Friday, 10 January 2014

Midnight at Ankerwycke.

1600 Hours

I went down to Ankerwycke which was the only place I could get to which would give me a clue as to how the Thames was. It’s half covered with water. The ruined Abbey, which was built of chalk could well be washed away. The ancient Yew tree which is between 1000 and 2000 years old is where Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn fell in love and could be threatened. The road is cut off and all the people who live at the end of Magna Carta Lane and on the ‘Island’ are cut off, I couldn’t get near enough to see if anyone needed help.

Normally the ‘Island’ is a bit of a joke because it isn’t an island. It will be today.

I was there this morning and the water hasn’t moved up the road much, however, I can see that the flood to the north is moving quickly across the meadows. The ancient church is likely to be cut off by water – they were usually built on slightly higher land.

Where the road was flooded, two men were bailing water out of their car and weren’t looking too happy about it.

I came back and crossed the road opposite us to speak to some of the people who live there – they are nearer the river and under more threat. I offered help if they get into trouble. We have a road between us and the water and because the road is raised a little it gives us a barrier a couple of feet high. I had a chat with Mrs F and with some neighbours to let them know what was happening.

12 hours and we’ll know; we all said we were keeping our fingers crossed.


I’ve decided to make a virtue out of necessity – 48 hours ago there was a massive solar eruption and now that the solar wind will have reached earth there is just the tiniest chance that we might see a trace of The Northern Lights in these southern latitudes. I always wanted to see the aurora, and even though the chance is very slim I might as well take advantage of this clear night.

I’ll head down to Ankerwycke and take one last look at the flood before I:

a) go to bed

b) run away

(delete as applicable).


I’m getting dressed up warm, with my wind-up torch in one hand, my Ian Dury style walking stick in the other and some big bad boots on my feet. Normally you take your life in your hands on the busy road outside – tonight no one wants to come here!

It is so quiet.

1250 hours

I’ve just got back, I have a glass of Christmas port in my hand and a slice of hot buttered home-made toast. My nose is thawing out from the cold.

No aurora I’m afraid, but there was a beautifully clear, cold bright, star strewn night – in winter Orion dominates the sky, sword and shield in hand. The owls were hooting to each other eerily across the fields ‘Stay away punk- this is mine’.

The houses all along the way were lit up – in defiance of the flood. At Ankerwycke farm there was a huge tanker, belching diesel fumes and many spotlights. From the smell I’d guess the farmer had decided that if they were going to be flooded it might be better to have the cattle slurry pumped out first!

I got down to the little bridge which is where the water was up to at 1600 – same level now but only because the road is raised above the fields a little. I paced it out and the flood is 52 paces nearer to us at midnight than it was at 1600.

We have a fighting chance.

I couldn’t see upstream, my windup torch is about 15 years old – it works great but back then LED’s were much more expensive so you only get a ghostly light, like carrying moonbeams in your hand.

Ankerwycke is so historic, 1500  years of human history (I must tell you all about it one day) and full of midnight ghosts. They could tell us a few things about the floods they saw!

Do you imagine I would run away from anything?

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till it’s chest high production)


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