FLOODWATER has finally started to subside in Hambledon – bringing relief to many weary residents.
Since Christmas, wellington boots have never been far away for locals as the streets were submerged under fast-flowing water – more than 2ft high at its peak.
But now they can finally walk down the street in a pair of shoes without the fear of getting drenched.
Yesterday the clean-up operation started as residents and contractors began to remove the 20,000 sandbags that had prevented damage for the past two months in the worst-hit flooding area in Hampshire.
Groundwater levels have been steadily falling and have reached around 65m – the critical point that means the village is no longer flooded.
Jenny Buckett, 37, a mum-of-two, whose kitchen flooded at her home Old Barn Crescent, was among those breathing a sigh of relief.
She said: ‘It’s brilliant. It just makes life so much easier seeing a little bit of sun and seeing the road again in Hambledon.
‘We can’t wait for the roads to re-open, which obviously they will do as quickly as they can. Hopefully it will be a bit warmer and we can start to get back to normal – it’s about time, too.’
Around 100 residents have dedicated their time to helping fellow villagers in the floods and have had many sleepless nights.
Neil Mason, one of the flood wardens, said: ‘Everyone is taking the opportunity to walk down the road in shoes rather than wellingtons. The main thing now is to try to get life back to as normal as possible as soon as possible.’
But the crisis is still not entirely over yet. The waters receding has revealed serious damage to the main road surface. The road also remains closed as Southern Water pipework is still crisscrossing the streets.
Mr Mason said: ‘It’s a bit like a warzone on the roads with the amount of debris, sand and soil run-off that’s been left.
‘As far as opening the road to general through traffic, I think that will be some time yet – probably be two weeks or more.’
Tony Higham, chairman of Hambledon Flood Action Group, expected yesterday to be the last ‘flood crisis meeting’ at the village hall.
He said: ‘The deep water on East and West streets has now gone and there is no longer any bow wave effect to threaten properties.’
NORMAL LIFE ‘CANCELLED’ FOR THE START OF 2014
IT’S been a long and agonising slog for the residents of Hambledon.
People were on tenterhooks over the festive season as water began to rise in cellars.
By the first week of January, pumping stations could not cope with the deluge of water running off the hills.
By January 17, the roads had become rivers and thousands of sandbags were shipped in to stop properties flooding.
Pumps were promptly installed and worked round-the-clock as a succession of winter storms worsened the flooding.
At the height of the crisis, around 1,000 pumps were working, but several properties were still swamped with sewage.
A flood incident room was set up at Hambledon Village Hall.
By the middle of February, the Royal Navy and the army were called in. Hambledon, the ‘cradle of cricket’, became famous for flooding, with television crews, including BBC Breakfast, descending on the village.
Now the worst seems to be over, residents will be keeping up the pressure for a 1m-wide drainage channel underneath the main road to stop such a crisis happening again.
STRUGGLE CONTINUES FOR TRADERS AS ROAD STILL SHUT
BUSINESSES will take little comfort in the fact that the roads are no longer rivers.
The main road remains shut and there is still no passing trade.
East Street is particularly badly damaged and repairs will need to take place.
The drains will also need to be washed out as they are full of debris.
The landlord of The Vine pub, Steve Guermonprez, said: ‘There’s no change, not until they decide to open the road. Businesses are still suffering.’