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History of the Bodenham Flood Protection Group
The First 'Chapter'

This first 'chapter' in the history of the Bodenham Flood Protection Group covers the period from July 2007 to December 2020. If you wish to go straight to the second 'chapter' you can do so here.

20 July 2007

In June and July 2007 the country suffered heavy rainfall which left the ground saturated and resulted in widespread flooding in many areas. Bodenham did not escape and on 20 July 2007 a torrential downpour led to St Michael’s Church and some 40 dwellings – mostly in Bodenham Moor - being flooded by water running off the surrounding hills. A large number of other properties had water in their garages, outhouses and gardens. This was an emergency which need not – and should not – have happened. The River Lugg was not in spate at the time and was not responsible for the damage. Quite simply that was caused by flash flooding when heavy rainfall was prevented from escaping to the river by blocked and inadequate drains and culverts. This was compounded by a lack of sandbags and the mallocation of such stocks as were available, together with the unpreparedness of individual householders to cope with an unexpected incident of this kind.

Bodenham floods - 2007As a result of this flooding Bodenham Parish Council held a public meeting on 22 January 2008 in the Parish Hall to hear and discuss what measures the local authorities would be taking to prevent a recurrence. This was chaired by the Councillor for Hampton Court Ward, Cllr Keith Grumbley, and was attended by representatives of Herefordshire Council, the River Lugg Internal Drainage Board (RLIDB) and the Environment Agency, together with about 100 local residents. (Herefordshire Council's Highways Authority were invited to attend, but instead submitted a statement which was read to the Meeting).

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Formation and Role of the Group

It became apparent from this Meeting that, apart from the RLIDB which had already taken action to construct a relief channel at Millcroft Farm and to widen the Millcroft Brook there, the authorities did not have the resources to offer the Parish the assistance it required. At its monthly Meeting on 4 February 2008 the Parish Council therefore decided to take the initiative and to form a self-help group capable of carrying out the action necessary to monitor drains and watercourses, to keep them clear of debris and to take other precautions, such as maintaining stocks of sandbags, identifying those residents who, owing to age or infirmity, would need help in an emergency, and establishing contact with the National Flood Forum and with other local organisations. (It should be noted that the Group's main task has always been reducing the risk of flooding from surface water and from local watercourses, and not flooding from the River Lugg. The river flows between Bodenham to the West and Bodenham Moor on the East and occasionally floods the road between them for short periods in the Winter. There is little that can be done about this, apart from monitoring the depth of flood water, putting out flood warning signs on the approaches and providing residents with updates on the situation on social media, all of which the Group does).

BFPG Relief channel - Looking North-WestAn early decision was that the Group should be part of the Parish Council, rather than independent of it. There were several practical reasons for this. The first was that it would be important for the Group to be seen to be acting with the authority of the Council in its dealings with local residents, especially those whose properties border on watercourses and who may question by what right members operate on, through, or near their property. To be seen to be acting under the aegis of the Council would also give the Group credibility in its interactions with external agencies, such as Herefordshire Council and the Environment Agency, as well as in support of any grant applications it might make to fund-giving bodies.

A second reason was that as part of the Parish Council the Group could most easily and properly receive public money and have its finances appropriately audited. (Unlike most other local groups, which exist for recreational purposes and which generally raise money through subscriptions from their own members, the Flood Protection Group raises money for a public purpose – that of keeping local residents safe - and that money should be seen as public money and treated, accounted for and audited as such. (A minor advantage has also been that the Group has been able to reclaim VAT on some of its purchases).

Bodenham Flood Protection Group

A third reason was that, as part of the Parish Council, the Group would be able to operate under the umbrella of the Council’s insurance policy. Finally, and most importantly, the Parish Council – the lowest tier of government – was setting up the Group to discharge one of the basic functions of government - that of keeping its residents safe. In this the Group’s work was, and is, no different from the work which the Parish Council does to keep residents safe by, for example, its constant efforts to improve road safety. It was therefore felt that it should not be outsourced or contracted out. Ideally it should be led by Councillors and for its first decade it did, indeed, have several Councillors among its most active members.

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Working party at Maund BryanThis new self-help group, the Bodenham Flood Protection Group (BFPG), was therefore instituted as a sub-committee of the Parish Council and held a first informal meeting on 13 February 2008. After a number of monthly meetings, it was formally established on 19 August 2008, with its own Constitution and funding (held within the Parish’s account), an elected Committee, comprising a Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer and Operations Officer, Area Representives for each part of Bodenham, Bodenham Moor and (later) Maund Bryan, and initially a membership of nearly 50 volunteers. From 2008 until the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020-21 it has met on the last Tuesday of every month, with the exception of December, and its meetings (which have been regularly attended by up to 35 members and have always been open to the public) have been formally minuted, the Minutes being published on the Parish Website as part of the Parish's records. A report on the Group’s activities has also always been presented to the Parish Council at each of the latter’s monthly meetings.

Working party at Ketch LaneThroughout its existence the main work of the Group has been carried out at working party sessions, during which members gather to carry out such tasks as clearing drains and culverts, removing silt build up around flap valves, cutting back vegetation encroaching on watercourses, and filling sandbags. These sessions, which have normally been attended by at least 12-15 members, were initially held once a week. However, once the accumulated backlog of maintenance work which had resulted from years of neglect had been overcome, it was possible to reduce the frequency of sessions. Since then, they have usually been held every alternate Friday evening from 6.00 p.m. onwards when daylight allows, i.e. between April and October. (Sessions have, of course, been held at other times, should the need arise). The aim has always been to make such sessions enjoyable, so the policy has always been to limit the work to no more than an hour and, wherever possible, to follow this with a period of social relaxation over refreshments. (You can find additional photographs of the Group’s members at work here; there is a chronological timeline of events from 2007 onwards here; and a list of BFPG Committee members and Area Representatives here).

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Making Progress

In its first year of existence the Parish Council helped the BFPG to establish itself with the money required to buy the tools which it needed for its working parties (spades, mattocks, loppers, buckets, drainage rods, waders, etc.). This also gave members time to make the Group self-sufficient by organising events such as coffee mornings and quiz nights, the proceeds going initially to repay the Parish Council’s loan and subsequently to cover such expenses as the purchase of additional tools and room hire for the Group’s meetings.

The BFPG was also fortunate in being helped by the Bodenham Community Charity which gave it two financial grants. This enabled the Group to fund the purchase of additional equipment, such as strimmers and pumps, together with a trailer in which its equipment could be stored and transported. The grants also helped pay for the procurement of the four metal cages in which filled sandbags could be stored ready for use at strategic points around the Village.

In addition, donations of sand were kindly made by Tarmac from its Wellington quarry, while the West Mercia Police Authority generously gave money for the purchase of safety items, such as high visibility vests, torches and first aid equipment. In more recent years the Group has received further gifts of hand tools from local residents, as well as more high visibility vests from the Environment Agency.

Working party at Ash Grove Close  Working party at Brockington
Although watercourse maintenance has been the BFPG’s main task, it has done much else for the community. In the early days after the 2007 flood it provided support for those traumatised by the damage to their homes and, with its regular meetings, this offering of social support remained important over the years. The Group also did much to advise local residents on the precautions which they can take to protect their houses and to help those who have seen their insurance premiums increased because of vulnerability to flooding. It established a ‘buddy’ system to provide practical help to 'vulnerable' residents, under which each ‘vulnerable’ person was assigned a member able to help them in an emergency. (In this context the term 'vulnerable' applies not just to those who are at additional risk through age or infirmity, but also to those who work away from home, or are away on holiday and are unable to help themselves when a crisis occurs). Most importantly, the Group has worked constantly to raise the awareness of local authorities of flooding-related issues in Bodenham. Ketch Lane culverts clear of debris Indeed, as early as 26 July 2008 several members of the embryo BFPG attended Herefordshire Council’s Flood Protection Seminar at the Courtyard in Hereford, where the Chairman of the Parish Council gave a short talk describing the action which Bodenham had taken to improve the Village’s flood precautions and resilience.

The Group has also repeatedly raised two particular issues with Herefordshire Council. The first is the flood risk to residences in Orchard Close in Bodenham Moor. The second is the inability of the twin culverts under Millcroft Road at its junction with Ketch Lane (‘the Ketch Lane culverts’) to cope with flash flooding. On 17 October 2008, within two months of the BFPG's formation, a second public meeting was held in the Parish Hall and this provided some 100 local residents with an opportunity to raise their concerns directly with Herefordshire Council's Highways Authority. Next, the local Member of Parliament, Mr Bill Wiggin MP, was briefed on the situation. He visited Millcroft Farm on 23 October 2008 for a meeting with members of the BFPG’s Committee and subsequently visited Bodenham again on 5 June 2009 as part of his tour of flood-affected villages in his constituency.

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Main Challenges and their Potential Solutions

With the help of the Highways Authority some progress was subsequently made towards reducing the flood risk in Orchard Close, although much still remains to be done. However, the issue of the Ketch Lane culverts proved more intractable. It is particularly important that these culverts do not act as a chokepoint on the Millcroft Brook because in bad weather the whole aim must be to get any flood water from the Brook's catchment area down the stream and into the River Lugg before flood water from the Welsh hills arrives down the river and blocks the flow of the Brook. The BFPG therefore set about obtaining definitive evidence on what needed to be done in the medium to longer term to prevent further flash flooding emergencies occurring. Ketch Lane culverts with debris In late 2008 the Group asked Mr Rod Hawnt of Hydro-Logic Limited to investigate the cause of the main flooding which had affected the Village in 2007 - that from the Millcroft Brook - and to advise on what measures should be taken.

In January 2009 he reported that the Ketch Lane culverts were - as members of the Group had always suspected - too small to match the capacity of the channel upstream even in normal circumstances. He showed that, when the watercourse upstream of the culverts still has ample spare capacity, and the Millcroft Farm relief channel has not even begun to operate, the culverts themselves are already surcharged. He added that the risk is compounded because the small diameter of these twin culverts means that they are prone to becoming blocked by large items of debris carried down the Brook, thus increasing the danger of flooding upstream.

Bodenham flooding - 2007He recommended that they should be replaced by “a new culvert, or bridge, to increase the discharge capacity under Ketch Lane, up to a design standard of a 1 in 100 year flood event.” (i)

A year later, in January 2010, Herefordshire Council commissioned another consultant hydrologist, Mr Brian Faulkner, to carry out studies of flood risks in some 20 locations across the County and to make recommendations on how these might be alleviated. The BFPG contributed data to this Study relating to the extent of the damage done to individual properties in July 2007 and its cost. Mr Faulkner submitted his Report in April 2010 and extracts relating to Bodenham were eventually made available to the Parish Council in January 2011. In these he assessed that the 2007 flood was “statistically between a 3.3% to 2% Annual Equivalent Probability (AEP) event, (1 in 30 to 1 [in] 50 probability) …” (ii) and that: “The option to Do Nothing is … an unlikely alternative.” (iii) He then went on to set out four possible schemes or options.

In the first of these he effectively supported Mr Hawnt’s earlier assessment by saying that: “Subject to detailed hydraulic analysis, we are of the view that replacement of the existing twin culvert at [the Millcroft Road/ Ketch Lane junction] might be a valuable ‘quick fix’. The structure is evidently prone to complete blockage, its alignment is poor, and it has the potential to elevate the backwater by at least 0.6m once water level reaches the road …”.

The issue was given added urgency on 8 January 2011 by the collapse of a section of the Brook’s wall at the same junction, apparently caused by vibrations from the heavy agricultural and commercial traffic using the road, combined with the effects of water ingress and frost. The collapsed section was repaired by Amey Herefordshire over the Spring of 2011, but since it is only a few feet upstream of the older of the two culverts under the junction, and since the wall and that culvert appear to have been constructed at the same time, the strength of the culvert itself must also be called into question. Should it collapse, a very serious situation could be created.

Collapsed bank in Bodenham

In his Report Mr Faulkner turned next to the need for regular maintenance, including the “de-silting of all culverts, channel silt removal, [and] gully jetting”, as well as “riparian enforcement” (iv) along the Millcroft Brook from the River Lugg up to Brockington Road. He combined this work with the installation of a Ketch Lane box culvert as the second of his four possible schemes or options.

In his other third and fourth possible options Mr Faulkner suggested that, in addition to installing the Ketch Lane box culvert and instituting the regular watercourse maintenance regime, the risk of flooding could be further alleviated by constructing an upstream attenuation reservoir which would help to reduce the flow rate at the Brockington Road bridge. The cost of such a reservoir would, however, be nearly £1M or more depending on its size, something which is clearly not attainable in the present financial climate.

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Ever since the Hawnt and Faulkner Reports were produced, the BFPG have made repeated attempts to move the projects to replace the Ketch Lane and Orchard Close culverts forward. Meetings have been held with successive CEOs of Herefordshire Council and with members of the Council itself, up to and including Cabinet level;  Ketch Lane Culverts Replacement - Option 2 on-site discussions have been held with Amey's and Balfour Beatty’s senior drainage engineers; drawings of possible designs for replacement culverts have been produced; and the support of our local MP, Mr Bill Wiggin, has been sought. The problem is, of course, money and the balance of cost versus potential benefit.

In the case of the Orchard Close culvert the landowners have given their conditional agreement to a replacement and the cost might be within the Parish Council’s means. However, the question remains whether a new culvert would make enough of a difference to the Orchard Close flood risk to justify the expense. The cost of replacing the Ketch Lane culverts – last estimated at over £200K – would be of a different order of magnitude and would need multi-agency funding, with contributions not only from the Parish Council and Herefordshire Council, but from the River Lugg Internal Drainage Board and the Environment Agency. We have been told that this is achievable in time, but the risk is always that the 1:8 cost/ benefit rule will stand in the way, despite all the arguments that this is unfair to rural communities such as ours. Time and the safety of the existing culverts under increasingly heavy traffic and more and more frequent flooding will tell. (A fuller description of the Group’s efforts to make progress on the culvert replacement projects over the past few years can be found here side-lined in blue).

While replacement of the culverts may have to remain an aspiration for the time being, there are other possible ways of reducing the flood risk to the Parish. One of these is to slow the rate at which rainfall is released down watercourses. Natural Flood Management (NFM) seeks to use natural methods (such as better soil management, planting more trees or other vegetation, and building leaky dams and retention ponds) to absorb flood water, or at least slow its flow. In late 2017 the Government allocated £15M towards initiating NFM pilot projects across the country and some £626K of this was allocated to Herefordshire for eight catchment areas, one of them being Bodenham.

BFPG NFM Project Launch - Kate Speke-Adams speaking (23 Jan 19)(IMG_1448)(R).JPG

The Bodenham part of the Project was ‘launched’ at the Siward James Centre on 23 January 2019 and was followed by the formation of the Bodenham Brooks NFM Community Group to help take the Project forward. The Group’s first Meeting was held in the Siward James Centre on 12 March 2019 and, despite the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, some progress has been made, albeit without much direct input by either the BFPG or local residents. This is because the work has been mainly carried out by Mr Tom Jolly, the Catchment Advisor from the Wye and Usk Foundation, who has the task of liaising with farmers and landowners on the implementation of NFM measures. He has contacted a number of local landowners and planning has been going ahead for the reinstatement of an attenuation pond and for the construction of about a dozen leaky dams. Measures, such as cover cropping and ‘no tillage’ regimes, are also being discussed with farmers with the aim of improving soil structure and better water retention. With the pandemic in progress it will be some time before the Project can be completed and a judgement on its success or otherwise will depend on the gathering of hard evidence. Some of this data is being gathered from the Bodenham telemetry system and the Pencombe rain gauge, while local volunteers are also being sought to record any changes in our streams attributable to the NFM measures which have been implemented.

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Property-Level Flood Protection – ‘Project Bodenham’

By 2010 it was already becoming apparent that Government policy was moving away from community-level flood defence schemes. The Environment Agency announced that it was making some £2million available to deliver a country-wide programme of individual household flood protection measures targetted on areas where properties are at a high risk of flooding. The funding was for items, such as automatically closing airbricks, non-return valves on drains and flood barriers for doors, which, at best, help to reduce the risk of flood water entering properties and, at worst, lessen the damage caused by flood water and reduce the length of time needed to repair a building and its contents. Herefordshire Council successfully applied for a grant from this fund for Cross Keys/ Withington in 2010-11, but Bodenham had to wait for another year.

UK Flood Barriers door barrier On 12 May 2011 the Environment Agency announced that some £144,500 had been allocated in 2011-12 to help protect some 34 properties in the Parish. Work on what became referred to locally as ‘Project Bodenham’ started almost immediately. It was managed by Amey Herefordshire on behalf of Herefordshire Council, while the Secretary of the BFPG assumed the role of facilitator in the Project, doing her best to relieve Amey of as much of the administrative burden as possible by providing local knowledge, communication links between Amey and individual property owners, and an interface between the equipment manufacturers and individual residents. The aim of this was, first, to keep administrative costs down and thus ensure that as much as possible of the available funding was devoted to flood protection and, second, to make sure that the momentum of the Project was maintained. Given that across the country there were another 30 communities with similar grants competing for the attentions of the small number of equipment manufacturers, it was important that the Group ensured that it was at the head of the queue so that local residents’ equipment was installed before Christmas and not delayed into what could potentially be a harsh Winter. Furthermore, the Environment Agency had set 31 March 2012 as the date by which all work had to be completed and it was imperative that the BFPG did not find itself rushing to meet that deadline at the last minute.

Flood DefenderThe Project therefore became the main focus of the Group’s attention for the next 12 months. By Christmas 2011 good progress had been made and, thanks largely to excellent co-operation by the main supplier, UK Flood Barriers Limited, flood protection measures had been supplied to 26 out of the 34 properties identified as being eligible for a share in the grant. However, perhaps inevitably in a project of this size, completion of the remainder proved more difficult and frustrating.

As the Project had progressed it had become clear that the initial surveys carried out to establish which properties did, and did not, meet the Environment Agency’s criteria for funding did not always agree with the subsequent surveys carried out by UK Flood Barriers Limited. The original surveys appeared to have overlooked points of vulnerability in certain properties, to have excluded some other properties from the scheme altogether, despite these having suffered damage in 2007, and to have caused uncertainty in still more cases by not being sufficiently clear and precise in their findings. (It has to be said that in a few cases the reluctance of property owners to admit that they had, in fact, been flooded at all also caused some confusion and delay). As a result a number of houses were identified which the Group believed should either be added to the list of eligible properties, or which were on that list but needed additional measures to complete their flood protection. The BFPG expressed its concerns to the Environment Agency and was extremely grateful when the Agency both agreed to provide some £16,000 in additional funding to cover this extra work and subsequently waived the 31 March 2012 deadline originally set for the Project's completion. In the event the final inspections which formally marked the end of the Project did not take place until 28 September 2012 and even then some issues remained to be resolved at two properties.

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Pride of Herefordshire Award

Pride of Herefordshire AwardIn the middle of ‘Project Bodenham’, while the Group’s attention was focussed inward on ensuring that local residents obtained the best possible value from the Environment Agency’s grant, all our efforts and hard work in previous years were given quite unexpected outside recognition. This came in September 2011 when the Group was short-listed as one of three nominees in the ‘Environmental Champions’ category of the 2011 Pride of Herefordshire Awards. The Chairman and Secretary attended the Awards ceremony in Hereford on 12 October 2011 and even more unexpectedly the BFPG were selected as the winners, with the Secretary collecting the trophy, certificate, a bottle of champagne and a cheque for £100.

 

The Parish Plan

Also in 2011, almost alone amongst the Parish’s clubs, societies and other groups, the BFPG made a submission to the development of the Parish Plan. In due course the Plan endorsed the Group’s recommendations that, first, the Parish Council should continue to press Herefordshire Council to discharge fully its responsibilities for the regular and complete maintenance of drains, culverts and watercourses across the Parish and, second, that a long term aim for the Parish should be to reduce the risk of flash flooding to Bodenham Moor by the replacement of the Ketch Lane culverts.

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Flood Warning Telemetry System

Flood Warning Telemetry SystemAs if this Award and the Environment Agency Grant were not enough, the ‘icing on the cake’ came when Mr Rod Hawnt of Hydro-Logic Limited announced that he was donating a state of the art flood warning telemetry system to the Parish. This was installed in the Millcroft Brook at the Brockington Road bridge on 9 May 2012 and was commissioned two days later. It subsequently proved its worth to the whole community in Bodenham Moor during several rain storms later in the year. None of these was severe enough to cause precautions to be taken – the Group’s maintenance work on the watercourses and the existence of the relief channel made sure of that – but on each occasion the telemetry system provided early warning that flash flooding was possible, alerted members to monitor the situation and subsequently gave reassurance that, contrary to appearances, flooding was not actually imminent and no action was needed.

Since then, the telemetry system has continued to give sterling service. It is programmed to give a first warning if the water level in the Millcroft Brook rises to 0.5m. (It is normally less than 0.2m). At this point the system sends an alert by SMS, email and/or phone to the key members of the BFPG Committee, such as the Chairman, Secretary and Operations Manager. They can then prepare for any action needed should the water level rise further, for example raising the ‘gates’ on the relief channel. Frequently the level does not rise much further before subsiding, but if it does, the next alert is issued when it reaches 0.9m and at this point the warning also goes, again by SMS, email and/or phone, to a larger group of BFPG members. Some of these are Area Representatives, who may need to take action to warn their neighbours and/or help vulnerable residents to take flood precautions, such as putting up barriers; others are residents who have asked to receive alerts, perhaps because their properties are close to the Brook.

The 0.9m level is typically when the relief channel comes into operation and, by providing a route for the water to escape freely, any further water level rise is usually limited to only another few inches. In fact, at the time of writing (January 2021) there have only been two occasions when the level has risen far enough to trigger the third, and final, alert at 1.5m. The most recent was on 16 February 2020 during Storm Dennis, which proved to be far worse than that of July 2007. On that occasion the level reached 1.935m, but, apart from some water in a few garages and gardens, no dwellings in Bodenham Moor were affected.

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HM The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

QAVS Presentation

In the 2015 Birthday Honours List the Group's work was again unexpectedly recognised by the grant of HM The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service (QAVS) for “Protecting the residents of Bodenham Parish from flooding by a range of measures, and providing support to vulnerable individuals.” The Award was presented to the Group by HM Lord-Lieutenant of Herefordshire, The Countess of Darnley, in a ceremony in the Parish Hall on 23 October 2015. This was attended by 25 official guests representing agencies and organisations which have supported the Group, together with 58 members of the Parish Council and of the BFPG with their partners. Lady Darnley, who was accompanied by Lord Darnley, presented the Chairman, Cllr Tony Mitcheson, with the Award Certificate and a piece of English Crystal engraved with the QAVS logo. Speeches were made by Mr Jeremy Millar, the former Ward Councillor, by Air Vice-Marshal Michael Smart DL, who read the citation for the Award, by Lady Darnley, and by the Chairman. Following the ceremony all those present were welcomed to a reception with the opportunity to meet the Lord-Lieutenant and other guests and to view a display of photographs illustrating the work of the BFPG since its formation.

 

BEM Presentation

The Award of the British Empire Medal to the Secretary

Further recognition of the BFPG’s success came in the 2017 New Year’s Honours List in the form of the award of the BEM to the Secretary, Babs Mitcheson, for services to the community in Herefordshire. She was presented with her medal by HM Lord-Lieutenant of Herefordshire, Lady Darnley, at a short ceremony at Millcroft Farm on 23 July 2017. Speeches were made by the Chairman, Lady Darnley and the Secretary herself, who emphasised that she saw the award as recognition not just for herself, but for the achievements of the BFPG as a whole. The Group then took the opportunity to mark the occasion with a garden party at which to entertain their guests, a celebration which later merged seamlessly into the Annual Barbecue in the evening./p>

 

The Tenth Anniversary Celebration

The Group’s 5th Anniversary in 2013 passed with little acknowledgement, but when it came to the 10th Anniversary in August 2018 members were determined to mark the event in style. Tenth Anniversary - Fire Engine The Celebration was held in the Parish Hall on the afternoon of 9th September 2018, the sun shone and it was a most enjoyable and successful occasion with free entry for all local residents and their families (and quite a few from elsewhere who claimed to have relatives here). There was a display of the BFPG’s work by Andrew Maxwell, artwork by Jennifer Easson, refreshments featuring an amazing cake depicting a BFPG working party in action by Sue Maxwell, and a barbecue run by Alec and Sharon Avery. The stars of the afternoon, however, were a bouncy castle and rides round the Village in a fire engine, both provided by Tony Troia.

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Flood Protection Initiatives with the Wider Community

From the start of ‘Project Bodenham’ one of the Group’s concerns was that the benefits of flood protection should not be limited to those fortunate enough to be included in the Environment Agency’s scheme. For that reason the Group enlisted the help of Mary Dhonau, an independent flood protection consultant, in holding an open day on 13 September 2011 to which all residents in Bodenham were invited. At this they were able to see the kinds of flood protection equipment being supplied to properties under the terms of the Environment Agency’s grant and to decide whether or not they wished to purchase such items privately for themselves. Those who wanted to buy some of the smaller items were also able to take advantage of a bulk discount arranged by the BFPG with UK Flood Barriers Limited.

Spreading the flood protection messageThe Group also felt that the flood protection ‘message’ should be spread much wider than Bodenham alone. It therefore suggested to Herefordshire Council the need for a flood protection ‘open day’ which would be available to everyone across the County and, indeed, beyond. This initiative eventually came to fruition in an Exhibition organised by Mrs Dhonau and held in the Parish Hall on 7 November 2011, at which a number of firms were able to display their flood protection products to about 100 visitors. The event was jointly funded by Herefordshire Council and the Environment Agency and also acted as the launch of the 2012 Know Your Flood Risk Campaign. BFPG members provided refreshments, car parking and other administrative support throughout the day and it concluded in the evening with an Open Forum discussion on flood insurance - a subject of increasing concern at the time because the existing agreement between the Government and the insurance industry was due to end in 2013. This had an audience of a further 100 visitors and was broadcast live on BBC Radio Hereford & Worcester.

The BFPG’s interactions with communities outside the Parish have not been limited to this Exhibition. Over the first twelve years of its existence the Group has been approached by some 15 other parishes, organisations and individuals in Herefordshire and beyond interested in learning how it established itself and how it operates, or seeking advice on what self-help measures they might be able to adopt themselves. One early example was that of Brimfield & Little Hereford Parish. On 25 August 2011 three BFPG representatives attended a public meeting in Brimfield's Parish Hall, at which the Group gave a presentation alongside talks from the Environment Agency and Amey Herefordshire. Some members of Brimfield Parish Council also visited one of the BFPG’s monthly meetings and witnessed one of its working party sessions. Later, with the Environment Agency and Mrs Dhonau, the BFPG's Chairman attended a meeting in Brimfield on 29 November 2011 at which local residents agreed to form their own flood protection group. The decision was endorsed by their Parish Council in January 2012 and the group successfully started operations and remains active to this day.

Northamptonshire Flood Warden TrainingAnother example was that of Northamptonshire. In December 2012 Defra launched the Flood Resilience Community Pathfinder scheme backed by £5M of government funding. This allowed 13 Pathfinder projects to be established across the country with the aim of encouraging local communities to come up with innovative ways to reduce the flood risk to their areas. Northamptonshire was one of the local authorities taking part and on Saturday, 15 November 2014 the County held a Training Day for 26 volunteer flood wardens drawn from across 15 different parishes. The Chairman and Secretary were invited to talk about the work of the BFPG under the heading “Real Life Flood Events and Lessons Learned”. Mrs Mary Dhonau, who was leading the seminar, introduced their presentation by saying that the whole countrywide Pathfinder Scheme was based on the example set by the BFPG. It was rewarding to see this example translated into a different setting, although the Chairman and Secretary came away somewhat envious of the equipment provided to the wardens from Pathfinder funds./p>

A further instance (of many) under this heading was when on 10 January 2012 the BFPG Secretary was invited to attend a meeting of a Defra Steering Group in London to discuss a draft report on the implementation of the first two phases of government investment in property-level protection across the country in 2009-10. Although this did not cover 'Project Bodenham', which was in the third phase, the Secretary was present to represent the point of view of communities and residents generally, which she did with her accustomed forcefulness. (A full list of the occasions on which the Group has provided advice or support to other parishes, organisations and individuals is available here sidelined in green).

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Contributions to Research

In addition to offering support and advice to other communities, the Group has done its best to contribute to flood-related research projects which have come its way. In its first twelve years there have been nearly twenty of these and they have varied from researchers wanting to try and understand why people volunteer (and continue doing so), to how best to employ volunteers who turn up to help uninvited in an emergency, to how the Environment Agency should plan its own research programme for the next five years, to the provision of comments on the usefulness or otherwise of an app being developed to collate flood warnings from multiple sources.

A particular example was the visit, organised by Defra, of a delegation of four Belgian researchers from the University of Ghent and the Province of East Flanders. BFPG Belgian Visit - Discussion with Cllr PriceThey were taking part in a European North Sea Region project called FRAMES (Flood Resilient Areas by Multi-layEred Safety) and were investigating how local residents could best be encouraged to take personal measures to prepare for flooding, something which does not happen in Flanders where the population rely on the government “to keep their feet dry”. The visit took place on 6-7 October 2017 and the four visitors were briefed on the BFPG’s policies and work, had extensive discussions with Mary Dhonau, Cllr Bruce Baker (our Ward Councillor), Cllr Philip Price (Herefordshir Council Cabinet Member for Infrastructure) and Steve Hodges (Directorate Services Team Leader at Herefordshire Council), as well as Jason Walker and Andrew Osbaldiston (Environment Agency). They also visited a working party session in the Millcroft Brook, met BFPG members socially over refreshments at Millcroft Farm and had dinner with key members at England’s Gate Inn where they were staying. The visit was a great success and the visitors confirmed that they had found it to be a valuable experience. (You can find a full list of the occasions on which the Group has been approached for input into research projects here sidelined in purple).

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Public Relations

Jonathan Maitland interviewing the Secretary Members of the Group have featured fairly frequently on television and radio, especially in the early years when the BFPG's concept of self-help was perhaps something rather novel. For instance, on 11 May 2012 the Group received a visit from Jonathan Maitland and a team from ITV who were preparing a programme on climate change. They spent the afternoon filming the installation of flood protection measures at a property in Brockington Road by UK Flood Barriers Limited, where they met the CEO, Mrs Sarah Vaughan. Also in Brockington Road they met Mr Hawnt, who had just finished commissioning the flood warning telemetry system there. At The Forge they interviewed Mrs Dhonau on flood insurance issues and at Millcroft Farm Mr Maitland interviewed the Secretary at some length on the origins and work of the Group. BBC Radio 4 'You and Yours' InterviewThe team were also introduced to the Chairman of the Parish Council, Cllr Derek Ling, and to our District Councillor, Cllr Jeremy Millar. Finally, they filmed the regular Friday evening work party session at the Ketch Lane culverts where Mr Maitland donned a set of waders and personally contributed to the removal of silt from the brook. In due course the results were shown on ITV’s Tonight programme on 17 May 2012.

The fifth anniversary of the July 2007 floods across the country also brought a flurry of press interest in the Group’s work. Articles appeared on the BBC Midlands website and in the National Association of Local Council’s magazine, while e The Hereford Times featured one on the telemetry system. The tenth anniversary provoked less attention, probably because by then the 2007 flood had been superseded in the public's minds by even more extensive floods in Cumbria, the Thames Valley, the Somerset levels and elsewhere. Nevertheless, members are still occasionally invited to speak on local radio when flooding features in the national news. (You can find a list of the occasions on which members of the Group have featured on television or radio or in the press here sidelined in yellow).

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Social Calendar

Being a member of the BFPG is not all work! From the outset the Group developed a regular annual calendar of social gatherings, two of which also helped with fund-raising. The first event each year has always been the Annual Coffee Morning in January or February, which is open to all local residents. Between 2009 and 2020 it was organised by Mrs Liz Davies, who, with her team of helpers, raised an amazing total of £5,103.00 for the Group. The second event of the year has been the Annual Barbecue, held in June or July and hosted by one of the members at their own property. This has traditionally been followed in early October by the Annual Bonfire Party at Millcroft Farm when any debris collected from watercourses could be burnt, if necessary. Finally, late November each year has been the time for the Annual Quiz Night in the Parish Hall, which, like the Coffee Morning, is open to all and raises funds for the Group. Sadly, the Covid-19 pandemic brought this calendar to a halt after the 2020 Coffee Morning and at the time of writing (early 2021) it remains to be seen when and in what form it will continue.

BFPG Annual Coffee Morning - Bring and Buy stall - General view (19 Jan 19)  BFPG Annual Barbecue Party (14 Jul 18) BFPG Annual Bonfire Party - Groups (6 Oct 18)  BFPG Annual Quiz Night - General view with Quizmaster (24 Nov 17) (IMG_9659)(E)(R).jpg

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Conclusion

The Group has been extraordinarily successful over the last decade and more. However, we could not have done this alone and we owe a major debt of gratitude to the many individuals and organisations that have helped us. It is always invidious to single out particular names for mention, but throughout our existence Mary Dhonau has been our mentor and without her guidance and practical help we would have achieved far less; we owe much to Mr Rod Hawnt for his report on the hydrology of the Millcroft Brook and his donation to the Parish of the telemetry system to give us early warning of flash floods; we must also thank Herefordshire Council in the persons of our successive Ward Councillors – Keith Grumbley, Jeremy Millar, Bruce Baker and John Harrington – who have always taken a great interest in our activities and who have always provided us with support in engaging with the Council itself over such issues as the Ketch Lane culverts and the Orchard Close drainage system. Particular thanks must also go to the Environment Agency, not just for the grant which, through ‘Project Bodenham’, greatly reduced the flood risk to many houses in Bodenham Moor, but for their donations of safety equipment over their years; and last, but by no means least, we must thank the River Lugg Internal Drainage Board who made the greatest single contribution to Bodenham Moor’s flood safety, the construction of the relief channel which has undoubtedly saved the Village on a number of occasions, most recently during the floods of 2019-20.

Having said all that, the continuing success of the Group is attributable, above all, to the enthusiasm and hard work of its members. Every one of them has made a significant contribution, whether by helping at a working party session, being an area representative, helping with the Group’s administration, organising one or more fund-raising events, making cakes, dispensing refreshments, doing the washing up, acting as a car parking attendant, donating an item for sale, or simply just turning up at an event or at monthly meetings to show support. They deserve the gratitude and thanks of the whole community.

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If you wish to go on to the second 'chapter' of the History, you can do so here.


  1. Notes on Hydraulic Performance of Millcroft Brook on 13th December 2008 by Mr Rod Hawnt, Consultant Hydrologist, dated January 2009.
  2. Herefordshire Flood Alleviation Strategy - Preliminary Assessment Report dated April 2010, Paragraph 4.3.2, Lines 10-11.
  3. Ibid., Paragraph 4.3.4, Scheme 0, Line 2.
  4. Ibid., Table 4-3, Scheme Option 2, Design Details.

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