Fishlake residents launch book  about Doncaster village's devastation and how they turned a disaster into a triumph

In November 2019, the residents of Fishlake in South Yorkshire had their lives turned upside down by disastrous flooding following torrential downpours.

Wednesday, 29th September 2021, 10:12 am
This aerial shot shows the extent of the flooding in Fishlake in 2019.

The resilient community has now compiled their experiences in a new book, Flood: The Stories of a Village Underwater.

The book was launched on Sunday 19ᵗʰ September at Fishlake, St Cuthbert's Church.

Produced almost entirely by the residents of Fishlake village, it’s authors said say the book was produced "as a way of thanking the people and agencies who helped us, as well as raising funds for those communities worst affected,"

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A book marking the Fishlake floods was launched at St Cuthbert's Church Fishlake. Neil West from the management team is pictured with Martin McKervey, The High Sheriff of South Yorkshire.

Copies of the book, which has been produced using donations, will be given to each household in the village for free and further copies will be available to buy online- 100 per cent of the profits from the book will go to communities worst affected by flooding.

Created with contributions from almost 200 people and containing 75 stories and articles presented alongside 350 photos, the book tells the full story of the flood, the personal experiences of the residents and businesses affected, the reasons for the flooding, the contributions of those who came to their aid and the royal and political figures who visited.

“Disaster... a word used frequently to describe what happened to the residents of Fishlake in South Yorkshire in November 2019, but was it?” say the authors.

“Certainly in the context of recent environmental world events, including well-documented catastrophic floods on most continents, the answer would have to be no, it wasn't. Nobody died in our flood, and even though many properties were damaged, none were destroyed. However, in the context of a quiet Yorkshire village where nothing particularly remarkable happens, having our lives turned upside down after nearly three-quarters of our homes and businesses flooded, and with the after effects still being felt some two years later; we would have to say yes, to the people who lived through it, a disaster is exactly what it was."

A book marking the Fishlake floods was launched at St Cuthbert's Church Fishlake. Doncaster MP Ed Milliband and Dan Jarvis join residents and the management team on September 19 2021

November 8 2019 would long be remembered in the history of the village of Fishlake. From the end of October 2019, the increased river levels had caused bridge closures and travel disruption for villagers. The spillway near the bridge at Stainforth had flooded the fields along the Fishlake Ings. Regular alerts were sent out by Environment Agency advising everyone to ‘be prepared’, but it is fair to say that nobody was prepared for what actually happened that evening.

“The floodwater took many people by surprise when it entered their homes: rising up through the floors and emerging from behind skirting boards,” say the authors. “Meanwhile, many parts of the village remained oblivious as to what was happening and only became aware of the impending danger when they saw appeals for help and sandbags on social media.

“In the hours that followed the lights of the emergency service vehicles pierced through the blackness of the night, and many households were evacuated. In the coming days, life in the village became almost unrecognisable: transformed by the waters, the police, firefighters, boat teams and TV crews. Countless other people came to help, many of whom had never before walked the usually quiet roads and paths of the village.”

"As people emerged from their homes to seek or offer help and support, one thing became clear: everyone had a different flood story from that night, or from the days and weeks that followed.

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“Some of the stories that lie at the heart of the book documenting the events of that fateful night and the period immediately after are heart breaking, whilst others provide moments of light and laughter, in what was an incredibly difficult time in the history of the village.

Neil West, the designer and instigator of the project and flooded resident of Fishlake said: “I really didn't know what to expect at the launch - if many people would turn up, or what the reaction to the book would be. As it turned out, a great many people arrived and the reaction was phenomenal. It was the perfect culmination to 22 months of hard work by everyone involved.”

Peter Trimingham, member of the book management team, technical lead on the book added: “It was a pleasure to be involved in such a positive and uplifting experience in a superb location. It was a huge pleasure to see the awe on their faces as they flicked through the pages and provided the perfect culmination to 22 months of hard work by everyone involved.”

"The positive approach of villagers and visitors alike was a tribute to the resilience of the community in having come through an immensely challenging period in the recent history of an ancient village.”

A book marking the Fishlake floods was launched at St Cuthbert's Church Fishlake. Photographer Selina Blenkin who took some of the images for the book.

In addition to the Flood Book Managing Team and other volunteers who helped to make the book a reality, the villagers and those who had helped them, the launch event was attended by a host of dignitaries, including Doncaster North MP Ed Miliband, Mayor of the Sheffield City Region Dan Jarvis and mayor of Doncaster, Ros Jones, Martin McKervey, The High Sheriff of South Yorkshire.

Justin Smith, also a flooded resident and member of the book management team responsible for the creation of the book said of the launch event, said:“I am delighted at the support and recognition the book has received from the dignitaries who gave

up their personal time to attend the launch.

He said: “The speeches, by our lady mayor, Ros Jones and our local MP, Ed Miliband, were very fitting and summed up perfectly the feelings of both the residents and also the team who have produced the book.”

Priced at £30 the book is available to purchase online at https://fishIakefIoodbook.co.uk