Home » Floods » It could all have ended so differently

It could all have ended so differently

I was shocked to hear on the local news the other day of an incident that happened in the floods we in the UK are experiencing at the moment.

The article can be read here Coughton Ford.

Luckily those involved escaped with the help of the emergency services, but it could have been a totally different and tragic outcome.

Coughton Ford is a couple of miles from where I live. It is a very picturesque place and when my girls were young, we’d often take them down there on a warm summer day so they could paddle in the river Arrow.

Β Β 

T and me with our eldest daughter, these two photos were taken sometime in the mid 70’s.

On the photo with me on, we are standing on the edge of the road, which is just visible in front of us, so as you can see, in normal situations the ford is quite shallow.

In more recent years, when I used to go green laning with the Discovery club, it was a perfect place to wash the mud off the tyres at the end on the day. I’ve even know some folk, take a bucket and brush with them to give their motor a spruce up.

This was taken not long after I got my first discovery. It is several still shots stitched together and made into an animated gif format.

The river was slightly higher than the previous two photos, but the road is still visible and was perfectly safe to cross, even for a standard motor.

There are two other routes available within a short distance if you need to get from one side of the river to the other, neither involve crossing it by a ford.

The river Arrow is quite a fast flowing river, and I personally would not attempt to cross it anywhere near Land Rover’s recommended maximum wading height, which if my memory serves me right is around twenty inches.

Coughton Ford floods quite often after heavy rain, and I’ve often driven down there to take photographs.

On one occasion in July 2007 I was doing just that.

This was taken on the foot bridge crossing the river. My camera is pointing in the same direction as the start of the above gif. Β The road now being totally submerged.

I hadn’t been there long, when I heard what I thought was a Land Rover approaching. I didn’t for one minute expect anyone to drive through, but went down to the rivers edge just in case.

Just in time to capture the motor entering the river.

The river is flowing from left to right in this photo, he approached at a slight angle, I’m guessing in the hope to keep the front (and obviously heaviest part of the motor) pointing downstream.

It wasn’t long before the power of the water had started to push the rear end round, and he’d started to drift across with the flow. He made it safely across, probably through his skilful driving, but a few more inches to the right he’d have dropped down another six inches and off the road completely.

Back to the news story I’ve linked to above.

What I just don’t understand is what on earth possessed three pensioners in a Vauxhall Corsa to try and cross this raging torrent. From the images on the news, the river looked even deeper than my photos.

It was a totally avoidable incident which put even more pressure on the struggling emergency services in the area.



21 thoughts on “It could all have ended so differently

  1. Great post. It’s a message that never seems to stick. it seems every time it floods people dice with death, and often lose. Even if you are experienced like the Land Rover driver it’s still risky. Roads can collapse, trees fall. Unless it’s urgent people should stay at home, and live (being the operative word) without that carton of milk, loaf of bread or whatever it is that seems so imperative… We’ve been frequently flooded in at our house in the country even though we use it just for long weekends and holidays. We have a 4WD and could get out if it was really urgent but it would be risky and like you say why put not just yourself but others at risk.

    • Thank you ED.
      Yes, I’m sure folk don’t concider the consequences when they do these stupid things.
      4×4 drivers are well known for playing in mud and water………but three elderly folk in a Corsa?
      The ford is on a country lane with not a shop insight, but even if there was, like you say, we can live without the milk or bread.

  2. As a ED says, a very good post. Sensible and realistic, with some excellent photos to illustrate the difference in water levels. Your first picture from the footbridge is quite frightening.

    I asked A about wading depth and he thought it was 18″ so I told him what you said and he reckons you are probably right. Either way, it’s no higher than wheel height as a rule of thumb. That Landy in the pic looks like our Santana πŸ™‚

    When we’ve been across our local river and the track (no asphalt!) has been submerged (and to nothing like the depth in your pix) it’s imperative to know which way to drive across – actually at a curve, or you will just drop off the end. Not helped by huge trucks driving across and creating ruts in the river bed. We’ve seen a few cars stuck there in shallow water.

    I wondered why you were sitting there topless supporting a hair-do I hadn’t seen before and then realised it was T with a Bodie and Doyle perm πŸ˜€

    • Thank you.
      The power of water is extremely frightening, we are seeing a lot of video footage on the TV at the moment too of all the damage it’s causing.

      There’s an excellent video on you tube on wading techniques from Land Rover Experience (it looks like the course I did at Lode Lane), but that is wading through still water.

      Most of the fords around here are concrete based, and in normal circumstances there isn’t any doubt on the course of the road, but I imagine an unsurfaced track would be quite difficult to see where to drive.

      LOL πŸ˜† would you believe T’s hair is naturally that curly. In the height of the Afro hair styles he was the envy of all his mates. πŸ™‚

  3. Sorry for the long reply on this but the subject is close to my heart.

    I have to be honest and admit to doing stupid things in my youth. I too used to drive through fords even when they were in flood, back when I was in my late teens/early 20’s, OK I had many years of off road experience and I was driving very well equipped 4×4’s at the time which may explain why I got away with it more often than many but even I fell victim to an horrendous incident which made me realise just how risky it is.

    I normally drove the ford by Greenham Common Air Base in Newbury, most of the time it was quite low although on a few occasions I’d gone through it in my Land Rover and the water was lapping around my waste INSIDE the vehicle – this was due to the myriad of holes and gaps in the panels, flooring etc that allowed water to flow in. In hindsight I realised much too late that the fact water got in was why the Land Rover could handle it so well.

    Anyway fast forward a few years and I was in a brand new Toyota pickup truck with my girlfriend. I decided to take her through the ford to show off my skills (remember I was still young and stupid at this point) and to see how well the Toyota could wade. The ford consisted of a concrete road about 10 feet wide running across the base of the ford and either side was a sharp drop of upto 12″ into the shale bottom. The water was only about 3′ deep, maybe a little more in the centre, which was less than I’d previously driven but as my toyota pickup got 1/3 of the way across the back end lifted off the concrete and slid sideways and one rear wheel dropped over the ledge. The water came up against the passenger side window and my girlfriend was screaming. For a split second it felt like the vehicle was about to topple over as the wieght of water was pushing against my side of the vehicle.

    Thankfully I had engaged 4WD before entering as I normally did when crossing fords and managed to pull across and out – very shaken and very much feeling like the moron I was. If I’d have been less experienced I may well have entered without engaging the 4WD and locking the front hubs and in that case once the rear wheel dropped off the ledge I’d have lost all traction and would not have been able to drive out.

    My mistake was that the toyota, unlike the old series Land Rovers, had tightly fitting doors and a properly sealed bodyshell (like most modern cars) so that water could not enter. Allowing water into the vehicle helps to retain traction as it prevents boyancy. Anyway, the minute the water rose around the body I could feel it lifting (floating) slightly up and it started to lose traction at the rear end which is always light on a pickup anyway. It happened very quickly and had I not reacted so fast the whole passenger side would have slid off the edge and almost certainly resulted in the truck being capsized or washed into much deeper water with no chance of driving out. I was VERY lucky to escape with myself, my girlfriend and my truck intact. Even luckier in that my girfriend forgave me!

    I never made that mistake again and now I don’t even have a snorkel on any of my 4×4’s as I am all too aware that if water is high enough on my ‘lifted’ Land Rovers and pickups to threaten the engines stock air filter (over 4 feet off the ground) then it is way too high to risk driving through. Basically I grew up and gained common sense. πŸ™‚

    It is a shame that people rarely listen to advice, especially youngsters. Invariably it is a case of having to watch them learning for themselves from the mistakes they make even though they are just replicating the same mistakes we made in our own youth. Very frustrating, especially as a father having to watch my eldest daughter learn the hard way from her mistakes despite me advising her against something. However, in your linked article it seems it is not only the young that take silly risks!! eek!

    • No need to apologise for a long reply, I found it an extremely interesting read.

      Also, I admire your honesty in telling your story, it takes more courage to admit a fault, than the many bravado stories that folk like to tell.

      I think the ‘I’m invincible’ attitude is typical of most youngsters, we only learn from the mistakes we make as we mature, which often sadly for some never occurs.

      Your leaky Landy description made me smile. I can now tell T the gaps in the door seals on my disco are there for a reason πŸ˜‰

      Excellent reply, thank you πŸ™‚

    • I thought it was a great read too. And once I’d read it, I had to read it out to A, who (with his Know It All hat on) annoyingly interrupted with comments such as, ‘It’s very light’ ‘the back end will go’ ‘it will end up floating’ etc etc.

      Vicky’s comment about the bravado tales that you hear – and see – is so true though. It is just not clever to go through raging torrents of water to prove machismo, or that you are the best 4×4 (or even Corsa!) driver in the world. Especially when there are asphalt road alternatives. I like off-road driving too, but as soon as we have heavy rain, our tracks are serious mud (I never associated mud with southern Spain but it is extreme mud!) and the rivers become so full it’s not worth the risk, especially one driver on their own.

      Ironically because the Spanish have grown up with this strange way of life – they are incredibly good at gauging the risks in their small vehicles Corsa style, and rarely stuff up. I drove my dad’s Hyundai (automatic and ghastly) down one muddy track and it sailed there like a boat. Amazing. There are more ways to drive off road than one!

  4. quote from roughseas: “It is just not clever to go through raging torrents of water to prove machismo, or that you are the best 4Γ—4 (or even Corsa!) driver in the world”

    LOL, so true but try telling a 21 year lad that and I can assure you from my own stupidity that he’ll ignore you and do it anyway……

    PS. How do I do quotes properly in these comments? Can you use the normal [QUOTE][/QUOTE] notations?

    • LOL. I can remember saying to my girls when they were younger on something I wasn’t happy with them doing,
      ‘Well I certainly wouldn’t, but go ahead, as you’re obviously going to anyway’
      Once they’d got a sort of ‘OK’ from me, their defiant ‘I’m not going to do as you tell me’ streak had lost its impact.

      I’ll leave the answer to your quotes question for roughseas to answer, being far more au fait on this subject than I am πŸ™‚

      • Yes, the reverse psychology trick eh! πŸ™‚ I think we tried that with our eldest and she still ignored us…… 😦

        I now know how my Father felt when he was going through the same things with me when I was in my teens. I can almost hear myself saying the exact same things as he did back then. πŸ™‚

        Funny how different generations see things. I guess I really matured after having children (well, OK, after my wife had the children but you know what I mean). Up until then I had not really thought about the dangers of driving too fast or taking silly risks. Since we had the children I find myself driving far more carefully than ever before (not that I was really bad before I hasten to add) and I see dangers everywhere for example footpaths outside the school that are too narrow and too close to the busy road. I would never have noticed such things as a single young man. I also find myself far more aware of my own mortality these days, maybe that is just me getting old but I certainly don’t remember ever doing a mental risk assessment of something before doing it whereas these days I do. I can confidently say that had I been faced with a ford across a river in flood, even in a Land Rover, if my children were on board I would not cross. On my own I might risk it.

        Having said all that, it hasn’t stopped me smoking or drinking so I can still seemingly ignore the ‘another year of my life’ every time I go out for a smoke πŸ˜‰

    • PS. How do I do quotes properly in these comments? Can you use the normal [QUOTE][/QUOTE] notations?

      That should have worked….

      If it has then instead of quote before and after you add blockquote and not [ ] – isn’t that BB whatsit script used on forums?

  5. wow, what a difference in water levels. some great images here!
    it seems to be a universal syndrome. ‘do not enter’, ‘do not cross’ and ‘road closed’ signs seem to be just as effective in this part of the world, too. i can never understand why some people think that this applies only to others, and they will be fine. in this case, i am happy for the three who were rescued.

    • I think a lot of it stems down to the fact folk are being TOLD not to do something.
      The attitude ‘how dare someone tell me what to do’ kicks in, without a thought of the consequences.
      Though it does seem a bit odd with the three involved.

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