“It was a beautiful day…”

We’re two months on from the post-Christmas flood, and in 3 weeks time (20th March) the Multi-Story Water team will be hosting a special event called After the Flood at Kirkgate Centre, Shipley… a community conversation to discuss what happened on Boxing Day and what has happened since in terms of the very positive public response. Official details are in the previous post to this one… But this blog reflects a little on the theme of after the flood, by presenting some images taken on the day after Boxing Day — December 27th….

IMG_4531The pictures here were all taken by Martin Spiers, who lives on Bowland Avenue – on the Higher Coach Road estate – and are shared with his permission. The shot above shows the riverside trees along that stretch, suddenly standing in the middle of a much wider river. And the shot below looks back to the row of houses where Martin lives…

IMG_4492As in the shot of the trees, the blue sky, sunshine and reflections in the now-calm water make for quite a beautiful picture. Discussions about the flood have – quite rightly, focused on the miserable conditions in the days and weeks leading up to it – but it is worth remembering, too, that on December 27th the weather was stunning. I’m reminded of a lyric in U2’s song “Beautiful Day” (with its glancing reference to the story of Noah’s Ark): “See the bird with the leaf in her mouth / After the flood, all the colours came out…”


(This shot is the reverse view to the one above, looking east towards Saltaire….)

Let’s not underestimate just how much difficulty the flood caused for some. But it is worth remembering, too, how “the colours came out” — not just literally but metaphorically, as local people showed their best colours, and voluntary flood support groups spontaneously organised themselves through social media, both in Shipley/Baildon and just upstream in Bingley…


This was the view downstream in Saltaire, looking out over the Roberts Park cricket pitch. Rather wonderfully, there was even a strategically placed sign, stating the obvious… But I choose to read this is as further evidence of that general urge people had to help and inform each other…


Below is another, oddly romantic view across the cricket pitch, this time taken from the other side of the river, looking over towards Half Moon Cafe (which the day before had been several feet under).




Further along on the south side of the river, heading back west, the Salts Sports cricket pitch was also still under water on December 27th…


… But notice the debris that had collected on the railings to the right of the picture above… Martin also snapped the fantastic picture below, of one particular railing where the an almost human figure seems to have been created by the flood. Let’s call it Denis… (the Water-man)

IMG_4543Maybe the flood has made us all water-people. If you believe the scientific predictions for climate change, this kind of thing is going to happen more frequently in future. The question is how we respond… And in many ways the public response since the flood has been amazing — in the way people have volunteered not just to help the people worst affected by the flooding, but to pitched in with clean-ups of the debris left by the water. Can this kind of energy and enthusiasm be sustained in positive ways into the future?

“It was a beautiful day… Don’t let it get away…”




After the Flood

AFTER THE FLOOD kirkgate jpeg


The next event for Multi-Story Water is in March, in response to the recent events at Christmas and beyond. We welcome everyone who has been effected, has an interest or would like to attend a general conversation about the floods.

What happened? What could have been better? and most importantly to celebrate some of the excellent community spirit and initiatives that came out of such a devastating event. What would you like to see for the future of your town? Come and join us at the Kirkgate Centre with representatives from The Council, Canal & River Trust, The Aire and Debris Removal Initiative to name a few! As always all are welcome, there will be activities for children too. We look forward to seeing you all on March 20th.


Hirst Weir and Debris Removal Initiative: updates

A short-ish post this, to keep the blog up to date on some recent developments… Further to my post about Hirst Weir a couple of weeks back, work is now well underway on repairing the breach, as this photo nabbed from a recent Telegraph and Argus story shows…

Hirst Weir repairs wAnd as you can see, the heavy machinery is in, er, full flow. In my previous post on this, I erroneously suggested that — because the breach in the weir is out in the middle — it was too far out for excavators to get to, and that the repairs would have to be handled manually. But the repair scheme is (of course) much cleverer than that. As Geoff Roberts, of the Aire Rivers Trust, explained to me a couple of days ago, the approach being adopted involves gradually working the machinery out into the river by laying big rocks ahead of it, onto which it can then move. They are constructing a massive “rock ramp” (with massive rocks) downstream of the weir, a full-river-width extension of the temporary repairs carried out on the Baildon side in 2012. This means that the river will flow more gradually downhill after coming over the weir lip, rather than crashing down on the river bottom. By building the rock ramp first, the contractors can then get themselves in a position to fill the actual breach in the weir itself as the final stage of the repair (using a more nuanced version of the same “stick in some rocks” strategy).

Geoff and the Aire Rivers Trust have been working over recent weeks with Bradford Rowing Club, which owns the weir, on two key things:

(1) to raise the money as quickly as possible to carry out the repairs. Between them, they raised the shortfall of £30,000 in two weeks flat, partly through crowd-sourcing. Amazing!

(2) ensuring that the new rock ramp weir will be laid so as to allow fish to travel upstream by slipping between the rocks. This is instead of a more heavily engineered fish pass solution, but is also much cheaper and, arguably, more “natural”. Geoff told me that the Rowing Club’s much more expensive plans for a permanent design solution to the weir, for which they were raising money last year (target: £600,000) have basically been shelved and superceded by these emergency repairs, but he seems confident that the new solution might even work out better in the long run.

Geoff also mentioned that Buntons, the contractors carrying out the work on the weir (who also did the 2012 repairs), are doing so on a costs-only, not-for-profit basis. This is just one more example of the amazing spirit of generosity and community co-operation that has characterised so much of the public response to the recent flooding. Speaking of which…


This was the sight last Sunday, January 31st, on the Higher Coach Road stretch of the Aire riverbank (downstream of Hirst Weir). Thanks to the tireless cajoling and publicising of Mat Holloway and his Aire Debris Removal Initiative (ADRI), around 75 people from all around the district turned out on a damp morning and — starting from the cricket pitch at Roberts Park — worked their way west for two hours with litter pickers and rubbish bags supplied by the Council…


These pictures are taken from ADRI’s Facebook page, which is very active and full of images and news updates (I can’t keep up with them!). And there are new connections forming too, between different groups… Pictured below is Stewart Gledhill, chairman of the recently-established Higher Coach Road Residents Group, plucking a particularly large piece of plastic debris from the riverside trees…


In a matter of just over a couple of hours, the Debris Removal task force collected over 100 bags of debris! Here’s a bunch of it left for collection at the Roberts Park end…


And here’s a bunch more left for collection at the far end of the Salts Sports site, by the footbridge across the Aire…


All of the bags were then swiftly collected by the Council trucks, and a job had been well done! Well done to everyone involved (I’m just sorry I couldn’t be there myself), and good luck to Mat and ADRI in organising further clear-ups. Unfortunately, the session scheduled for today, Sunday 7th June, down in the Buck Wood area near Denso Marstons Nature Reserve has been cancelled as a precaution, due to the persistent rain this weekend making the ground soft and treacherous underfoot. But hopefully the momentum can nonetheless be maintained into future weeks…