Trouble came from the canal

John Armitage pictured by the homes which were flooded in Luddenden Foot
John Armitage pictured by the homes which were flooded in Luddenden Foot
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Luddenden Foot residents feel they have become the forgotten victims of the Boxing Day flooding.

John Armitage and his wife Geraldine’s picturesque home is just a few steps from the Rochdale Canal and with a back garden looking out on the River Calder.

But as he surveys the damage done to his bungalow, sandwiched between the river and the canal, this picture postcard scene seems a long way off.

Residents claim it wasn’t the river that was the main problem, but the Rochdale Canal. “The river’s only ever reached our garden once and that was three years ago and it still didn’t get in the house,” says John.

The canal had flooded the towpath and was seeping through the stone walls and on to the lane in front of the neighbouring houses. “I couldn’t understand why because the canal is self-levelling as long as the water can get away and there was no reason why it couldn’t.”

At one flood relief meeting in Hebden Bridge last month John claims some officials weren’t aware that Luddenden Foot had even been affected. He says there’s a feeling in the village that they have been forgotten about: “No one from the Canal and River Trust has been here to ask how we’re doing, there’s been nothing apart from a couple of guys who came to do some strimming along the towpath.”

But the key question for him is getting to the bottom of why the canal flooded in the first place. “The canal had never flooded before,” he says. “We’re not saying the Canal and River Trust did anything wrong, but something happened with the canal that morning. We just want to know why it happened and what can be done to stop it happening again.”

According to the Canal and River Trust the sheer volume of water was to blame. “The Boxing Day floods experienced across Calderdale were exceptional – the biggest we have had to deal with,” a spokesperson said. “The River Calder flooded into the Rochdale Canal at a number of places, rapidly inundating the canal, causing a massive amount of water to flow down the canal. Large sections of canal towpath have been affected with the water scouring the surface in some places making them impassable, especially around locks and where the river is close to the canal.

“Our volunteers have been putting in a Herculean effort to repair and reopen nine kilometres of towpath between Hebden Bridge and Sowerby Bridge.”