof into a not-much-used pantry area at the back of the house ... it soaked the walls and the carpet but it was only a manky old bit of carpet anyway and we don't keep anything too precious out there. The extent of the damage is hard to assess at the moment because it's quite dark in there and we dare not put the light on with water leaking through the ceiling.

But at any rate I was not in a position to do much about the roof leak on Friday other than stick a plastic tub under the worst of the drips and hope for the best ... and that's because the previous day (when it was actually hot and sunny) I fell over in the garden and twisted my foot, just by stepping awkwardly on the edge of the garden path. It swelled up quite badly and left me unable to walk. It's on the mend now and I can walk about, but I'm still feeling rather sore and I have a bruise on my foot which closely matches the colour of my purple pea pods.

Now we're being told that we may lose our water and power supplies over the next few days as emergency repairs are carried out. Our local water treatment works was evacuated in the early hours of this morning because of severe flooding, and they're talking about imminent water shortages while they sort out the damage.

Today I went outside and looked at the garden for the first time since the deluge and the soil looks like a river bed! The water's drained off OK but there are swirls of sand and silty deposits through the vegetable plots and some of the plants are covered in mud. No significant damage but it adds to the overall messiness of the garden this year. Harrumph.


Unknown said...

Sorry to hear you've hurt your ankle. Hopefully you're on the mend and the weather will give you a break!

Carol Michel said...

My that was a week. Hard to believe after all that rain that you might end up with no water at times while they fix things up again. Unbelievable.

Hope you are up and about soon!

A wildlife gardener said...

We have had rain for the past two months in Scotland with very cold weather and thunderstorms too, all very depressing ...but nothing compared to other oarts of the country, including your area where floods have caused irreparable damage. I feel for the theatre too and the loss of all their costumes.

Sorry to hear about your sore foot too. Get well soon...and keep strummin' along :)

Celia Hart said...

So sorry to read the plight of the unique Playhouse Theatre - it's been heartbreaking to see the damage done by the floods and the aerial photos of the historic Abbey at Tewkesbury on a triangle of land surrounded by flood water. Your account of the damage in Cheltenham must be just one of thousands all over the country today, with clean water in short supply and accumulating flood water moving further along the major rivers. The rainfall here has been over 4 times the average over the past 3 months but thankfully the water courses are coping so far.

Hope your ankle is on the mend and the damage to your house and garden is easy to repair.


kate said...

Hopefully the rain has stopped and left some sunshine in its wake. Deluges of rain are never good when they lead to flooding and loss of power etc.

I hope your ankle is better.