The road at Welney crossing the Ouse Washes, the A1101, was opened again just over a week ago. The road was not shut down as long as in the winter of 2006-07, but with nearly 2 months’ closure, the effects were nevertheless felt widely.
This flooding period the Ouse Washes has been in the news regularly, particularly because of irresponsible drivers who ignored the warnings and drove over the flooded road anyway. Watch here the video of a driver who filmed himself while driving across the flooded A1101; at one point in the film, even the whole of the bonnet submerges. Although plainly very dangerous, it does nevertheless give a good impression of the enormous amount of water within the Ouse Washes when flooded.
In the media the focus has mainly been on the economic costs to businesses in and around Welney – see, for instance this piece which appeared in the EDP last week, providing an understanding of the loss of custom and the high petrol costs for people who have to drive an extra 30 miles when the road is flooded. What I am also interested in is to hear from locals what it feels like when the road is flooded. Do the communities feel cut off from the world? Does this provide for a feeling of isolation and remoteness? Or are there perhaps any positive aspects about the situation as well? Does it bring people in the community closer together, for instance? I would be grateful if people would let me know what they think.
Regardless of the effects the flooding of the Ouse Washes has on communities and individuals, it is worth considering that it is actually quite amazing that in the twenty-first century we are still dictated by the landscape as it was originally created in the 17th century: the massive engineered Old and New Bedford rivers with the washes within, together cutting a very long and straight feature through the landscape for tens of miles, literally dividing the landscape and its communities during flooding periods.
At the moment, the water levels in the rivers have gone down to more manageable levels. The Environment Agency has developed a useful interactive map to check the river water levels at various checkpoints in the area. You can also find out about the latest flooding news for the region here. Once the snow starts melting, the water levels may rise again, so keep a close eye on the situation.