Flooding in South London – All the chaos without the actual water.

Did I mention we live in a ditch? No? Well we do. It’s a big ditch, but, as far as we are concerned, it’s a ditch none the less.

Okay we live in a valley. Right at the bottom. The valley is about five miles long and cuts into the North Downs, which is a range of hills which run along the bottom of London.

A road runs along the bottom of the valley. Its called the A22. Not very inspiring, but bits of it hark back to Roman times, when they needed a route from the south coast to Londinium.

Apart from some sheep the valley remained fairly unpopulated for thousands of years. Then came the railways. Two railways were built through the valley in the nineteenth century, and with them came commuters.

Many hundreds of Victorian ‘two-up, two-down’ terraced homes were built for working-class, white-collar City workers and suddenly thousands of people flooded the valley. And it went on into the 1930s.

What’s all this got to do with floods? Well all the while, down through the millenia, a little river, called the Caterham Bourne, has been winding its way down the valley, joining the River Wandle and onto olde mother (father?) Thames. The Thames, the life blood of London itself.

What’s a Bourne? Basically it’s a stream that only flows when there is a lot rain. So you tend to forget it’s even there…


Doesn’t look much…but this thing is shifting 5000 gallons a minute….or is that litres…whatever, it’s enough to get this lot pumping….


Fireman attacked by giant Costa Skinny Caramel Latte. No really.

But unfortunately it has rained. And rained. And rained. And…so on. In fact, whilst the USA has been bitten hard by a Big Freeze, the UK has been hit by the arse-end of those very winter storms, in the form of wet and windy weather (as we like to refer to it over here). The wettest winter ever!

And so the Firemen, Army and Police have all been pumping the water down the Valley in big yellow hoses, to help the water on it’s way to the River Thames.


A road becomes a river

If they didn’t do this a) hundreds of homes would flood and (more importantly if you’re not one of those homes, which of course we are) b) 125,000 people would be at risk of seeing their water supply contaminated by dirty water from the river. There is a big water treatment works in the middle of this valley and that is why they’ve closed the road; it’s full of fire engines and pumps shifting the water around and away from the plant.

water works

See that? That’s water.

In fact only one bit of our road has actually flooded:


A grim and desolate scene (and that was before it flooded) not helped by the area behind the blue wall which used to be an abandoned warehouse. Until someone burned it down. Then it was effectively abandoned again.

So they are pumping the water down the valley in stages. They pump it from one temporary pond to another. Here’s one holding pond, a church carpark…


And you’ve already seen the road that’s been turned into a river above; that’s another pond (pity the poor souls who had to move out for that). Here’s an even better one – a pedestrian underpass….


There might be Tesco shoppers walking about in there like zombies…

Things have been like this for nearly 3 weeks now. Of course every cloud has a silver lining. The road – a main road that serves as an artery into London for 20,000 lorries, cars and whatever else a day – has been closed. Although we live a couple of hundred feet away from the road, you can usually always hear the quiet roar of traffic and the interminably irritating wail of police sirens and whatnot.

But not now. Now it’s like living in a village. Miss Marple could turn up any minute.


Actually there is another positive to find in all this water related upheaval. Shopping. Few people can even get into our local supermarket.


Usually packed now only the odd shopping zombie to be seen…

Wonder how long this will go on for….olde folk lore apparently says that when the Bourne floods it’s a portent of impending disaster. Well if this isn’t a disaster I’d like to see what is! Hang on, scratch that….

21 thoughts on “Flooding in South London – All the chaos without the actual water.

  1. I hope some long-term solution is found soon. Until then, I’m really impressed with the short-term fixes, and vigilance of the emergency workers. I smiled at the picture of the church parking lot. It could serve as a temporary baptismal. Stay safe!

    • I read about the drought. Over here our water companies shout drought as soon as summer starts; that way they don;t have to upgrade the Victorian-built water supply and impose hosepipe bans on us all!

  2. Okay, I’ll stop complaining about the snow over here if you promise to keep the water there. So have you been boxed in & unable to get to work?
    I love that goodbye sign – I wonder how many shopping carts are under there (or trolleys).
    I guess this disaster will have to do until a better one comes along.

    • Its been coming for years but naturally the local council has ignored the reality until now when they go into overdrive. I wonder whether they will put some proper flood scheme in place now…

      • You know I’m not sure that we have any kind of ability here to do that sort of pumping on a large scale if it should happen to us. Of course our cities get underwater usually due to massive hurricanes and I don’t suppose you could ever pump fast enough for that. Think of New Orleans and then the areas in New York and New Jersey…that’s usually the ocean coming in.

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