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.
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.
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!