Caught in the Flood (We're alive and well...)

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Europe » United Kingdom
July 20th 2007
Published: June 22nd 2017
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Chipping CamdenChipping CamdenChipping Camden

We heard that after we left this town people were being evacuated by boat.
Geo: 51.5082, -0.424235

The day began with picking up the rental car from the Angel Car park which we thought would lead to a pleasant day exploring the rural countryside of the Cotswolds. We had planned on visiting Stratford-upon-Avon, Chipping Camden, and Stow on the Wold. The story of our visit is about to unfold. Just as Caesar was warned to beware the ides of March, the car park attendant said to us, "I hope you've got your boots." We thought he was referring to the usual English rainfall.

As we started the drive, the drops began to fall from the skies. We figured it would not be unlike the other showers we had encountered during our UK experience, each of which lasted about fifteen minutes or so and was often followed by a burst of sunlight. Not today. Road signs warned of a 50 mph speed limit due to "Spray." This, we figured, was something like the U.S. warning, "Slippery when Wet." As we drove towards Stratford, the rain continued to increase in intensity. By the time we got to Shakespeare's birthplace, the rain had become a downpour. We were able to visit a very informative exhibit about his early life and then walked through a very nice garden to his childhood home.

Once that was done, the rain had become so intense, we decided that no more stops were necessary and that we would head back toward London doing a "drive-by" tour of the Cotswolds without ever leaving the comfort of the KA07 WYM. Between Stratford and Chipping Camden we drove through a few spots of flooded roadway. A rural farmer had moved an I-Beam across his driveway to stop the flow of rain from the motorway into his house. We were a bit on edge, but cautiously followed (on the wrong side of the road, which felt strangely normal to us) and survived the washout. As we pulled into Chipping Camden, we were excited at arriving into a quaint, untouched, rural wool town. About halfway through, we had to turn back. Eventually you will see photos explaining why. The water was running down the main road and onto a sidestreet, flooding cars, businesses, and trapping people on the second floor all along its path. We walked around to survey the situation, moved the car to higher ground (just in case), and had tea, contemplating our eventual demise.

We consulted a hotel clerk and an emergency services worker as to the best way out of town. He informed us that the previous town we had just passed through, Mickelton, was probably already flooded out. But, heading back and taking another turn seemed a possibility and he said he would, "Give it a go." Well, we gave, and went, and did a lot of going, but never made it out. After pursuing every conceivable route out of the flood zone, and each time encountering depths of water that threatened to eat our KA, we turned back. One good Samaritan, stopping us on a route that would have led us into three feet of water, literally guided us to "the high road" and pointed us toward Oxford. We tried. The waters had reached even the high road and we were literally, stopped by the police from continuing. (Those "Police Order: Road Closed" signs weren't enough to stop us, but the flashing lights were.) Fortunately, the high road got us closer to Stow on the Wold, a destination we had sworn off in pursuit of our comfortable beds in London. After a quick pass through Stow, we again sought out even minor roads ("the pink one" on the map) but again encountered deep waters. Back to Stow, where we were literally, stowed up for the night. We got the last two of the last three rooms at the Royalist Hotel, which claimed to be Britain's oldest inn, dating to 947AD. Its features included witches scratches on the stone fireplace mantel, a medieval frieze, and the place came complete with a leper's pit in the basement. We never saw the frieze or the pit, but the kind bartender showed Jeannette the witch scratches while she was on one of her many quests for ice. "You Americans are spoiled. You always want your ice," an Irish patron scolded her in jest. We were very lucky we stopped at the Royalist when we did. The next morning we found out that over 30 people were turned away. There was no stable out back, either, so we don't know what became of them.

In all honesty, what made it so special was the fact that, though surrounded by rising water, knowing we would miss our morning train/ferry to Dublin, and apart from all of our clean clothes, toiletries, etc. which were back in London, we ended up staying in the most quaint, nicely appointed hotel of our entire journey. There were no hen parties here. Barb will be getting lots of extra points on her Amazon card.

We went out for a bite to eat at the White Hart, dating from 1698. For Jake and Jeannette it was Bangers and Mash, for Rich it was Shrimp Scampi, and for Barb it was vegetable lasagna. As we dined, other less fortunate travelers entered in a steady flow, looking for rooms to book. Like us, they found themselves stranded by the waters. Unlike us, they didn't get rooms, though the kind hostess told each one, if you can't something, come back, we won't turn you away. We wonder even now how many ended up sleeping on pub benches that night.

Back it was to the Royalist, where we made light of the situation, had a few drinks, and enjoyed each other's company in our Elizabethan (not 974-AD-an) surroundings. Barb felt like she was staying in Shakespeare's house.

The girls were excited to take full baths. Rich and Jake were perturbed and ended up making a mess of water all over the place. Even without our belongings, we did fine. We have copies of papers to prove how much we dodged a bullet. In areas we drove through earlier in the day, people had to be evacuated by boat. One headline read, "Save Me!" and another said that Britain had gotten more rain in one day than was normal for three months. This was the most rain in one day that ever fell during the last forty years.


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