Worcestershire towns brace for floods despite dry summer

The West Midlands may still be officially in drought, but as winter approaches preparations are already underway for rains and floods. As the Environment Agency holds its week of flood action, BBC News talks to those affected by the floods about their hopes – and fears – for the future amid new warnings of deadly dangers.

Irene Buxton’s home in Bewdley, Worcestershire, floods almost every year. The last time was in February of this year.

“We had just gone to bed and you could see the water was rising…then all of a sudden there was an almighty crash,” she said.

“There was like a tidal wave that came all along the road, until [the house] and that’s where we got up, got dressed, grabbed some stuff and went out.”

Heavy winter rains caused the River Severn to swell to dangerous levels in February, overtaking the city’s defenses again.

Ms Buxton says she loves her home and does not wish to move. As a result, she used her own money to buy water pumps and other household flood defenses, but every time water destroys her property, additional expenses are required to repair the damage.

Irene Buxton

Irene Buxton has launched a flood action group in Bewdley calling for better defenses

Eight years ago, Ms Buxton launched a flood action group for the town, calling for better protection.

His vision could soon come to fruition, as the Environment Agency (EA) is developing permanent £6.2million flood defenses for the vulnerable area of ​​Beale’s Corner, due to be completed by 2024, though there is another winter before that.

The provision is intended to replace existing temporary barriers that have been repeatedly breached by floodwaters in recent years.

The devices are part of a number of measures introduced as part of EA’s six-year National Flood Plan.

Ms Buxton said that while getting the barriers had been a “battle”, they left her with more hope for the future.

Flooded Severn Stoke

Severn Stoke was hit by floods in 2007 and 2012 (pictured), as well as in 2020 and 2022

Downriver, Severn Stoke in Worcestershire is receiving a £1.8million flood embankment scheme, with work due to start in the spring.

It aims to protect 18 houses, the 14th-century Church of St Deny, the village hall and the 500-year-old Rose and Crown pub.

Andrew Goodall, the pub owner, said his business had been flooded three times in three years.

Before the floods arrive, it normally envelops the building in a moisture proof membrane, but although the venue receives only an inch of water inside, that is enough to shut down the business.

Nine weeks were lost last year amid repairs costing thousands of pounds.

Andrew Goodal

Andrew Goodall said he was “worried” about the future

Mr Goodall said he was still worried despite the new defences.

“It will be one of those once the sea wall is finally in place – we will sit and wait and watch,” he said.

“Am I doing protection this year? We’ll have to wait and see.”

He added: “It’s a campaign that’s been going on for 15, 16 years and it’s taken all that time to get to this point.

“I think you’re still going to worry about it even with the seawall over there. I’m probably not going to get rid of all my sandbags yet.”

Work on flood defenses in Severn Stoke

Land has started to be delivered to Severn Stoke ready for the start of work on the embankment or flood dyke

From November 7-13, EA is holding its Flood Action Week, urging those at risk of flooding to prepare.

The campaign was taking place, he said, “against the backdrop of increasing extreme weather events driven by the climate emergency.”

This year the UK experienced its highest temperatures on record and most of the country, according to the EA, was still in the grip of drought. But he added that despite this, unexpected flooding could occur at any time and communities were warned not to be complacent after this summer’s dry weather.

On Monday, the Met Office said the country could face severe flooding again in February – a problematic month in recent years.

Since 1998, the EA explained, the country had experienced six of the wettest ten years on record and in the West Midlands nearly 144,000 properties were at risk of flooding.

Worcester has also seen flooding in recent years and across county borders Shropshire, Shrewsbury and Ironbridge have had to prepare.

Marc Lidderth

Marc Lidderth said while the West Midlands was still in drought conditions people needed to prepare for flooding this winter

Marc Lidderth, EA’s environment manager for Shropshire and Worcestershire, said the region was experiencing “genuine climate change”, with dry summers and wetter winters.

He explained: “It’s really hard to appreciate that the West Midlands is still in a drought condition given that we’ve seen rain in recent weeks.

“[But] we had an extremely dry summer [so] we ask communities at risk of flooding not to be complacent…to prepare for flooding and not ignore this life-threatening hazard coming to them this winter.”

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