Sunday, 8 March 2015

Hell and high water: an apocalyptic week in Ambridge

Heroes of the flood, we salute you

The residents of Ambridge are still reeling as they realise the full extent of the devastation that the Great Flood of 2015 wrought in the village. They cannot even bury their dead, as corpses lie piled up at Home Farm (Steady on. These are sheep. Ed). It will surely be many months before the villagers of Ambridge come to terms with the loss of their homes, livelihoods, hopes, dreams and future happiness (Get on with it. You’re not Fergal Keane. Ed).
With a shocking lack of support from the emergency services (see Letters, page 94) it was up to the villagers to do what they could to save their homes and, indeed, their own lives. Tales of astonishing bravery have reached the Ambridge Observer offices. Here we salute just some of the courageous men and women who pushed the boat out (in some cases, literally) for their community.

• David Archer
As flood warden, David had to leave Pip alone at Brookfield and take his tractor and trailer to ferry stranded residents to Grey Gables. Having lost contact with Jill and Pip, he could manage only a few ham sandwiches before sobbing to Lizzie that he’d let everyone down. But after a sleepless night, he was off on the tractor at dawn, to find Jill and be joyfully reunited with Pip, who had got on perfectly well without him.

• Adam Macy/Charlie Thomas
Adam was on his way to check on Home Farm sheep when he met Charlie, who was struggling with a blocked culvert. When Adam’s trusty digger couldn’t shift it, Charlie jumped in and got his foot trapped. Adam dragged him out, enthusiastically gave him the kiss of life and took him off to Home Farm for the night. ‘Of course I’m here, where else would I be?’ he cooed in a way that might make Ian feel he’s lost more than just his home…. Sadly, Adam forgot to check the sheep, so that at least 20 ewes and eight lambs drowned…

• Pip Archer
Pip rolled her sleeves up
to save the parlour
Pip combined brains and brawn to come up with the idea of uninstalling the milk pump to save the Brookfield parlour, and when her assistant Tom retired hurt, she undid three of the four bolts herself, as well as looking after a bewildered Bert Fry. When David turned up next morning, she was calmly milking the herd. Go Pip!

• PC Harrison ‘Ford’ Burns
Harrison’s first noble act was to call time on karaoke at The Bull, thereby saving the village from Jazzer McCreary’s Bohemian Rhapsody. He then took charge of the search and rescue operation and even had a twinkle in his eye for Fallon, who impressed him with her toddler-wrangling skills at Grey Gables.

• Rob Titchener
Rob was about to slope off with Helen and Henry when pressed into service by PC Burns. A natural loner, this Cockleshell Hero rescued Shula, Alistair and the octogenarian Aunty Chris from the Stables’ hayloft in a boat, only to sustain a serious but not life-threatening injury when he was hit on the head by a rowlock.

• Rev Alan Franks
Alan battled the waters to stop Freda Fry trying to drive back to her bungalow, rescuing her from the car just before it rolled into the river. Alan also hosted Jill, Carol Tregorran, a hysterical Hilary Noakes and Sabrina and Richard Thwaite in the church overnight, which required the forbearance of a saint.

• Eddie Grundy
When the Brookfield milking parlour sprang a leak, Eddie was down in the main drain like a water rat, trying to block it and prevent it filling the pit. He then went out in a boat with Ed, saving Lucky the turkey and nearly saving Charlie Thomas, although he thought Adam’s frantic cries were just wind. Too many sprouts again, Eddie?   

• Clarrie Grundy
Although she had lost her own home, Clarrie coaxed Lynda Snell out of Ambridge Hall, persuading her to leave her Coalport dolls, Easter cactus and favourite coffee table and reassuring her that Scruff the dog would soon be found. She even had the presence of mind to save Joe Grundy’s ferrets.

Après Ruth, le déluge….

Ruth left Ambridge in a huff on Saturday afternoon, taking Ben to see his granny Heather. ‘My mother is not something to be dealt with… I’m putting her first for once,’ she hissed at David, not even stopping to listen to Pip, who was trying to tell them that the parlour was flooding. After that, all contact was lost between Prudhoe and Borsetshire, so it was left to David and Pip to survey the lake that is now Ambridge and contemplate the future. ‘Even so, it’s rather beautiful from up here, isn’t it Dad?’ said Pip. ‘Of course it is. It’s our home, and it always will be,’ said David. So if Ruth returns thinking the flood might have changed her husband’s mind again, she can no longer count on Pip as an ally. Bad luck, Ruth!  

Local hotel in environmental health scandal

Grey Gables Hotel was subject to an emergency environmental health inspection this week after a guest reported that vermin had overrun the premises. ‘My wife and I had just arrived in Borchestershire and were enjoying a relaxing weekend,’ said Wilbur M. Cornstalk, 63, of West Virginia, USA. ‘We were digesting Chef Craig’s delicious ’50 Tastes of Grey Gables’ menu in the bar, when there was a commotion outside. We thought maybe it was some quaint local entertainment, like your Doris Dancing, which was fine by us. Next thing you know, the whole place was like a refugee camp on account of some flood. Now, back home folks help each other out, but this was crazy: there was cats, dogs, kids running all over. One old guy had a pocket full of rats that he let run round the lounge. He was even feeding them chicken sandwiches. Jeez; that’s the kind of trailer trash behaviour we came to get away from. And it got worse when we went up to our room; the guy from reception was in there talking about some divorce to a half-naked woman who was wearing Wilma’s housecoat! We were out of there as soon as they could send a cab and we ain’t never coming back!’

Poetry corner

Thank you very much to Bert Fry, who despite being left homeless and very confused by his ordeal in the floods, took time to send us this moving poem, which the Ambridge Observer is sure speaks for many in the community.

Ode to the Ambridge flood

The floods of Ambridge were very bad
and now we all feel tired and sad,
so many folk have lost their homes,
even Eddie’s garden gnomes,
and my broad beans are a goner
thanks to Mr Sean O’Connor (who he? Ed)

My Freda went off to the church,
she thought I’d left her in the lurch,
she left my dinner to keep hot,
and I forgot to turn it off,
it must have burnt up to a cinder
before the flood came through the winder
and took away our bungalow,
it was a night of tears and woe.

But young Pip Archer saved the day
she took me in and let me stay.
My Freda was always in my heart;
we’d never spent a night apart
but she was spared, thank the Almighty
even though she didn’t have her nightie.

So now the waters have gone down
Freda’s in hospital in the town,
the villagers will pull together,
we always do, whatever the weather,
because no matter how much we are afrighted
the people of Ambridge will stay united.


  1. Another Epic Issue ! Brought home the Danger and Human Suffering of a small Village in one page !

  2. Top notch reporting from the watery front. Enter edition for British Press Awards.

  3. The poetry. So beautiful. (wipes tear from eye)

  4. Thank you very much everyone; it's good to get such positive feedback and to feel that the Ambridge Observer is doing what little we can to support the community at this time.

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  7. The shock has improved Bert's poetry no end! 'the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings'.

  8. Hello Lesley, you were clearly so moved that your comment appeared three times! Many thanks. Certainly, the overflow of the Am has got Bert's creative juices working overtime too..

  9. Excellent work Christine. Mcgonagall rides again!

  10. Thank you! Most kind. McGonagall is one of Bert's role models but he doesn't feel he's reached the heights of the famous Tay Bridge Disaster quite yet.