The devastating effects of flooding have been felt across the area in recent times, and despite the last serious flood being a few months ago, many people’s lives are still feeling the impact.
Jane Smeaton and her husband Dave were woken by neighbours banging on their front door at 3am on June 11, warning them they were about to be flooded.
Living in Minton Road, Felpham, their neighbours’ property was on lower ground and already flooded, but for Jane and Dave, their struggle through the night was just beginning.
Jane said: “We got up and came downstairs. They had sandbags they gave us to use. We sandbagged the garage as that was nearest to the water and started bailing out.”
She recalled they were using everything they could lay their hands on to bail, even a dustpan and brush.
At first light Dave went out to get more sandbags and returned with a new supply, meanwhile Jane kept bailing.
She said: “We did everything we could and kept it at bay for a while, but it just rose and washed all over the sandbags and into the house. It was just overwhelming.”
By this point it was 9.30am and Jane remembered: “We were trying to save our home, that was our complete focus. It’s just something you never expect to happen. It was the first time we had been flooded. We have been here 16 years and bought the house from my cousin who had been here since 1982.”
The floodwater eventually rushed into all the rooms on the ground floor almost simultaneously, and then it became a mission to save their possessions.
“It was completely unorganised,” recalled Jane of their attempts to move items away from the water. “We probably saved things we didn’t really care about. A TV is a TV, but we lost filing cabinets, and it’s hard to manage without those.” They lost many important documents which have been hard to replace.
They spent the following night in the house, in the upstairs bedroom, trying to sleep as they heard the water moving about below them.
“It was horrible. There was 18 inches of sewage-filled water downstairs. It was cold, smelly and we could hear the water moving about below.”
The couple decided they could not do that for another night. After briefly staying at her brother’s flat, the pair were given the keys to a holiday home from a friend and stayed there before changing to their current living arrangement, which is a caravan outside their house, courtesy of the insurance company, while they wait to be able to move back in.
Almost six months on and the house has nearly been dried out. They are now getting quotes from builders to restore their ground floor, and hope to be able to move back in sometime next year.
Following the calamitous floods which swept the region, a number of action groups have been set up, and Jane and others have formed the West Felpham Flood Action Assembly, which aims to target the specific causes of flooding in order to prevent it happening again.
The action groups are specifically targeting the problems in their area, in the case of West Felpham an outflow pipe which was unable to cope last time around.
The National Flood Forum has run a number of events in the area, which aim to facilitate and provide the tools to create these community action groups, such as in West Felpham, and also the Shripney Community Flood Action Group.
Heather Shepherd, the community and recovery support manager of the National Flood Forum, is one of the driving forces behind setting up the groups.
She said: “We encourage the groups to come up with a very simple action plan as they’re all volunteers and have day jobs and lives to lead. We give them the tools for an action plan.”
She emphasised the importance of all the organisations cooperating to deal with the issues.