Whilst conducting interviews in Tewkesbury we stumbled across a booklet which guided tourist around the town. Instead of this tour describing the epic Battle of Tewkesbury or the unique, mediaeval alleys that inter-connect the town, this guide places the tourist in the Wellington boots/waders of the residents who were affected by the 2007 flood.
Written by a local of 40 years, it gives a detailed account of the extent of the flood but most importantly tells the stories that regularly accompany this event. Obviously this guide includes details of destruction and damage, e.g. boats sunken on moorings, and the trial of damaged furniture during the clean out. But many of the stories retold are positive and some give accounts of the residents viewing the events around them:
‘Barricaded behind piled up sandbags, they brought out picnic chairs, and glasses of wine and sat watching all the activity’
‘They were seen on national TV sitting on the roof waving to the cameras’
Principally, this guide places the visitor in the middle of the outstanding community spirit amongst the stricken residents of Tewkesbury. Stories it refers to include:
Staff at the Borough Council Offices caring for people who had been forced out of their home
A message, and later a gift, from Meisbach, Bavaria, the twinned town of Tewkesbury
Youngsters thoughtfully checking on the vulnerable
The Abbey, a national and international symbol of the floods, conducted a wedding with local residents invited due to the inaccessibility into the town for guests
Also the Abbey invited children to play and construct Christmas presents to those without the space to do so.
One particular story most eloquently illustrates the mutual help that prevailed during the floods:
‘A few yards further on is the Scout Hut. Local cub leaders opened this refuge for anyone in need. They provided hot food and drinks, somewhere to sleep if necessary and – possibly more importantly – somewhere for homeless people to go and relax. Between them just four people kept it running round the clock for as long as it was needed – almost two weeks. Their efforts were recognised by the town council and the Scouting Association. The manager of Tesco, immediately opposite the scout hut, very generously provided food, drinks and other items, including toiletries, which those who had left home with nothing, might need. As word went round about their efforts local people took in toys, clothes and all kinds of things. One woman had been rescued from her Church Street home with her newborn baby, with just the pyjamas she was wearing at the time. She was soon fitted out with clothes for herself and her baby, and given a cup of tea and somewhere quiet to sit and recover.’