Keep Your Chinook Up (2)

Drained, Toddbrook Reservoir

While the community of Whaley Bridge takes stock of the traumatic events of the summer, during which the town was evacuated due to a deep fissure in the dam wall of the Toddbrook Reservoir, an influx of visitors is supporting local businesses impacted by the week long emergency.

Toddbrook Reservoir has become a tourist attraction though it appears more like a puddle now. Rescue teams are extending pontoons into the shallows to remove and relocate to Worcestershire any remaining fish trapped by the drainage operation.

A visit to the playground, perilously close to the foot of the dam wall, is a chilling reminder of averted tragedy.

Too close for comfort?

Throughout the community there is praise to the rafters for the exceptional efforts of emergency services and volunteers who rescued their village. Superheroes came from across Britain, including Mountain Rescue Teams drafted in to organise thousands of body bags for the worst case scenario. In return, the people of Whaley Bridge are raising funds to support the continued work of these vital services.

At the Fab Makers Market around the canal basin, a modest exhibition expresses heartfelt thanks to the heroes of what is probably the biggest peacetime evacuation in British history.

Ignore him!

Over coffee in Footsteps Cafe, Ann and Joan reflect on the tension of the summer emergency. ‘It was a weird mix of fear and disbelief’ says Ann. ‘I remember being told to leave the cafe all of a sudden and I didn’t know what to do for the best, all I could think of was putting the biscuits on a top shelf so they wouldn’t be damaged by water.’ Later that day she heard that the town was within seven minutes of being entirely washed away. The torrent of rubble would have reached New Mills along the valley in just three minutes.

Post traumatic stress is likely to be experienced by many members of the community. Some feel unable to return to their former lives and homes, others are doing their best to keep going. There is support for those who want it from the NHS and from the local community.

Determined that life goes on, the town celebrated the Annual Whaley Bridge Show and Garden Society prize giving for flowers, baking, arts and crafts. I cannot resist events like this!

The showcase takes place in the bowling club, also perilously close to the foot the reservoir dam, but best not to think about that!

Determined local cats are not admitted.

The exhibition is joyous. Blinging trophies are on offer. Aspiring winners submit entries in an ingenious variety of classes, a bargain at just 10 pence per exhibit.

To keep traditions alive, children are invited to exhibit their talents free of charge and they do not disappoint. Here’s the Edible Necklace section, won by Harry Stevenson, who also walked off with the Miniature Garden (not to exceed 15” X 15”) prize.

Harry also scooped Best in Show for his Animal Made From Vegetable or Fruit exhibit.

And the Picture Made From Pressed Flowers, Leaves, Grasses etc category!

The adult exhibits are not too shabby either!

Keep Your Chinook Up!

The Toddbrook Reservoir Emergency Summer 2019

The British summer of 2019 will be remembered for many extraordinary events, not least ongoing Brexit wrangling, but also the terrifying prospect of the dam at Toddbrook Reservoir, in the High Peak district of Derbyshire, bursting open to release 1.3 million tonnes of water upon the village of Whaley Bridge and beyond.

Heavy summer rain caused serious disintegration of the dam spillway, threatening the community at the foot of the cracking concrete wall.

Whaley Bridge, at the terminus of the Peak Forest Canal

The emergency resulted in what is probably the largest British peace time evacuation of households and businesses. Impending disaster meant that residents from some 600 households were given little time to gather precious belongings, make arrangements for their pets and seek refuge from ‘mortal danger’ with friends and family elsewhere or in community centres.


Experts warn the impact of the trauma across community will be considerable

While a highly skilled team from Joint Helicopter Squadron at RAF Odiham deployed a Chinook helicopter to land hundreds of tonnes of aggregate on the the damaged spillway with exacting precision, emergency services and volunteers used 23 high pressure pumps to lower the water level of the reservoir and reduce pressure on the dam wall.

After almost one week of evacuation, the homecoming

The immense effort of hundreds of people to avert disaster is hugely appreciated by the community despite the trauma of unexpected evacuation from their homes for almost one week.

Financial and emotional support is on offer to residents

The village is especially popular with anglers and the fate of the reservoir’s 30,000 fish is unknown. Those that survive in the drained shallows are being netted and transported to the Bittell Reservoirs in Worcestershire. Government has confirmed that Canal and River Trust will rebuild Toddbrook reservoir and dam entirely.

Footsteps Community Cafe

As the community gets back to business, visitors are discovering the quiet attractions of the village traditionally popular with walkers and anglers. When I called at the Footsteps Community Cafe, the volunteers serving tea and cake were delighted with sales of their new fund raising postcards featuring the RAF Chinook helicopter expertly landing tonnes of aggregate to sure up the dam spillway at the height of the emergency.

Fika cafe

The staff of the Little Fika cafe told the same story; a wave of curious tourists is flooding into the village almost washed away. They are welcomed warmly and appreciated for their support of businesses unexpectedly shut down by near disaster.

As the community reflects on the summer of 2019, a creative response to the reservoir emergency invites residents to take part in an art project capturing their experience as evacuees.

As these walkers returned to explore footpaths around the village, eye catching messages posted in shop windows by the police and Canal and River Trust made poignant reading. They express heartfelt thanks to the community at large for their understanding and support during the traumatic events of an unforgettable summer.

As summer gives way to autumn, Whaley Bridge no longer dominates the news headlines. Disaster has been averted and residents are reflecting deeply on the extraordinary experience of life at the foot of a reservoir.

Street Talking, New Brighton

Eye opening! Inspirational murals in the Victoria Quarter, New Brighton

I absolutely love the murals around the Victoria Quarter of New Brighton, a seaside resort on the northwest coast of England.

The vast sands at the top of the beautiful Wirral peninsula look to the Irish Sea, to the Dee Estuary and the mountains of Snowdonia and also across the River Mersey to the iconic docklands of Liverpool. New Brighton is a very special place.

After years of decline, the town is experiencing an upsurge of vitality. New developments along the seafront attract visitors to the lighthouse, Fort Perch Rock, The Floral Pavilion Theatre, a fun golf course, cinema screens, cafes and bars. Behind this lies Victoria Road and the Victoria Quarter.

The Victoria Quarter is a favourite haunt! Here independent businesses are springing up to create a new vibe. There’s good food and live music, and inspirational murals too.

The beautiful and thought provoking street art is astounding and well worth visiting. Hop on the train to New Brighton and discover these artworks just across the road from the station.

Here are some of my images of what you can expect!

There’s another mural hidden away, with a lovely invitation to a seaside day out! I’ll leave you to discover that one for yourself!

XpoNorth Creative Festival

Flying the flags at XpoNorth’s Eden Court venue, Inverness

XpoNorth is a unique, vibrant, international showcase of creativity attracting a wonderful celebration of speakers and participants to Inverness.

I have attended the event in previous years, enjoying seminars, film screenings and live music. This year I was honoured to take part in conversation about meaningful travel and the media with Lyn Hughes, Editor in chief and founder of of Wanderlust Magazine, and Peter Urpeth, journalist, musician and film maker.

At the celebratory opening dinner prior to the two-day event, I gathered with a huge range of creative people; fellow guest speakers from far and wide, including Boston USA, Hawaii and the island of South Uist!

Iain Hamilton, Head of Creative Industries for the Highlands and Islands shared his vision for XpoNorth in the festival brochure, and I’ve shared that below. Creative and cultural activities bring a huge economic boost to any region or country. XpoNorth is a huge feather in the cap of Scotland, ensuring that network of creative opportunity is vibrant and fizzing with potential.

My thanks go to everyone who made XpoNorth so very special! I had a fantastic time!…Ideas popping!

Window of Opportunity!

Waterstones Bookstore

Got to admit, it is so lovely to experience any book that you have written on display at large in a bookstore, and even more so when it is in the window!

These are special moments for authors who put their heart and soul into their work, through the initial idea to the real thing – the completed book!

I wasn’t expecting to see my book North Coast Journey on the happy mountain of books in the window of Waterstones Inverness. What a lovely surprise!

And once in store, I thoroughly appreciated the warm welcome of the wonderful book besotted team as I made my inky mark on my favourite signing page!

My favourite signing page in North Coast Journey
Waterstones Inverness; always a warm welcome and great help to assist in the ink drying!