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Thursday, 21 December, 2000, 15:04 GMT
Flooded for 40 days and 40 nights
Flooded street [Winchester City Council photo]
Sandbags line the streets of Hambledon
Remember the autumn floods? There's been no chance to forget for the folk of one Hampshire village which has been underwater for six weeks. Here, resident Nick Bailey explains how Hambledon is coping.

Our first flooding of the house occurred six weeks ago, when we had the first surge through the village.

900 residents
350 households - 120 waterlogged, 20 uninhabitable
10,000 sandbags
We had water coming in through the floor of one room.

Having been in this position in 1994, my wife and I took immediate steps to abandon the ground floor - furniture, possessions, carpets, all went into a furniture van.

We've been living upstairs for six weeks now. Some rooms downstairs are three or four inches deep in water.

At one stage, we had a sandbag barrier in our kitchen which divided the stream flowing through our conservatory, into the hall and underneath the door from the cooker. If the cooker had gone, we would have had to abandon the whole house.

Desperate measures

We've spent the past few days digging trenches and putting pipe systems around the back of our house as a sort of moat, with some success.

Van driving through floods [WCC photo]
Roads are closed to non-essential traffic
We now have a dryish kitchen - no other downstairs room is dry - and we live in our bedroom upstairs.

Our boiler, which is in a flooded room, is mounted on a plinth just above the water. So we have hot water, we have an Aga to warm the kitchen, and lots of sweaters.

Our two dogs get arthritis, so we moved them in with my wife's mother, who lives opposite - water levels are lower on her side of the street.

'HMS Hambledon'

We have a flood information centre manned by volunteers from all over the village.

The big wet
Hambledon is below the water table after the wettest autumn since records began 234 years ago
It's very much a "help yourself" environment. Only when it becomes beyond our capability do we call the fire and rescue service.

Everybody who has cellars has now bought themselves pumps, so we've got some worthies who help rig up pumps and offer advice on how to run them.

And we've got quite a naval element in the village - it's often known as the HMS Hambledon.

Sailors from various establishments have been humping sandbags, humping furniture up stairs and doing a hundred useful things for the elderly, often on a voluntary basis.

That's really kept our spirits up.

Overloaded pipes

We've had to try and minimise the use of loos and washing, and there's portaloos around the village.

Flooded street [WCC photo]
The high street is now a waterway
The sewage pumping station has had three pumps running continuously for weeks now, whereas normally there's one pump pumping for a short period during the day.

The water table is now above the village and so the water bursts out of the land.

Water cascades from all the hills into any weak spots - patios and conservatories and backdoors - that nobody anticipated.

Road rage

Businesses have been badly affected. The bank was flooded on Tuesday and we've been fighting with sandbags to keep the two shops open.

Fraying tempers
17 Dec: Police called as two villagers argue over a sandbag
One of the problems is that we're on a B road which is now a serious river. We've had to close the whole road, but that stops the passing trade for the shops completely.

The traffic was a nightmare. Four-wheel drives would gun through and the backwash flooded into the houses.

There's considerable community anger at their behaviour, so we've initiated a number of prosecutions for inconsiderate driving.

It's been a completely novel and shocking experience.

Nick Bailey in Hambledon
"Water cascades from the road into properties"

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