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The Welney Website

Welney Wash Road flooding 2009
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Report first posted 12th Feb 2009, page amended/updated Wednesday, 29 February 2012
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text & photos by Peter Cox

flooded Wash Road
Wash Road, 18th Feb 2009
looking east from Delph Bridge
It's cold, snowing hard, the light is fading and the Wash Road is flooded. A flashing sign in Main Street warns of flooding ahead, and the 'road closed' barrier gate is across the road on the bridge. Well, across half the road.

In just ten minutes four cars are driven round the barrier and onto the bridge. Three drivers stopped as soon as they saw the water and about-turned. They all said the same. "I thought it worth trying, the other day the signs said it was flooded, and it was completely dry, you never really know till you get here, do you?" (no, you don't, that's the problem).

barrier gates

nissan 4x4 goes in The other car, a red Nissan 4x4, is driven without hesitation straight into the flood. By the time these photo were taken the driver will have seen the depth of water ahead clearly indicated on the two tall marker posts. (Only the right-hand one can be seen here). Will he be brave/foolhardy (you choose) and carry on?
And will he make it across or get stranded?
roadside flood depth board
nissan 4x4 stops He carries on, skirting around a tree trunk laying across the road, then stops at the bend by the chevron sign. Had common sense prevailed? Had the driver begun to get worried, or lost his nerve?

The reversing lights come on. The dangerous manoeuvre to turn around begins. Will he misjudge and end up in the deep ditches bordering the road?

No, he's lucky or skilled, and the turn is accomplished. Was this all just for the fun (which I can understand) and this was as far as he had intended to go?

The return journey. It made an impressive photo with a nice big bow-wave, even though at this point the water depth was probably only about 6 inches.
nissan 4x4 returns
But the signs indicated it would be 18 inches further on. And many regular users of the road know that it can be several inches more than indicated where the road dips down. And much deeper if you meet an on-coming vehicle with a bow-wave like this!

For those unable to convert imperial measurements to metric (yet expect others to do the reverse), 18 inches is ........... (On second thoughts, why should I? Work it our for yourselves!)

fire engine arrives
A few minutes later a  fire appliance arrives and drives around the barrier.

The officer-in-charge tells me they have been called out for the second time today to deal with a car stranded in the floods. I mention a story I heard about a jack-knifed tractor and trailer earlier. He says it didn't jack-knife, a couple of wheels went off the road when the driver attempted to help a stranded motorist, but the driver managed to get it back on the road again.

The officer checks the water depth and current flow and decides that this time it isn't worth the risk and it will be better for an appliance from the other side to deal with the problem. The reversing light comes on (top right of appliance)and back it comes.

And who can blame him? Why should our emergency services be deployed to deal with people who take such risks?

On the 26th February this year (2009), Welney Parish Council will meet the Environment Agency (who are responsible for clearing the water out to sea and issuing flood warnings and water depth information) and representatives of the highways authorities (the County Councils who administer the primitive road signs) to discuss ways to improve the information and signage.

According to a report in the "Fenland Citizen" online newspaper, a spokesman for the Environment Agency said: "Obviously we are aware of the problems and we know they have been on-going for some considerable time. The aim of this meeting, which is being organised by the Parish Council, is to try to resolve some of the issues. We will be trying to reach agreement on the timing, placement and wording of the signs. Hopefully we will come up with solutions that suit as many people as possible."

 Hopefully? Don't hold your breath!

On the 26th February two years ago (2007), our MP, Mr Christopher Fraser, raised the whole matter of the Wash Road Floods in the House of Commons, following an appeal for assistance from Welney Parish Council. His detailed and very well prepared question received an equally detailed and well prepared reply delivered by a rather smug sounding Minister who in conclusion said "it's nothing to do with the Government, best of luck with the EA".

Read the full transcript for yourself using link at bottom right. If you have read it before, it's worth re-reading now and again because it does explain the problems and what has or has not been done. It also contains most of the arguments and accusations made against the EA over the years and their counter-arguments and rebuffals.

Two years on, and practically no progress in any aspect of this problem, except for yet more meetings, more talks, and those gates.

Text & photos © Peter Cox,

If you think this report is incorrect, incomplete or unfair, please e-mail the webmaster, and your response will be added.
It's worth remembering that 16 years ago a rather different Welney Parish Council also got an MP involved - Christopher Fraser's predecessor, Mrs Gillian Shephard, who represented this area from 1987 to 2005 and was a cabinet minister when contacted in 1993.
In 1999 The Welmore Sluice was re-built specifically to speed-up the movement of water off the washes (and therefore off the Wash Road) and in 2003 The Norfolk County Council published a report on the viability of road improvements.
Related pages on this website
Fens Rivers and washes overview
Wash Road flooding overview
Floods of 2006-7
Welmore Lake Sluice
A question in the House
Police issue fines - then do a U-turn
Related pages on external websites
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