Cold, wet and weary... but a cracking front page picture
It all started so well – a Sunday cycle through the Somerset Levels taking in various chocolate box villages en route.
It ended freezing cold and with numb feet after pedalling through foot-deep flood water – but with some cracking photos to illustrate the extent of the flooding a full two-and-a-half weeks after heavy rain hit the region at the end of November.
We started out from Taunton, heading east towards the picturesque village of North Curry. We took a look around the church and spotted from the churchyard that there was still a large amount of surface water in the middle distance. We didn't think too much of it at first – the Levels, after all, are one giant floodplain.
We then pedalled on towards Burrowbridge, catching a glimpse of Burrow Mump. There is a ruined church at the top and I was keen to climb up to take a closer look, When we got there, the scale of the flood was immediately apparent, stretching across the entire vista like a lake.
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My partner, Nick, is a keen amateur photographer and I thought he could get some good shots from the top of the hill that would make something for the WMN. It was only when we climbed down again and tried to set off back to Taunton that we caught sight of the shot that would make the front page.
We planned to cycle the A361 but a "road closed" sign – and a long stretch of submerged highway – made it clear that this might not be a good idea. Looking to the distance we could see abandoned cars in the middle of the road. Some had been pushed off the side by the force of the water.
Nick tried to get the shot from where we were but it was too far away. We knew that if we could get closer, the front page picture was there. We looked at each other, grinned, and cycled on into the flood. Because it was standing water there were no dangerous currents – although I have to admit, as it got deeper I did wonder if it was such a good idea. We pedalled through about a quarter of a mile of cold, brown water before reaching the vehicles and Nick was able to get plenty of shots to illustrate the story.
We then headed for home where a large mug of hot chocolate and thermal socks helped to thaw out a pair of (by now) very cold bodies.
In the office the next day, as I put calls in to get details of the impact surface water was still having on road and rail links in the region, the story came together beautifully to back up the pictures.
As WMN business editor I'm privileged to interview some of the region's business leaders – often in very impressive corporate surroundings. To end up cold, wet and muddy with what I knew was a front page story was great fun and a reminder of the importance of being in the right place at the right time.