Lisa Byrne on how the floods brought people together

PUBLISHED: 00:00 26 December 2016

Lisa Byrne

Lisa Byrne


Recalling the flooding misery that caused chaos across Yorkshire but also brought communities together.

Cars across York are left bonnet-deep in floodwater as the Foss and Ouse both overflowCars across York are left bonnet-deep in floodwater as the Foss and Ouse both overflow

This time last year, Yorkshire was counting the costs of devastating floods. I was first aware of how bad the situation was when a friend of mine, travelling up from London to York, called to cancel his trip because the city was flooded. I laughed at his London ways, explaining that York was frequently flooded and he needed to get on the train. He then told me to switch on Sky News and I was in shock.

My beautiful city was under siege from a mass of murky water seeping into homes and businesses. One of the most iconic images was of Clifford’s Tower, standing tall and defiant amid the incessant flow of water. It was devastating. The next day we went into the city to try and help but everyone seemed to be in a total daze. Restaurants and businesses were flooded and people were being rescued from their homes in a scene reminiscent of a disaster movie.

But it wasn’t just York that was affected. Who can forget the dramatic scene when Tadcaster’s historic bridge collapsed, water rushed through the centre of Leeds and the usually buzzing town of Hebden Bridge groaned under the floods? But how we Yorkshire folk showed our resilience, community spirit and generosity in helping each other out. It appears the saying Keep Calm and Carry On was penned with us in mind.

Many flocked in to York city centre to help the emergency services, working night and day to aid recovery. A year later and the city appears to be back to its bustling self, though there are still reminders of those dark days. The world famous Jorvik Viking Centre is still closed, although it is set to reopen again on April 8th after a multi-million pound refit using cutting-edge technology and updated galleries.

Shopkeepers on Fossgate in York start the long clean-up process as the floodwater starts to subsideShopkeepers on Fossgate in York start the long clean-up process as the floodwater starts to subside

During the floods, the poor residents of Hebden Bridge had to deal with its highest river level ever as the town centre lay under six feet of water. Many businesses were closed for months but the local people have a fighting streak and immediately got down to work to restore their beautiful hometown. Through sheer hard graft, they managed to get the Picture House reopened in June, the same month locals celebrated their ‘Alternative Christmas’ to make up for the one that was ruined.

Over in Tadcaster, it seemed that the world’s media had descended, shocked by the collapse of its bridge – its road link across the River Wharfe. Work continues to rebuild it, and it will definitely be back in action by April 29th when the riders will set off across it at the start of day two of the Tour de Yorkshire.

Back in March, the government announced an extra £115 million for flood prevention schemes in Leeds, York and the Calder Valley – which brings the total investment by 2021 in Yorkshire of £400 million. Let’s just hope this ensures we never see the devastation that the floods wreaked across our county again.

On a totally different note - and for very different reasons - January always fills me with dread. I love the build up to Christmas but always feel a bit flat at the start of the year, a real misery Mary. A few years ago I started planning lovely things to do in this cold month to keep away the post-festive blues. When I was at OK! Magazine, this was easy as there was always an exotic press trip planned so I could fly away from freezing old Blighty.

However, this year I’m determined to have fun and frolics in Yorkshire. My plans include a weekend break with my two pesky pooches to the Raithwaite Estate near Whitby, which boasts a glamorous spa just for dogs.

I’m also hoping to visit Wetherby Races for its traditional Boxing Day meet. And, if my hangover allows it, take to the sales in Leeds for a spot of New Year’s shopping.

In the meantime, I wish you all a very happy New Year – and let’s hope 2017 gets off to a better, and much less soggy, start than 2016.

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